Friday, April 29, 2005

Parenting 101

This is something I posted on some message boards back in July 2002. As I do with just about anything that I consider important enough to keep, I saved it, and the replies that I received, in Word. I'm going to try to copy my entire post, plus the important replies, here. As I hope I made clear in my posts on raising a child with disabilities, I like to share what I know, in order to to help prevent people from reinventing the wheel. Hope this isn't too long.

Parenting 101

You would think that people would have a least a clue about raising children from remembering how their own parent(s) raised them, or from watching other parents at work. But you’d be amazed at some of the things I’ve heard. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

When the Young Tech was still an infant, our pregnant neighbor asked me whether it would be okay for her to go jogging and leave her baby home alone. (!) I explained to her that someone had to be with a baby at all times, in case of a fire or other emergency.

Recently, a co-worker commented that the hardest thing about having a baby was not giving birth, but realizing that her baby wouldn’t let her sleep. This is news?!

As I was saying, you can’t make this stuff up. Therefore, in the interest of protecting future babies from clueless parents, I hereby present this introductory “class.”

First and foremost, parents are responsible, morally and legally, for their children’s health and safety. One must *never* leave a young child home alone!!! Babies get hungry and thirsty, need to have their diapers changed, and *cannot flee in case of danger.* If you leave a baby home alone long enough to go down to the corner store and buy a package of diapers, and that’s the moment when the boiler decides to explode, you’ll come home to a crispy critter.

And don’t forget the medical check-ups and the vaccinations. Always remember that, before the advent of the polio vaccine, people *died* from polio. Rubella (also known as German measles) was a leading cause of deafness, blindness, and mental retardation before the advent of the MMR (measles, mumps, Rubella) vaccine). Parents are responsible, morally and legally, for their children’s health. It may also interest you to know that, in many places, an unvaccinated child cannot enter school, or even college.

Helpful hint: Infants’ or Children’s Tylenol—don’t leave home without it! We once had to take our son to the nearest Emergency Room at 3 o’clock in the morning because he got an ear infection while we were visiting my aunt and uncle. Don’t let it happen to your kid. *Always* take Infants’ or Children’s Tylenol with you when you travel with a child.

Second, rare, indeed, is the infant who sleeps through the night. Parents of newborns should expect to be sleep-deprived for many months. So don’t be surprised like my clueless co-worker.

Third, older babies and toddlers may let you sleep more at night, but you won’t have a moment’s peace during the day once your kid learns to walk. Toddlers *do* run into the street if you don’t hold their hand; they *do* run into the swings in a backyard or playground and get clobbered in the head if you don’t stop them, they *do* put anything and everything, including dangerous things like bleach or knives, into their mouths if you don’t put all your utensils, medicines and cleaners into locked cabinets, they *do* stick their tiny fingers into uncovered outlets and get themselves french-fried, they *do* stick their tiny fingers into computer A drives, VCR, CD-, and DVD-player openings and get stuck. Please haunt the local houseware or hardware store, baby store, or pharmacy and pick up contraptions for locking and blocking dangerous places. And don’t forget to put a baby-gate at the top of the stairs, or you’ll have a child screaming all the way to the Emergency Room to set a broken arm. While we’re on the subject, never yank a child below the elbow to try to get the kid moving in the right direction, no matter how short s/he is—that’s how the Young Tech ended up with a dislocated elbow. And speaking of babies falling down the stairs, baby walkers—those wheeled contraptions in which a baby is suspended in a cloth “sling” so that the baby can “walk” before s/he’s able to stand upright without support—are dangerous!!! When your baby’s legs are strong enough to enable her/him to walk without support, s/he’ll walk without support. What’s the rush? Let Mother Nature take her course.

Fourth, there’s no way around the fact that parenthood curtails one’s social life. Strollers are wonderful things—they enable one to take a baby or toddler just about anywhere without undo wear and tear on a parent’s back or arms. However, they won’t stop a tired child from crying for an hour straight in a restaurant until he falls asleep, or crying through a movie or concert, so be considerate. Also, a day will come when your child will be too old for a stroller. (Our son’s preschool yelled at us when they found out that we were still using a stroller for our then-three-year-old). Not only does taking a kid out of a stroller make every walk to the subway take twice as long (and practically necessitate taking a cab home when it’s late at night, to avoid having a tired child cry for the entire walk home), but also, please understand that, once there’s no stroller for a child to sleep in, bedtime means home-time. Once your kid’s too old for a stroller, you’ve have to be home by 8 every night for at least the next 10 years, unless you can get another adult (relative, friend, or babysitter) to stay home with the kid.

Hint: The telephone answering machine (*not* Voice Mail!) is a real godsend for parents. Just teach your child *never* to answer the phone unless s/he hears *your* voice on the answering machine, and no one need ever know that you left your 11-year-old home alone while you went to the corner store for a quart of milk.

Finally, understand that every child is like a bottle that’s not being recycled—“No deposit, no return.” There’s no guarantee that your child is going to be the perfect angel of your fantasies. Some come with hearing or vision problems, some with learning disabilities, some with mental challenges, some with emotional disabilities, some with physical mobility challenges, some with behavior problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, some with physical health problems, and some with more than one of the above. If you’re not willing to raise whatever child you end up with, don’t bother having a child. And remember that you child’s welfare comes first—there may be many occasions when the only way to help your child achieve her/his maximum potential will be to park your ego at the door. Don’t let pride stand in the way of your child getting the help that s/he needs.

Children—They may make life a bit more challenging, but they’re sure the most lovable things on earth. :) You never know what they’ll come up with next. Enjoy the ride!

End of lecture. There will be a test after you’ve had your first child. :)

Damian Vryce:
If I may add a few:1. In addition to childrens tylenol, never be with out liquid benedryl (an antihistimine). Since your child is new to the world, you may not know what they are allegeric to. Benedryl will minimize the effect until more powerfull meds can be reached.

2. Ranger S., gave a few tips for living in NYC about the subway. For those of us who use a car: a child seat is a must! It is not an option. It is not about cutting your kid some slack or giving them some freedom. No matter how much they complain, whine or cry, they are buckled up. That crying will be nothing compared to what you go through if they end up flying through your windshield in a collison.

And for those parents who like the idea of walkers, please consider using the Exersaucer....a walker type device that has no wheels but allows the child to practice keeping his/her balance while upright.

Ranger Shoshanah [that'd be me]:
I knew there was something I forgot--*car seats!!!* It's not only folks who *do* own cars who need them--it's also folks who *don't.* Not every rental establishment has them. We once missed a wedding because my poor hubby had to run from the place that rented us a car to another branch of the same rental company that had car seats before we could strap the dear boy in for the ride to Grandmom's. Needless to say, we bought a car seat immediately thereafter, even though we had nowhere to park it but the livingroom. But that sure beats the horror story I heard on TV tonight--a two-year-old died because his father was holding the kid in his arms in the back seat of a car when a collision occurred. *Never* hold a child in your arms while in a moving car, no matter how much the kid complains. You *must* get your child used to riding in a car seat from the earliest possible age--better to cry than to die!!! Breastfeeders, either pull over or give in to necessity, temporarily, and give the baby a bottle, but *don't* take the baby out of the baby seat as long as the car is moving!!!

Infants' Benadryl--what a great idea. I wish someone had told me that one when ___ was rushed to the hospital from preschool after breaking out in hives from his first taste of peanut butter. See--you *can* teach an old dog new tricks.

It's amazing how much a child changes your life. I thought I understood what it would be like, but until the moment Kiera was born, I was pretty clueless. Sure, I'd read a lot, knew what to expect, etc. but I had absolutly no IDEA that I could love someone so much so instantly. Children are an amazing blessing.

That being said, I will admit that I had difficulties with the transition into motherhood. Most of the problems were due to post partum depression, which I am now recovering from, thanks to the help of a good doctor, Paxil, and a healthy diet, exercise, and daily routine that we can all be happy with.

I will add one thing: Obviously, your child's health, safety, and well-being have to be priority, but make a little time for yourself as well, even if it's just an hour a day. You'll be a better parent for it. I've learned this from experience.

How can anyone imagine leaving an infant home alone??? The very idea is so inconcievable for me......Even if you do have one of those rare babies to sleeps through the night (which mine is) you're still going to lose out on some of the sleep you were getting. There is always housework or other tasks to be done that didn't get done during the day or couldn't be done until the little one was down for the night.

Parents don't get to be sick. It doesn't matter if you have a headache, sore throat, stuffy nose, or an upset stomach. When that child needs you, you have to be there.

Another thing.... and forgive me if I offend anyone here.. but this whole putting the child in bed with you thing.. sure, it may seem more convenient, and you may like the bonding time, but it's unsafe! A short while back, a mother who lives down the road from us suffocated her child when she rolled over on her in the middle of the night.... Now she has to wake up every morning and live with that fact. Suffocation and injuries from falls are a big rist for babies when they are placed in adult beds. Please, just make the effort to get up and walk the few feet to the crib at night. Also, never leave your baby unattended on an adult bed. If you're visiting someone else and the child gets tired and needs a nap, spread a blanket out on the floor and let them sleep there. Putting pillows or blankets next to a child on a bed to prevent them from falling off is even worse than not having them there, since they present more of a suffocation hazard.

Routine, routine, routine. I can't stress enough how important this is. Children of all ages need it. Babies and toddlers are learning so much in their first few years. Everything changes for them almost daily. They're going through so many physical and mental changes, the whole world is just whizzing around them at 100mph. Having a well established routine and schedule gives them some bit of order to grasp onto and makes them happier and more secure. I've already learned that if Kiera's routine gets messed up then she's cranky, fussy, doesn't sleep as well, doesn't eat as well and is just generally unhappy. My best friend's 15 month odl son stood in my kitchen and wailed for 3 hours yesterday because he didn't get his afternoon nap on time and couldn't be calmed down enought ot ake one then.You don't have to be a strict clock watcher, but establishing a routine and a schedule will make life easier for everyone. In addition to making life for your child easier, it will also make your days easier to manage. That was oen of the biggest problems I had after Kiera was born. I felt like I had absolutly no control over my life anymore. Once I asserted myself and got myself and Kiera into a routine that would allow her to get the sleep she needed and allow me to get housework done, have a little me time, and have plenty of play time with her, we both got happier. I even manage about 6hrs of sleep a night and an afternoon nap (whole she sleeps).

Wonderful advice. Absolutely correct that you should never leave your young child alone at home, not even to run to the corner store, but also remember: if you have driven to the corner store, you must never ever leave your child unattended in the automobile while you quickly dash inside. So many dangerous things can happen in just a moment's time...a toddler could somehow manage to get the car in gear; a car parked on a hill or on icy area could roll; your child could be kidnapped; if it is summertime and hot and you have left your child in a locked vehicle with the windows rolled up, your child could die!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good advice. But I'd ignore the preschool on the stroller. My parents loved long walks (miles in a city) and always took me with them. I'd walk when I wanted to and ride when I was tired-- certainly until I was at least 4. I think I only stopped using the stroller when I asked to (when I insisted that big girls don't use strollers). A stroller makes life comfortable for everyone.

Fri Apr 29, 05:53:00 PM 2005  

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