One Important Life Lesson I’ve Learned

posted by Andrea | 01/13/2017
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Tomorrow my sweet baby James will be 18 months old!

EIGHTEEN MONTHS! 

I realize I’m completely biased, but James was/is one of the sweetest, happiest, smiliest little boys around (certainly the happiest of all my 3 babies).

That said, he is still quite stubborn and strong-willed when he wants to be (let’s just pretend all my children get these qualities from Dave!)

For example…

James insists on feeding himself ALL the time.

It doesn’t matter what he’s eating, he wants to do it himself and has a complete meltdown if I try to feed him even one bite.

Since Nora and Simon are both very self-sufficient eaters, Dave and I simply let James fend for himself while we enjoy eating our moderately hot food.

Yes, this means there is usually a huge mess to clean up after every single meal, but we put a “shirt bib” on him and a tablecloth under his highchair and call it good!

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Also, this boy is still nursing at night.

I know… it kills me to even type this after the long ordeal I went through with Nora. I said I’d never let myself be tied down by a nursing baby again, but after using (and loving) bottles with Simon, I really felt it was the simplest and easiest for me to nurse James.

And I honestly don’t feel tied down. 

I know he doesn’t need it for the nutrition aspect, I know he eats enough food and drinks enough water during the day, but if he wakes up in the middle of the night, the only way to avoid hours and hours of screaming and crying is to feed him.

As many of you might remember, we actually hired a sleep consultant when James was about 6 months old. It worked marvelously and he now goes to bed so easily, takes fantastic naps, and sleeps significantly better at night. But no matter what we’ve tried, we cannot get him to sleep all the way through the night. There have been 5 or 6 times in his entire life that he has slept through the night, but he almost always wakes up once, takes 5-7 minutes to eat, and then we both go back to sleep.

Periodically, we try for a week to have Dave go into his room, to let him cry, to give him his water, or to simply lay him back down without feeding him. But every time, it turns into hours of screaming and crying, night after night, and we all get so tired. After 4-5 days of this, I just go back to feeding him in 5-7 minutes while Dave stays sleeping in our bed. We all sleep so much better and life moves on.

Almost no one knows I’m still nursing him (until right now, of course) because I’m truly not worried or anxious about it at all. Yes, I’ll be happy when he consistently sleeps through the night, but until then, I’ll just keep feeding him.

Nora did not nurse forever and I’m confident James won’t either!

 

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And that brings me to the point of this post…

After 5 years of motherhood, I still have so much to learn — but one thing I HAVE learned is that I’m the only one who can let others make me feel bad, stupid, or guilty for my parenting decisions (or any life decisions I make).

Back when Nora was a baby and toddler, it felt like everyone was judging me and my parenting abilities when they told me: “just let her get hungry enough and she’ll eat”, or “just let her cry long enough and she’ll sleep”, or “try using _____ bottle”, or “have you tried swaddling her?”

I suppose a few people might have been judging… but most of the time, these statements and comments were not judgmental or suggesting I was doing something wrong. Rather, they were ideas from others who were legitimately trying to help.

However, I LET MYSELF FEEL GUILTY — like their comments somehow implied I was a bad mother, even though it was all my own overly-emotional brain! 

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Now, 5 years later, Nora eats a huge variety of foods, she goes to bed without any issues, sleeps 12 hours straight at night, and is extremely chatty and welcoming when new people are around.

Apparently I didn’t totally screw up, and even though almost no one’s suggestions worked to get her to eat or sleep, we eventually made it through to the other side!

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Simon was a very easy-going baby, but we are currently in the thick of potty training this boy who absolutely REFUSES to wear underwear or Pull Ups (that darn stubbornness from Dave again!)

He goes #1 and #2 on the toilet consistently, but insists on wearing his diaper all the time. Also, he still LOOOOOOOOVES his pacifier (a.k.a. “blue pipe”) and seems to want it more and more lately.

We’ve had our fair-share of suggestions and sure-fire ways to potty train him or to wean him from his pacifier… but so far, none of them have worked.

Am I worried?

Nope!

Do I feel guilty?

Nope!

I am 100% confident Simon will give up his pacifier and start wearing underwear at some point in the future. But until then, I’ll carry an extra “blue pipe” and an extra diaper wherever we go!

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Although I’ve always been a confident adult, parenting really threw me a curveball as I didn’t quite know how to handle ALLLLLL the advice, suggestions, and comments from everyone — or the fact that apparently everyone has an opinion on everything I do now that I’m a parent!

Thankfully, I’m a lot more confident in my parenting abilities now than I was a few years ago, so I can see these comments and suggestions for what they are — simply comments and suggestions from people who have already walked this path of life, not necessarily judgments or guilt-trips. I can smile and nod, try some suggestions I think might work, and let the other comments roll off my shoulders.

I’m sure you can imagine how freeing this is!

If you’re one of those parents still worrying about what everyone else thinks of you or trying to do what everyone else tells you to do, just remember this…

  • your baby will stop nursing eventually
  • they will give up their pacifier, blanket, stuffed animal, or favorite teddy bear eventually
  • they will sleep through the night eventually
  • they will eat fruits and vegetables eventually
  • they will stop wearing diapers eventually
  • they will go to daycare or preschool without crying eventually

Until then, do whatever you need to do to get through the days and nights. 

If that means nursing them much longer than you anticipated, then do it.

If that means letting them take a pacifier or blanket with them everywhere they go, big deal.

If that means giving your 10 month old a queen-size mattress on the floor so you can sleep with her, who cares.

If that means feeding them mac and cheese and goldfish crackers with one grape and one miniscule chunk of broccoli, then that’s what you do.

If that means bribing them with an insane amount of candy and treats so they finally agree to wear underwear, more power to you.

Of course, if you are legitimately concerned about your child’s development, you should consult your doctor or another trained professional — but if you’re just worried about what your friend, neighbor, coworker, or parents might think of you, don’t bother!

YOU are the only one who can let others make you feel bad, stupid, or guilty for your decisions… so just don’t let them!

**And this goes for more than just parenting decisions! Many of the times I feel guilty, I’ve noticed it’s self-inflicted based on what I perceive others MIGHT think about me, my actions, my situation, etc.

So, the next time you think someone is judging you for a decision you made, stop and consider if you are simply letting yourself feel guilty. I realize this is not always the case, but in my own personal experience, it happens more often than I realized!

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48 comments

  1. Mariangeles

    01/15/2017

    Loooooooove this blogpost!
    Ana will soon be 15 months old, and I see myself in most of your words.
    But you know what?
    . We do co-sleeping and breastfeeding.
    . She eats a little bit more each day, and more vegetales than me!
    . We use the baby carrier more than the stroller.
    . SHE IS SO HAPPY. WE ARE HAPPY.
    Thanks for your words.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    a happy baby is a blessing! Enjoy yours!

    [Reply]

  2. JJ

    01/14/2017

    I am currently nursing my baby who doesn’t sleep through the night. So this was perfect timing! My daughter took a looong time to wean from the paci. So I ordered the Lily Method of Weaning pacifier system. Even using that it took a long time, but it worked. Mom guilt can be the worst, but with talking to a lot of mom friends we all have it. And we all just want to be told we are doing a great job. I have been so encouraged and inspired by your blog with having 3 Littles myself. And God knew you’d be the best mom for your 3. Enjoy them! They are adorable!

    [Reply]

  3. Becca

    01/14/2017

    Isn’t it great how, with so many different approaches and techniques to parenting, we as moms can figure out what works best for our families??

    I was laughing when you were telling yourself that your babies won’t nurse forever even though you’re still nursing at 12 mo. I have 4 (the oldest is Nora’s age just about exactly), and nursed the first 3 until they were 2 1/2. I didn’t even give them solid food until 10 months, and they got probably 80% of their ‘food’ from nursing until they were 14 months old. And I thought that was normal! It wasn’t until recently I realized most people didn’t nurse their babies that long. 😉 The youngest is only 2 months old but I’ll probably nurse him that long too. It works for us. Thank goodness there’s no one-size-fits-all method! 🙂

    [Reply]

  4. Jamie Wright

    01/14/2017

    I can’t remember exactly how old Simon is but here is what I have learned after potty training 3 boys…..when they are ready, they are ready. I was so determined with my first that he was going to be potty trained when he turned 2. He was frustrated and I was frustrated. So I tried again at 2 1/2. Same thing. Did the same with my 2nd boy (stupid, right?) lol Nothing but frustration for the both of us. Boy number 3 came along and I decided I wasn’t even going to try until he initiated it. Amazingly, when he was ready, it took only like a day or two. It was wonderful and frustration free. All three of my boys weren’t ready until JUST before their 3rd birthday. I

    [Reply]

  5. Leanne

    01/14/2017

    The guilt/comparison trap really got the best of me….I felt judged, but I did a lot of judging too….
    I homeschooled for 3 years (and by the end hated doing it and almost ruined my relationship with one of my kiddos)…I convinced myself that working outside the home was something mom’s did to “fund a lifestyle”… All the trying to “measure up”, just made me judge other families more…
    then I got SICK… and I needed to send my kids back to school…. I took a part-time job in a daycare/preschool…and I was CONVICTED….
    My kids have THRIVED at school…and my relationship with them and my husband is so much better because I am not burned out…
    My heart was CHANGED because I have watched lots of moms and dads over the last several months pick up their children who HAD to work… police officers, nurses, doctors, professors, factory workers, teachers, etc…. they like their careers, but they LOVE their children… the moms struggle with guilt and judgment because they work…but I realized they have their life choices and what would our society be like without those dedicated professionals and jobs? I have really chosen not to judge anymore… just listen… and support the other parents around me because we are all in it together 🙂
    great post, Andrea!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing this Leanne! I’m sure that was a hard choice to stop homeschooling but I’m glad you are happy with you decision!

    [Reply]

  6. Deborah

    01/14/2017

    It’s so good to hear someone say this from a public platform! I wish I would have adopted more of this mindset when I had my first child and earlier on with my second. I worried so much. Now my advice is similar to yours: do what you need to do…it won’t be like this for long! Enough of putting ourselves through “mom guilt!”

    [Reply]

  7. Holly

    01/13/2017

    Excellent post as always, Andrea – thanks for sharing your heart. I agree 100% and, like you – I wish I had understood this sooner. THIS is actually the most frequent advice I give to new moms – just trust yourself & don’t feel obligated at all to listen to other’s advice!

    In the spirit of this incredible post, I will not provide any parenting advice, but instead will just share what worked well with my two little paci addicts:

    Once they were 18 – 24 months old and could walk & talk (or at least understand what they were told), the paci stayed in the bed. Period. So – they could have it any time they wanted, but had to stay in the bed while they sucked on it. Obviously, they quickly chose not to use it most of the time unless it was time for sleep. This way, I wasn’t the mean one forcing them not to use it, it was completely their choice. If they cried or fussed and said they wanted it, I reminded them that they could certainly have it, but had to stay in the bed with it.

    As a beginner mom this was a win-win for me. I got better sleep at night because they had their paci, but I didn’t have to deal with the well-meaning people who told me I was ruining my children with a pacifier because they never had it out in public or during their waking hours.

    Now – getting rid of the paci during the night is another story…

    They’re now college students and I can assure you they sleep well at night without a pacifier!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is such a great idea Holly! I think we might do something similar. We were planning to take it away when he turned 3, but I like this idea better!

    [Reply]

  8. Hannah Beth Reid

    01/13/2017

    I also have a son named James and say no family should be without one! They’re great!

    Our 2 year old was just pushed into giving up the paci because he had a tooth pulled (it was chipped close to the nerve) and sucking on the paci could have pulled out the clot and made it bleed and not heal…so we dealt with the two sad days. He had kept it the longest of our three “addicts” and we weren’t planning to take it away any time soon. And life was much easier with the paci…even I miss it! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing these encouragements! The thing about parenting is that every one of us is working with a completely unique individual, so there are lots of solutions to every issue we might face…and even some discrepancy regarding what is an issue that needs a solution! If we can remember that when giving and receiving advice, it makes it much easier to not take things too personally or literally.

    All the pictures in this post are precious!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh that sounds awful — I can’t even imagine dealing with the pain from the tooth pull AND not being able to comfort him with his pacifier 🙁
    hopefully the next week goes smoother!

    [Reply]

  9. Katie

    01/13/2017

    When I get concerned about the kids (9,6, and 19 months), my husband always reassures me that what I am worried about won’t be a problem by the time they are 18. Long views are important for day to day sanity!

    [Reply]

  10. Nina

    01/13/2017

    My brother kept his blanket until he was about 10. He would hide it from my cousins, who would tease him about it. (although one of them sucked his thumb until he was close to a teen). My mother got plenty of advice but her mother said – he’ll give it up when he’s ready. It was longer than expected but no harm no foul.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I actually had a blanket until 5th grade when my mom mysteriously “ruined it” in the washing machine. To this day, I still say she did it on purpose!

    [Reply]

  11. Karlyn Morgan Nance

    01/13/2017

    Here is the advice I gave my daughter when she was pregnant with my first grandchild: “As a loving and caring mother, YOU know what is best for your baby, not your friends or relatives, not the writers of books and magazine articles, not always the doctor, and no, not even the grandparents! Read the books, listen to the advice of others, and give it thoughtful consideration. Then smile sweetly and thank the advice giver, but DO what your heart tells you to do.”

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Good advice Karlyn!

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  12. Bridget

    01/13/2017

    I think it is important to not go to the other extreme though – there are times when someone has given me advice or an idea that I have been glad to have received. It’s all in how it is delivered and how it is received. If we never share helpful ideas with each other, we all have to re-invent the wheel every time! If shared with the attitude of “this is something you might try” or “I have a friend who this worked for, but who knows? It might not work for you or your family” then I am happy to have ideas.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, for sure. That’s sort of the point I was trying to convey too. We can just use the suggestions that work and disregard the rest without feeling bad for not taking everyone’s advice or doing what everyone else tells us to do.

    And thanks for the phrasing suggestions — I’ve said many of those to others as well!

    [Reply]

  13. Allison

    01/13/2017

    I once had a co-worker tell me not to dress my twin baby girls in blue, I was so tired of seeing pink, I wanted to see something different – “OH NOOOO, don’t do that”.

    What really got me, and obviously this has stuck with me as my girls will be 15 yo in April, is that this woman was and still is childless.

    Sometimes ya just gotta shake your head and move on.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — wow, that really did stick with you! I can also remember specific things people said to me about Nora. I remember thinking “that is probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard” all while smiling a fake smile and nodding!

    [Reply]

  14. Kim

    01/13/2017

    Don’t we all wish we had gotten to this healthy point of view a lot earlier in our lives? Truly, it is all gonna work out just fine. And, these children of yours are darn blessed to have you as their mama!!!!

    A recovering guilt addict,
    Kim

    [Reply]

  15. Christina

    01/13/2017

    Thank you for this post! I needed to hear/read it. I have a 3 yr old, an 18 month old and my third on the way. I feel guilty about a variety of parenting issues 100% of the time. I definitely needed to read this post today!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Ahhh… that was practically me 18 months ago. It’s crazy, but it wasn’t bad (I promise). Congrats on #3!

    [Reply]

  16. Beth

    01/13/2017

    Oh, this article is so true. I try really hard to remind myself that most people are doing the best they can with what they have where they are–and I try to extend this grace to myself too! Thank you for the perspective, Andrea. I enjoy your blog so much!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Beth! And yes, most parents I know are doing everything they can to benefit their children. They wouldn’t purposely or knowingly do something to harm them.

    [Reply]

  17. Jennifer

    01/13/2017

    This is a great post! As a first time parent I get so tired of hearing comments and suggestions from other people. I am working on potty training my little guy and he is stubborn as well. I don’t have a problem with his progress and I know he will eventually get there too, but other people making suggestions gets old, especially when I didn’t ask for help and am not concerned.. It’s so important to trust your own instincts and do what’s right for your own family.

    [Reply]

  18. Monica

    01/13/2017

    Andrea, I think you are a wonderful mother. I have 5 children: three are easy going and two are very high energy and screamed every night until age 2. This post is so true of doing what you need to do to survive, trying only the advise you want to, and letting the rest go. I love to read your posts because you are so real and transparent and encouraging. Thanks for being you.

    PS My kids still don’t like peas…it’s a sensory, texture issue to this day and they are adults! And one will eat roast beef but not hamburger…

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha – Dave and I still won’t eat pickles (and all 3 of our kids LOVE them!)

    [Reply]

  19. Angela

    01/13/2017

    It’s been interesting to me how my perspective has changed as my kids have gotten older and I’ve learned and grown as a parent. We have four kids, and the things that I thought were the END of the world with our first child, I now realize aren’t always a big deal and I let them slide with our younger kids. I used to stress about our oldest always wearing matching outfits and having her hair look nice for school or church, for fear people would judge. I’m a lot more lenient now with what my two littlest ones wear. I’ve just learned that there will be much bigger things to worry about later (now that we’re entering the teen years with our oldest), so church outfits and hairdos really are the least of my worries! That’s lucky for my little ones, but I regret fighting so many battles with our first one! Poor thing – we were still figuring a lot of things out with her, and we still are, as she’s the one who has to blaze the trail into each new phase. : )

    I’ve also learned that every child is different. People do mean well when they give advice, and I dole out my share as well, but since every child is different, there really is no magic answer that works for every parenting problem.

    We’re all just learning as we go! : )

    [Reply]

    Angela Reply:

    Oh, and a couple more points I forgot.

    We have one boy and three girls. In my experience, my son took WAY longer to be interested in potty training than any of my girls. I just waited until he was interested and ready – I figured if I pushed it too early, I was really just “potty training myself” to make sure I got him to the potty in time! : )

    I’ve also found that when little ones are attached to a “lovey” of some kind, whether it’s a pacifier, blankie or toy, they tend to outgrow those behaviors quickly on their own once they’re around other kids at preschool, and they start to want to act a little more grown up. They grow up at the speed of light as it is, so we don’t need to feel like we have to rush things. Just enjoy the phases of little ones – you’ll miss the pacifier days soon enough! : )

    [Reply]

    Hannah Beth Reid Reply:

    My mother always references the fact that sometimes it is the parents who are trained to take the child to the potty! So true!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — I’ve actually never heard this before, but it IS SO TRUE!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, exactly! I wish I could have been this way when Nora was a baby — but obviously that would be impossible since I’ve had 5 years of hands-on learning experience now.

    [Reply]

  20. Avia

    01/13/2017

    I still put my 2 and 4 year old girls to bed with a bottle and sippy cup of milk. It helps them go to sleep and if they wake in the night they just grab it and drink themselves back to sleep. I’m not “supposed” to be doing this but my girls are not great sleepers and this makes it so I’m not up multiple time every night. So I’m like you; I refuse to feel bad about it. If the dentist starts noticing any trouble I might rethink it but so far so good.

    [Reply]

    Avia Reply:

    Also, my 4 year old used a binkie until she was 3. Everyone kept telling me that I had to go cold turkey and deal with the screaming but I just didn’t have it in me. Instead I kept talking to her about how when she got big she wouldn’t need a binkie anymore and one day she just didn’t need them anymore. So much easier than a screaming marathon!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    We’ve already told Simon that when he turns 3, he can only have his pacifier at bedtime. Just yesterday, he told my mom, “me no get blue pipe when me turn 3” — so I think he understands. We’ll see how it goes though 🙂

    [Reply]

    Hannah Beth Reid Reply:

    We did the cold turkey method with our first and it was awful. Our second just forgot to ask for a paci at naptime one day and then 2 days later when he asked for it I said they were gone and he was fine with that answer.

    Phasing it out except at bedtime does seem to make the transition slightly better.

    Funny story about growing up and not needing the paci…one time my mother innocently mentioned to our oldest child that someday her little brother wouldn’t have a paci anymore and she cried for him because she didn’t want him to miss it!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    hey, if it helps them sleep — I’d say do it! Plus, it’s only baby teeth 🙂

    [Reply]

    Alicia Reply:

    My almost 2 year old also still had a bottle (of warm water) in his crib at night for this very same reason! He is my third baby, and I found the exact same thing- I just don’t have it in me to fight this battle at this time. I felt guilty and pressured about getting him off the bottle for a long time until recently I just decided- I am not going to worry about this right now! It helps him-and me- get sleep!

    [Reply]

  21. Cassandra

    01/13/2017

    I am new to your blog and we wondered what if anything helped with your daughter eating? My 14 month old is a very picky eater, like yogurt and graham crackers and once in while bananas! I am still breastfeeding him to insure he gets enough calories. He has stalled on gaining weight however so I al looking for any tips! Thankyou in advance!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Cassandra,
    Sorry to hear about this — it’s so frustrating! We ended up bringing Nora to food therapy around 18 months – 21 months and that was the only thing that worked. She literally did not eat anything until 18 months old (not even water from a sippy cup or breast milk from a bottle)
    I believe I linked to several of the post about Nora in today’s post, but here’s a good one: http://andreadekker.com/noras-food-journey/

    [Reply]

  22. Charissa

    01/13/2017

    It’s tempting to offer advice to other parents. I’ve tried to be better about only offering ideas, thoughts and suggestions when asked.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    It’s tempting to offer advice to anyone with any sort of “problem” or dilemma, but I too try to resist unless I’m specifically asked. It’s not easy!

    [Reply]

  23. LoriB

    01/13/2017

    Just had a conversation with a friend and my husband this week about this. My friend has 11 children and is a great mother. Her thoughts about parenting advice was that someone else’s advice is really just what worked for them in their home. We all have to figure out what works for us. I appreciated her wisdom.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes exactly — and I’m sure she’s gotten her fair share of parenting advice over the years!

    [Reply]

  24. Ann

    01/13/2017

    And I will choose not to feel guilty for worrying about you and giving you suggestions because I wanted you to feel better. Sorry if they evoked guilt in you then. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — yeah, definitely don’t feel guilty about that 🙂

    [Reply]