I have always been the type of person who weighs risks vs. rewards. I agonize over any risk I choose to take and calculate it’s benefit down to the last detail before leaping. It didn’t surprise me one bit then to find myself using a cautious parenting style when my son was born.
I went through painstaking care to keep my newborn baby safe. He was born on New Year’s Eve, right in the middle of flu season, so I barely went out. When I did, I covered his car seat with a light breathable blanket to protect him from wayward sneezes. I wash my hands and sanitize surfaces like it’s my job.
Once, I told a relative that I wouldn’t move his bouncer chair while he slept in it because I didn’t want to risk a fall. She laughed in my face as she rolled her eyes. I follow APA guidelines (with a little wiggle room here and there based on my own judgement calls). You won’t catch me giving my child anything less than a grape cut into eighths until he’s well out of preschool.
I think you get the idea.
The thing is, when they laid that chubby squirming baby boy on my chest, my world flipped upside down. Every priority I had shifted down a rung to make room at the top for this tiny, beautiful human that held my heart. Nothing would ever cause him harm if there was anything in my power to do about it. I could not begin to imagine something happening to this beautiful little person.
Since that day, when my priorities rearranged to revolve around the health and safety of my son, I have learned three very important lessons.
One, no matter how hard you try, how much you baby proof, or how carefully you hold those awkward baby nail clippers, your child WILL get hurt. They will experience pain, discomfort, illness, sadness, anger and frustration. And they will grow from these things with your help.
Two, no matter what decisions you make to protect your child from these things, these decisions WILL be judged. More experienced mothers will scoff at you, anyone with a form of communication that has ever so much as looked at a baby will offer you unsolicited advice, and you won’t help but notice your social media flooding with articles about how you’re probably doing something wrong.
Finally, three, the most important lesson. Not a single one of their opinions, comments or condescending glances matters. Not one bit. Whether you’re extremely cautious like me, or more of a ‘free range’ parent who isn’t scared of a little blood, YOU are the Parent. YOU get to make the judgement calls. YOU choose how to best raise YOUR child. Barring the law and the advice of medical professionals (and even then, you can always try to get a second opinion if it doesn’t feel right) absolutely nobody that isn’t a parent to that little one gets a say.
Take the harsh judgement and condescension with a grain of salt. They can use their ideas to raise their own kids. When they do, lead by example and don’t judge them. In the end we all just want to raise healthy, well- rounded kids and there is no single correct answer on how this child raising thing can be done.