Irreverent Mama

Thursday, January 04, 2007

By and large, I am a live-and-let-live person when it comes to parenting styles and techniques.

With my own kids, I used a bit of this, a bit of that. I co-slept for the first few months and breastfed on demand for over a year. These are all "attachment parent" values. I started out as a spanker, but discovered that it was unnecessary. More attachment goodness. However, I am a total hardass about sleep, believing that it is just as essential as food to my child's health. I would no sooner let my children go without food, or feed them only one meal a day than I would let them go with inadequate sleep. So, with the one child who would not learn to sleep any other way, I let her Cry It Out - which puts me in the Seventh Circle of Hell, as far as Attachment Parents are concerned.

So, no ideologue, me, and willing to let people do what's right for them and their family.

But some days...

I have a friend whose youngest, almost three, is still breast-fed on demand and still co-sleeps. I'm fine with that. When the friend complained that middle-of-the-night temper tantrums have been robbing her of hours of sleep each night for weeks, I did not go all holy and superior and self-righteous and rhyme off all the things that others would be too pleased to 'share': all that child needs is a Little Discipline; that mom should just put a lock on the damned door; that it's the fault of the extended nursing, and she should just wean the child; that the child is spoiled; that she should just...

No, I offered a sleepover. Because I am her friend, and she needs some practical support. I picked a night when the Man was away, so tot could co-sleep with me, give her that security.

You understand, this is the first night in almost three years that she would have had to herself. The child still nurses in the night, but it wouldn't be a problem at my house. No mummy, no yummies. The tot has made that adjustment lots of other times during the daylight. Besides, I was willing to make this sacrifice for my friend's health. She's beyond exhausted.

Dad was ecstatic. He went right out and bought a box of condoms. Twelve of them. Such a man. Heh.

So, tot comes to me, and though it's not a flawless night, it's not so bad, either. She was up talking to herself WAAAAAAYYY too late - till almost 11:00, well past MY bedtime - but when she woke at 6, I was able to tell her "it's not daytime yet" and she went back to sleep for another two hours. NOT a given, as any parent of a toddler knows.

So, I'm a little sleep-deprived, myself, but not so bad. Mom comes for tot at 9:00.

"So, how did it go? Did you have a good night?" I ask.

She sighs. "Well, kids. They have a radar, don't they? No sooner had we gone to bed than Max (her seven-year-old) was in bed with us."


Do NOT tell me I did this (because it was a LOT more effort than my nowadays night parenting!) for a woman who can't say - to a SEVEN year old - "No, son, this is my private time with daddy, and I'm desperate for a solid night's sleep. You can be in my bed any other night, but not tonight." Her first baby-free night in ALMOST THREE YEARS, and she can't defer the kid ONE night?!?!?

She sighs again, "What can you do?"

Oh, I don't know: tell the kid NO, perhaps? Assert your right to your own valid needs?


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  • Martyrs. Can't stand 'em. I have a friend like that, who doesn't want to tell her kids no for some things but will for others. But the things she won't say no to are things that are really, really important for kids to learn! God forbid someone doesn't share something ALL THE TIME. Her kids don't have toys just for themselves. They all have to share. Everything. All the time. Once, her oldest son came up to me and told me that Christopher (mine) wasn't sharing his GameBoy. I looked at him and said, "He doesn't have to. It belongs to him." My friend looked at me like I had horns. *My* kids have things they don't have to share. How horrible.

    (I did, however, ask Christopher to play his game elsewhere, alone, so as to not cause jealousy issues.)

    By Blogger Candace, at 12:31 p.m.  

  • argh.

    That's just...grrrr.

    You are a saint to have offered the sleepover. But you'd be a fool to offer another.

    By Blogger Kimberly, at 3:52 p.m.  

  • Seems to me that her need to be needed is greater than her need for sleep or for her man. A pity. And, however unintentional, completely discourteous to you.

    By Blogger Z, at 4:18 p.m.  

  • She blew it!
    She totally blew it!

    Oh, if I sent mine to your house you can bet there'd be GOOD USE of the "free" night, as O The Joys said:
    Roll porno music: Bow chicka bow bow....

    By Blogger Denguy, at 9:37 p.m.  

  • Wow! What a nice thing you did. Shame she didn't make use of it.

    I'm learning that people adopt the parenting style that works best for them and their family, even if it doesn't *really* work for them.

    I'm still floored at what a nice thing you did though. How she used her time doesn't take that away.

    By Blogger cinnamon gurl, at 1:41 p.m.  

  • Ok. I have been thinking about this post all afternoon. I think there's more going on than meets the eye. Maybe she used the 7-year old as an excuse?

    I have to admit, when I read that her husband bought a box of condoms in preparation, I thought to myself, what a deluded man. I mean, his wife is exhausted, and he thinks he's gonna get laid the very first moment she has, physically, to herself in three years??? I really expected her to sleep.

    But I don't think you're wrong to feel the way you do.

    By Blogger cinnamon gurl, at 8:28 p.m.  

  • Though she complains, your friend may be getting more out of this situation that seems apparent? I read an interesting article in the paper this weekend about breast-feeding mothers that suggests they get 'high on oxytocin (the love hormone of lactation)'. Suddenly, I better understand at least part of the attraction. A friend of mine breast-fed all five of her kids for as long as they demanded it, which in the case of her two youngest was age 10 and 7 respectively. Takes all sorts!

    I agree you did a lovely thing by trying to help though, even if she's not quite capable of or ready to appreciate the gesture. Oh and her partner could have maybe helped her by being a little more, er, firm?

    By Blogger f:lux, at 4:46 a.m.  

  • Candace - as a parent, you always have the right to give your child a clear, unapologetic 'no'. Not only is it your right (to have needs! imagine!), but it's your responsibility, to teach your child that their needs don't always take priority over others'.

    Kimberly - quite right! No more sleepovers for her from me!

    Z - yes, I feel rather sorry for the husband. I don't know him well, but he seems a nice fellow. She tells me the only area of significant disagreement they have is parenting. Imagine that...

    Denguy - given that she's teetering on the brink of exhaustion, I think his hopes were naive. (Not selfish, because she gives the impression of being a whirlwind of energy. He may not have realized how bad it was.) But do I think she blew it? Yes, indeedy.

    Cinnamon - hello! Yeah, I thought husband was being a little optimistic - though perhaps they could have used the condoms in the morning, after a good night's sleep?? That's usually my best time. :-) And yes, I'm beginning to think there's something more going on: I think she's using the kids to avoid connecting with her husband.

    f:lux - Interesting notion, but not my experience. I breastfed each of my three children for over a year, and though I truly enjoyed it, I didn't go so nuts over it that I'd want to be doing it for the better part of a decade! At the time I had their second birthday as my planned cut-off time, but none of them wanted it that long. (If I were doing it now, I might even go to their third birthday, if they wanted, but seven? Ten?!? Frankly, that rather creeps me out.)

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 9:32 p.m.  

  • Wow, you are a good friend. It's really too bad it didn't work out for her. I think I agree that there is more to the story then meets the eye, and yes, she seems to be using her children to avoid other things.

    By Anonymous Naomi (Urban Mummy), at 1:16 p.m.  

  • AMEN. So sorry your sacrifice was in vain for your wimpy friend.

    By Blogger Carolie, at 5:47 a.m.  

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