Be the change you wish to see in the world.
My husband would say that I don’t like to be told that I’m wrong, especially by him, but that when presented with “evidence” from “experts” then I start to sway. To a certain point he is right, and to a certain degree he is wrong – hardly surprising really. When I became a parent, on August 14th, 2005, I learnt that there was another person, whom I loved fiercely who would also tell me that I was wrong. Unlike my husband though, I couldn’t have a “logical” conversation with my beautiful son and attempt to convince him otherwise. He was who he was and he wasn’t prepared to listen to any humbug nonsense I had read in some Baby Whisperer book somewhere. He knew better than I did, and boy did he. He spent 9 months trying to tell me what was going wrong and what was wrong and trying to let me know what to do better. But I didn’t listen, something that I really struggled with, I’ve talked about that before, so this post isn’t really about that, but it’s related.
This post is about the struggle to accept the new, the “uh-oh” moment when we are confronted with information that seeks to challenge us, that may make us doubt what we did and will almost certainly cast what we did in a negative light. This sort of information is BOUNDLESS in parenting circles. I’ll give you a few examples from my parenting life thus far to help you see where I am going:
- I used cry it out with my son. He screamed a lot, but he got to sleep. Then I read things like this.
- I put my son in a separate bed from me, from Day 1. After having a baby brother die from SIDS (even though it wasn’t a co-sleeping situation) I was going to do everything possible to protect my son. Then I started to see things like this.
- We didn’t have skin to skin straight away, we didn’t breastfeed straight away, he was away from me for the next 2-3 hours. Now I know this
- He had 1-2 bottles of formula on about day 2 in the hospital. Because I was beside myself. Now I know this and the ramifications of this break my heart every single day.
- I used Time Out with him, and my daughter. And now I am aware of the negative effects and how I can do things differently.
- When my daughter bit me repeatedly, to the point where I got a breast infection, not once, but twice, I got so angry and cross, that I bit her back. Now I would do things differently.
- I called my kids “good boy” and “good girl” – in fact I still do it now, every now and again. But now I am trying to do this.
ALL of those things, every single one of them, I am now opposed to or have changed my mind about. They are all examples of where and when things went wrong. For each of those things I have been exposed to information that made me really REALLY stop and think, that made me wonder, that made me doubt, and to be frank made me feel guilt. The guilt was large for some, the guilt was small for others, but the guilt was still there.
The way I see it, when we are presented with things that challenge things we did in the PAST there are a few ways that we can choose to approach it. The first is that we can dig our heels in, arm ourselves with the key defense of “I did it and he/she/I turned out FINE”. I see this approach all the time. I see it because I’m on Facebook a lot, and I read a lot of the Mummy blogs. People get so wound up about this that I can just imagine people having apoplectic fits over it. The thing is, you might be “fine” but how much better could you or your child have been had you not done some of those things? You cannot and should not feel guilty for not knowing what you didn’t know, so why resort to the defense of “I’m fine” when the research, when the scientific and well researched evidence is not speaking to YOU directly and not saying you should feel guilty. You are responsible for your reaction to the information, you choose to feel guilt or not over it, and you can choose how to express that guilt.
You could choose to just ignore it, pretend you didn’t read it, don’t engage, after all, it will all go away. This is what a lot of ordinary folks do. I see them, I’m friends with them on FB, they don’t want to examine things too closely for fear of what they might find. They actively avoid it.
Or, you could choose the approach of confronting the information, making peace with it and yourself. Realise that you did the best you could do in the circumstances you were in, realise that you cannot be held responsible for the information you didn’t know and realise that it is perfectly OK to change your mind, and to have been “wrong”. I now choose this approach. Further, I aim to help parents make INFORMED choices about these and many many more issues. So many parents don’t have access to the information and so end up making the best of the situation. Think how much harder it is to light a fire using sticks if you don’t know to use a hard wood and a soft wood… information can make things easier and offer us hope. It can show us the door to a new world, the way to make peace with ourselves, and the path for others to follow.
So, I ask of you this, when you are next confronted with a piece of information that you THINK is judging you, that you think is trying to paint you as a BAD parent, pause, re-read and consider what you are painting over the picture and realise how much baggage you have brought to the place. Once you let that baggage go, once you can look at it, acknowledge it and say “I don’t have to carry you any more” then life will become that much lighter, and your parenting journey will be open to a world of learning and opportunities.