It's 6am and I got the baby back to sleep half an hour ago, but I am wide awake. He is teething right now. Any parent who has been through it knows what circle of hell I am talking about. There is nothing quite like your baby screaming and writhing in pain to make you feel completely helpless. I'm on my second child now, and having tried every teething method under the sun with the first, I know now to just grab a bottle of Tylenol and get on with it.
Yesterday I walked past a sign in front of a local chiropractor's office. On their sandwich board they had written "Studies show a 46% increase in cases of asthma when children under the age of 1 are given Tylenol." I had the strong urge to go over, kick the crap out of that sign and then shove it up the butthole of whoever wrote that message.
Parents of our generation are bombarded with information from the second they conceive about what is "best" for their children. The previous generation had to deal with the occasional over-bearing mother-in-law or nosy neighbor. It seems that our generation gets smacked upside the head with a new scientific study every 30 seconds. Breast feeding, co-sleeping, vaccination, feeding. Every single choice we make as a parent becomes a virtual war zone on the information highway. On this side of the highway we have the current medical establishment. On the other side, the alternative/hippy/attachment parenting advocates. Each side lines up their research and... FIRE! Meanwhile, bewildered parents are just trying to get to the next rest stop in the road.
We are kneeling at the altar of the God of Science, praying that it will give us answers to these great un-knowable questions.
Will my child turn out ok? That's what we really want to know. Will my child grow up strong and healthy and well-adjusted and have nice hair? Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get my point. We read all the books, the articles, the blog posts. And we try really hard to make the right choices. But let's face it people, science has a study to prove just about anything, but can't cure the common cold. Science is failing us.
Instead of curing our problems, science has made us the most anxious generation of parents to date. We worry like nobody's business. There is a constant lingering feeling of guilt weaving through most of the parenting articles I read. What I hear over and over is "No matter what choice I make, I feel guilty, I feel like I am failing my child." And that's what made me so angry about that sign. The last thing a mother needs is one more person telling her she is failing her child. We get to read about it every fucking day. And it's exhausting.
At some point for the sake of their mental well-being, most moms I know get to the point where they put up the sanity barrier. They stop listening to all the reams of "scientific knowledge" out there and start listening to their hearts. Because they know when they tune in to their own intuition, they will find what is best for their families.
A little while ago, I wrote a parenting manifesto that sums it all up:
Your kids will not remember whether you gave birth with or without medical intervention, chose co-sleeping or cribs, breast-feeding or formula, strollers or carriers, store-bought food or home-made. What they will remember is whether you told them every day how much you love them, and how special they are. They will remember whether you kept your word or not, whether you said sorry when you made a mistake, and whether you honestly tried to be a better person for them.
Parent with heart.
Live your life passionately.
Never forget to play.
And tell your kids every day that you love them.
Everything else will work itself out.
And to that I would add, the occasional time out from the information highway would probably do us all good.