Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and other good advice

When my first child was born, a well intentioned relative couldn’t wait to recommend her favorite babysitters to me upon my arrival home from the hospital. To this day, I vividly recollect that the last thing, the very last thing, that was on my mind was to leave them with a babysitter.

I had that fierce “throw yourself in front of a Mack truck” reaction to any perceived threat to my littles’ well-being, including that I couldn’t tolerate their crying for a minute.

I did suffer post partum depression and severe anxiety in the weeks following my children’s births, but what calmed my frazzled soul above all things was the satisfaction of rocking my contented newborns, sharing those moments with my husband, and of course, achieving any kind of unfragmented sleep.

These days, I foolishly throw sleep away to read just a little too late or allow the dogs and cats to sleep with me.

Another well-intentioned relative suggested to let them be while I was challenged with colicky babies.  “In her day,” she’d said, “you just put them in the playpen and let them cry it out.”  She also brought piles of newspapers and magazines to read while she would offer to sit with the babies.  I couldn’t imagine how she would get all that reading in while she was there to spend time watching my cherubs.  I lived there with them and hadn’t been able to read the daily mail for a week!

I find a fair amount of time for my own pursuits now, including reading, and happily set them aside when my grown kids and I have a chance to talk together.

Through the years, I caught a lot of flack for carrying my children too long (“You won’t want to hold that kid all day when he’s a 5-year-old!”) or for letting them play with my apron strings while I was cooking.  Literally, Sarah Jane would tie herself to my apron strings and hold onto my legs in the kitchen while Char was in my arms, on my hip, and Jody would be on a chair or stool helping to measure, chop or cook something up with me.

It’s especially nice, now, that Char offers to cook every Friday night, Jody can bake the most amazing chocolate cake you’ll ever taste, and Sarah Jane sews up incredibly detailed aprons like nobody’s business.

I also experienced hurt feelings when more well-intentioned friends criticized my home-schooling decision.  There were a few years when parents of my kids’ friends had been in and out of my home for birthday parties, sleepovers, car-pools, tea and dinners.  When we made the leap into homeschooling from a couple of years of local public school, those same friends just fell out of our lives.  There were many times when we were asked, “Are you sure this was a good idea?”

Needless to say, 10 years at home did not ruin their lives.

One doesn’t want to spend too much time analyzing these periods of growth and life.  It doesn’t change things.  I have learned and continue to learn so much from every decision made in rearing my children.

And could I have done things differently? You betcha.  You sit there with a brand new life in your arms and realize the responsibility you have and do your best.  I believe humans are inherently good and I also believe that the role of parenting is an opportunity to better yourself.

In so many ways I have improved mine and other’s lives because I’ve had this opportunity.

I’m not nearly finished and pray I never will be.

The kids are alright – April 2009

8 responses to “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and other good advice

  1. I guess the proof is in the pudding or in this case in the picture. It turns out that Parenthood is an intensely personal thing for which one will be judged by others, but we will judge ourselves more harshly sometimes. And what do others know of parenting that we do not? Turns out, not much. In a world which seems to want to drag our children into dark places, it is rare and wonderful to see a picture such as you have included in your post and be privileged to know what it means, because you have invited me to share in your family experience. To all 5 of you, God Bless and Well Done. Savor the joy now and forever.

    • Very kind of you to comment, Mark. Indeed, we are our own harshest critics. We certainly can benefit by keeping our ears and eyes tuned to the lessons learned along the parent-walk. I definitely had certain ideas before I became a mama that I believe now are quite laughable. Trial-by-fire was/is my best method of education, I guess!

  2. Tammy – It’s funny that even though I know you have grown kids and all, your spirit appears young to me. Like maybe 18 y.o. or so. I have no idea why. Your writing is mature, but you transmit youth nevertheless…. Bless you!

    • Gracias, Vince! I have definitely not aged in the same ways some of my peers have. I realize that I am young-at-heart, as my own mother is, and I see it in my children as well. So we have a tendency to have silly times amongst us. Holding onto the innocence of youth whenever possible. That spirit likely transfers into my writing and you are kind(and generous!) to credit it as “mature.”

  3. I was a part of your life when you were trying to decide if homeschooling your children was the road your wanted to venture on. I thought back then and still feel that was the best decision you could have made. Even way back then you had a never say die spirit and each day was a wonderful gift to be opened and enjoyed. I have just recently found your website and I must say I am hooked!

    • Shann:
      I remember how supportive you were. What nice visits we used to have, thank God you didn’t freak out too much about my half-naked tribe (remember Char’s early days?!) Can you believe we’re on this side of the fence now? Those were intense days, in other ways, but you & me both, we’ve got great kids. Say hi to Tony!!!

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