A few years back, I had a graduate school classmate reference it being an intimidating thought that, if they needed a parenting expert to help them with their child, that they were now considered the professional. We all shared in a chuckle of solidarity and moved on with our careers, families, and lives. I proceeded to counsel families who were at risk of being split, due to unhealthy and sometimes dangerous interactions, as well as poor parenting choices. I was the cry-it-out advocate, and the person that was encouraging parents to hold the line firm and steady.
And then, I had kids.
I am still the person cheering other parents, and myself, to draw a line and hold the boundaries firm and clearly. However, I gave up on the cry-it-out method about 3 nights into trying it with my own son.
When my son was six months old, we started putting him to bed in his own room. By a year, he was sleeping soundly in his own room. We moved when he was about 19 months old, and he learned how to climb out of cribs during that move. When we settled into our house in Northern Virginia at about 20 months, his dad left for deployment. That week, my son stopped sleeping through the night. Instead, he woke me up eight times each night, until at wits end, I ushered him into my bed, so I could get some sleep.
Two years later, we are still working on getting him out of our room.
I decided to use this move to transition him out of our bed. To mitigate the intense separation anxiety he seems to experience in the middle of the night, I decided to have both children share a room – he knows his little sister is there, and she is now at the age she can start sleeping in her own room, too.
The first night was successful – my son’s first words out of his mouth the following morning were, “I stayed in my bed all night, all by myself!” The past 4 nights, he has found his own way into our bedroom.
Last night, I decided I am okay with his finding his way to our bed in the wee hours of the morning. Provided he is going to bed initially in his own bed, I will not deprive him of that need to find us in the middle of the night.
As I climbed back into bed after feeding E at about 4:30 this morning, I also recalled the words from my classmate. I realized most “parenting experts,” aren’t experts at all.
All parents, whether or not they know it, have a toolbox of tips, tricks, and ideas. Some, like the so-called experts, have more tools, sometimes healthier, in their box than others – tools they know have either worked for themselves, or have worked for others. These experts are called to share their knowledge with others, but what I am learning intimately is that parenting is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Not all children react in the same manner to parenting techniques, and may require more creativity than others with tool usage.
When I re-enter the workforce, I hope I can keep that perspective in mind.
Until then, I will cut myself some parenting slack and continue to snuggle my little guy when he finds his way into my room in the middle of the night.