Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Accidental parenting

It's in one of my parenting books - oh, there are so many - but I like the idea. I don't know the exact definition, but it's something about the choices you make as a parent, without intention or planning, that result in a habit or pattern for your child.

I think it can result in 'good' or 'bad' outcomes.

Let's start with the good. OK?

I was recently telling a friend about how useful our Pack n' Play has been. I wasn't sure if we wanted or needed one and I couldn't imagine how we would use it. Fast forward 16 months and it is probably the most-used baby item in our house. We have used it everyday, often multiple times a day, since Girly was born.

We had it on the first floor of our house as a changing table and occasional napping spot for months and months. Then, when it was no longer safe to leave Girly in the middle of our bed in the mornings, we moved her to the Pack n' Play (her "house") to entertain herself while we got ready in the mornings. There are toys and books that always stay in her house and she has generally been content to play in there for 20-30 minutes until someone is ready to take her downstairs for a morning snack. We are just reaching the point now where she is less happy to be contained, but she'll still usually tolerate it if I'm in the shower and Sesame Street is on.

I guess my point is that we apparently created the expectation that she should hang out and be happy in her house while we got ready in the mornings and it has served us well.

Now, for the bad.

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I BEG TO DIFFER.

I know I've moaned and groaned about the 5am wakings and, a couple of weeks ago, those wakings migrated into the 4's. For the first time ever, I brought Girly into my bed to try to get some more sleep. Huz was sick and sleeping in the guest room and I didn't want her crying to wake him up. She snuggled up with me and slept for 2 more hours. It wasn't optimal quality sleep, but it was far better than a screaming child or back and forth to her room. And guess what? We did it the next night and the night after that.

Uh oh.

Truthfully, I liked the snuggling. I know it won't last forever and it feels good to know that your child is so comforted by you. BUT. As much as you may think, "Oh, one time won't really make a difference" - it sure does.

We 'fixed it' with some good ol' crying-it-out. Not fun, but effective. We had been through similar situations before and dealt with them in the same way. My memory is short, I guess, because I sure didn't nip it in the bud this time. I guess I felt like this must be something new and different because she was older, but sometimes the rusty tools in your tool kit work just fine.

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