We Are Both Right

Round Two: Brother vs. Sister with Mommy in the Middle

Are you a referee for your kids? Or do you let them solve sibling fights on their own? ©Julia Freeman-Woolpert/stock.xchng

I can hear my children right now in the family room and the pitch is rising by the minute. Do I really need to go down there again?

It could be that the little one is “accidentally” kicking her brother as he lays on the floor watching the baseball game.

Or maybe he’s back to tormenting her about the fly that got in before and how it’s going to eat them alive.

Whatever it is, I’m now listening to a high pitched scream. Now a cry. And some whimpering. Yep, it’s time to kick it into high gear and swoop in.

“She hit me,” says the one holding his head. “He was taking my toy,” she whines. “She wrote on my cards.” And on it goes.

Sibling rivalry? I don’t know if that’s exactly the right term. It’s not about competing against each other, like in school or sports. It’s a battle that tends to erupt between siblings who have to share the same space. And if you have more than one child, it probably needs no further explanation.

But the question at hand is whether or not a parent should intervene.

There’s something to be said for duking it out and solving your own problems. That’s the way I was raised, with one of my mom’s famous lines being: “I’m not your referee.” So my younger sister and brother and I usually had to figure out our own disputes, sometimes in hand to hand combat, but most of the time by talking it out.

Except that I’m having a hard time just letting them go at it, without jumping in to — well, referee.

Maybe it’s their age gap. Five years means a mismatched fight. Not that my son would intentionally hurt his sister, but if she gets going, I know he’ll be victim to a sneak attack. And my kids aren’t overly physical otherwise. But some days, they really manage to bring out the worst in each other.

And it’s times like those when my parental instinct kicks in — the one that tells me to do whatever necessary to stop whatever it is that’s hurting a child of mine (even if it’s another child of mine).

So I tend to get in the middle — a lot. My objectives are 1. stop the fighting and 2. sit them down to talk out the issues. They have to see each other’s side of the story and under my jurisdiction come up with a satisfactory resolution. Sometimes that’s enough time for them to cool off, other times they just wait for me to leave before starting up again.

Am I getting in the way of normal development, or do you think it really is a parent’s job to manage sibling infighting?

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Hey Amanda, when you’re done with that blood pressure cuff, can I borrow it? And do you want to trade a kid each while we’re at it — mix things up a bit?

I’m Not a Referee, Nor Do I Play One at Home

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When it comes to sibling rivalry, do you get involved or let the kids battle it out? ©alfredo-9/stock.xchng

A half hour. That’s how long my kids were home on their last day of school when I made them turn off the television and go to their rooms.

Why? Because they were fighting of course. Over what, I have no idea. Does it matter? If I want to stay sane, it shouldn’t.

Thirty freakin’ minutes. As I said to them on the day in question, “Are we really going to do this all summer?”

I have three children — a 10-year-old boy, an eight-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy. For all intents and purposes, let’s leave the little guy out of it for now and focus on the older two. (Although I had to stop in the middle of writing this because that sweet toddler bashed his sister in the back with a bat. But that’s a different problem.)

While for the most part they get along pretty well, they definitely have their moments when they are nothing more than oil and water. It’s natural of course — not liking the person that looks and sounds like you, the person who is your chief competitor in practically everything — television and video game selection, snack choices, the best seat on the couch, mom and dad’s love and attention, etc. etc. etc.

And sometimes, a person can rub you the wrong way by simply sitting there, not doing anything at all. Breathing. And if that particular person happens to live with you and you are with them practically 24/7, it’s not unreasonable to think that maybe they might get on your nerves a little bit.

Although when they are fighting over something silly (and trust me, at this age, it’s all silly) they might just get on my nerves a little bit.

So what do I do? Unless there is physical harm involved, nothing. And even then, unless it’s serious, they get sent to their rooms. Because if I got involved in every single one of their squabbles I would really get nothing done. And they would never learn. By letting them work out their differences on their own, I think (I hope) they are learning important conflict resolutions skills that will stay with them as they get older. (Provided they don’t think that pummeling their work colleague with a hail of Nerf gun bullets is acceptable.)

What’s your take on sibling rivalry? Do you get involved in any squabbles that your children might have?

Suzanne is more likely to get involved when her kids are fighting. I’m not sure which method — mine or hers — is less likely to raise a person’s blood pressure.

Our Two Cents: How Far Should This Mom Go to “Save” a Friend?

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Can a mom and child ever spend too much time together? ©mummau55/stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne: 

My dear, dear friend “Jennifer” and I have babies who were born seven months apart. How excited we both are to have children who will grow up together! 

Jennifer’s son “John” is a sweet boy with what I perceive to be a bit of an issue: He is 14 months old and won’t sleep through the night. You read that correctly…WON’T sleep through the night. 

Now, Jennifer is still breastfeeding him but John is also eating solid foods as well. Not to say that breastfeeding is causing the sleep interruption, but can it be part of the issue? Jennifer won’t try the ‘cry it out’ method and on average, John is up every 3 to 4 hours every night. 

I mean, I would go mental. I have wanted to gently broach the subject but I don’t want to seem like a know it all. 

And also, is it normal for moms not want to hang out without the kids? We haven’t been out to lunch alone since the babies were born. She “can’t” leave him. I feel like the worst Mom sometimes because I like to go out with my lady friends once in awhile. Anyway, that’s my issue and any feedback would be greatly appreciated. 

Signed,
A Concerned Friend
 

Suzanne: 

I could see where you would be concerned! Just the thought of not sleeping for longer than four hours for fourteen months straight makes me tired. And to envision your good friend suffering in silence, having been there yourself for however short a period of time, makes you want to jump through her bedroom window and save her.

But before you pull out your old Wonder Woman costume, maybe you could casually bring up the subject in conversation, without making your friend feel self-conscious about something she may or may not perceive as a problem herself.

Next time you talk, you might say in passing that your little one continues to sleep through the night and *fingers crossed* you hope it’s not just a phase. When she gives you the update on John (presuming they’re still in the same boat) ask in response whether her pediatrician has offered any advice as to whether she should try to stretch his feedings further apart. If she appears to not be looking for a “solution” you should just leave it at that — and maybe commend her for being stronger than you would be with so little sleep.

As for her not wanting to leave baby behind for a little girls-only time, you will just have to wait her out on that one. All moms find their comfort zone at different points in their child’s development. Some are ready to go immediately, knowing that baby is in good hands with daddy or grandma for an hour or two, while others might never leave their child’s sight until the drive to college.

For me, justifying time spent alone with friends took a few years and that was a direct result of my self-imposed guilt. I thought I was shortchanging my babies while I was at work, so I wanted to give them all of my free time otherwise. But now — well, I totally see the value in just hanging with friends for an hour or two and recharging in a way that ultimately makes me a more patient and well-rounded mom. Your friend should come around too — maybe after she starts getting some sleep! 

Amanda: 

I could be way off base here, but it sounds to me like Jennifer is practicing attachment parenting, whether she’s made the conscious decision to do so or not. Now this is just a guess based on what you are saying and from my own experiences as someone who did it as well (and sort of stumbled into the method).

If she is attachment parenting, I think everything you describe is actually pretty normal. The night waking, the extended breastfeeding, even the not wanting to leave the baby at all. I actually went through all of that myself — except for the extended breastfeeding part, which I had to stop at 13 months with S. because of my surgery. And while my husband T. and I did let our babies “cry it out,” at bedtime, if they woke in the middle of the night to nurse, I did let them and then they co-slept with us for the remainder of the evening.

Crazy? Perhaps. But it was the most natural thing for me, and I suspect, your friend. I’ve always felt that attachment parenting is inherent. Not to get all new-agey on you, but you don’t choose to attachment parent, it comes from inside of you.

And I promise, it’s no reflection on you if she doesn’t want to hang out. It’s just part of the attachment parenting style. Not that they dictate that, but it’s more like, moms who practice attachment parenting tend to not want to be separated from their babies. I knew that leaving the baby was fine and good to do, but it was just really hard for me emotionally. I have no way to explain it other than I just didn’t want to be away from them. I didn’t judge others that could leave their babies, I just couldn’t. Not for a while.

And that’s the thing about attachment parenting, you either get it and love it and do it, or you don’t do it and you think those who do are a bit looney. Which is fine!

If you miss your friend (and it sounds like you do) for now, maybe it’s best to schedule outings that incorporate all four of you — trips to the playground, walks, even a quick meal or coffee at a family-friendly place. Be supportive and patient — the good friend that you’ve been all along.

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What do you think? Does Concerned Friend have cause to be concerned? Should she talk to Jennifer or leave it alone? And if you are looking for a second (and third) opinion, ask us! Send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com.

Is Winging It a Parenting Style?

I’ll admit it — I’m a nerd. I have never failed a test in my life. But if there was one about parenting styles, you can bet I would fail miserably. Honestly, Dr. Sears might as well be Dr. Seuss for all I know. 

Aside from my required reading of what to expect throughout pregnancy and the next two years, I never invested much time in parenting books. I felt confident enough in my own intuition to make it up as I went along. (And it seems to still be working after eight years.) 

But since I’m always game for a little self-analysis, I figured it couldn’t hurt to (finally) figure out my parenting style — once and for all. 

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That was easy. According to the online quiz I just took, I can now call myself an authoritative parent. While this sounded a bit unappealing at first (the first association that came to mind was dictator), another search brought me to this definition (Finkel, Pagewise): 

Authoritative parents set clear and consistent limits for children. They are flexible but firm, which leads to children who are responsible, cooperative, and self-reliant. Authoritative parents often express love and affection to their children, without fear that such expressions of emotion may affect their ability to discipline. As their children get older, authoritative parents encourage more responsibility and freedom, within well-outlined rules.

asifthebes/stock.xchng

Also known as balanced parenting, this style has been described as equal parts nurturing and control. Authoritative parenting is based upon having expectations for your child, but also being flexible about how and when they are met in an age-appropriate way.  Come to think of it, whenever my husband and I have discussed our approach to raising our children (which we never thought of as parenting style, per se), we have always agreed that expectations are key. 

For each of us, knowing that there were parents and grandparents who expected the best of us, and would be around to see the consequences of any bad choices, was motivation enough to stay on the straight and narrow path when we were growing up. Our goal is to do the same with our children, ensuring that there are supportive and interested people around them in every facet of their day (school, home, and with our extended family). 

So I guess we weren’t really winging it after all.  If we continue to work within this parenting style, which seems most natural to us, we can hope that our children develop into confident, independent, socially adept and respectful adults. 

Could a mom wish for anything more? 

I kind of like my parenting style title now and plan to wear it proudly, eschewing any associations with other parenting styles like helicopter parenting, indulgent parenting, or strict parenting. 

Do you know your parenting style? How is it working for you? 

Locked Up in Attachment Parenting?

© vancity197/stock.xchng

© vancity197/stock.xchng

I never knew defined parenting styles existed. For all the reading and research that I did when I was pregnant with my eldest, my son C., somehow I must have missed the chapters where it detailed the qualities and methods of the various ways to raise your kids.

But even if I had known that there were formal modi operandi (Woo hoo! My high school Latin is useful!) for us to follow, I doubt I would have been able to choose one. And even if I had — say I found one that stood out for me above all the rest — how could I have possibly adhered to it without knowing what I was getting myself into?

I mean, does parenting even work that way? Is choosing a parenting style as simple as shopping for a sweater in a catalog? (Although if you’ve ever watched me shop online, you’d know it’s not as much of an effortless expenditure as you would think.)

See, for my husband T. and I, parenting was always about following our instincts. If it felt right, we did it, whether it was deciding to breastfeed (even though some didn’t support our decision), choosing for me to be a stay-at-home mom or simply making our own baby food (something we did with our youngest, S.). And the thing about parenting by instinct is, that you do it differently every time, adapting for each child. While we stick with the same fundamental tenets for all three of them — Be kind and honest. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Laugh often. Things are never as bad as they seem. All you need is love. Look for a fastball on a 3-0 count. — we definitely have made some modifications as we go along. We are evolving, fluid — like Facebook. (Can someone please explain why my News Feed is now at a .5 font size?)

Anyway.

So I can firmly say, no parenting styles for us. I am a mother, not a sheep in a herd and I won’t be classified.

Except…

One night I was surfing the Internet looking to find the proper dosing information for infant acetaminophen. C. must have been teething or something and I had lost the paper where I wrote down the right amount as directed by my pediatrician. While looking, I stumbled on a most helpful parenting tool — the Medicine Cabinet at AskDrSears.com. (This is unrelated so I’ll keep it fast — basically it’s a listing of just about every over-the-counter medication you can buy and the correct dose by age and weight. It’s awesome.) Anyway, so thrilled was I with this discovery that I started clicking around the site, eventually landing on the Attachment Parenting page.

As I read, I found myself nodding my head. Breastfeeding. Babywearing. Co-sleeping. It is impossible to spoil an infant. “We do that!” “And that!” “That too!” “Hey, that sounds just like us!” For someone who had eschewed parenting styles in the past, I sure was happy to be suddenly classified in one.

And that’s why I didn’t mind finding myself categorized as someone who practiced attachment parenting. We came to do it on our own, simply by following our built-in mommy and daddy intuitions. We were doing what we thought was best for our kiddies, letting our natural parental inclinations be our guide.

(Now to be fair, there is one big aspect of attachment parenting that we don’t follow. On the recommendation of our pediatrician, we have always “Ferberized” (sleep trained) our kids once they hit four months old and I have no regrets about it at all — especially since they all sleep 11-12 hours at a stretch. Having said that, once they are sleeping through the night, we do bring them into our bed on occasion if they need some extra snuggles.)

But that’s the beauty of attachment parenting — it’s an approach, not a rule book. You do what works best. The major proponents of attachment parenting — Dr. William Sears and his wife Martha Sears, RN — write on their site, “Attachment parenting is not rigid. On the contrary, it has options and is very flexible.”

Celebrating and exploring the bonds between mother and child, for me, attachment parenting makes me feel more relaxed and more mellow about the parenting decisions I make every day.

Not everyone is a fan though.

Late last week, attachment parenting came under fire by author and feminist Erica Jong, who, in the Wall Street Journal, compared the approach to being incarcerated.

“Attachment parenting, especially when combined with environmental correctness, has encouraged female victimization,” Jong writes. “Women feel not only that they must be ever-present for their children but also that they must breast-feed, make their own baby food and eschew disposable diapers. It’s a prison for mothers, and it represents as much of a backlash against women’s freedom as the right-to-life movement.”

Hmmm. Well, sometimes I don’t change out of my pajamas all day and don’t leave the house, but that’s because I’m lazy, not because the kids have me tied up.

Look, I could sit here and could argue point by point against Jong of why I think she’s wrong. (And she is. Buzzwords and saying things for shock value are not the foundations of a cohesive argument.) But her words about attachment parenting aren’t what made me see red.

What got me so angry is that she attacked the way other people parent — one of the most personal decisions there is. She raised her daughter one way — leaving her with nannies while she traveled the world — not a method I would employ certainly, but hey, it’s what worked for her family. How dare she criticize others for their choices, choices that we are all free to make.

I don’t appreciate being judged because I love being with my kids, because I choose to spend my time mashing bananas and pushing toy trucks on the floor instead of going to an office every day or seeking some sort of outside achievement. I hate that some people think because I’m a smart woman who doesn’t put on high heels and a suit every day or use my neurons to come up with a cure for cancer, that I have somehow been brainwashed or bullied and am setting the feminist movement back decades.

We need to stop being so critical of one another and start working together to fix some very real social problems that affect all of our children — those raised by moms who work in an office and moms who don’t.

The lack of paid parental leave. Unequal pay for women. A broken healthcare system that has a terrible record when it comes to maternal and prenatal care, one that pays for penis pumps but not breast pumps. Women who can’t breastfeed in public without being harassed or causing some kind of incident.

This is the madness we need to address.  Not attacking women who, as Jong so nicely points out, are “giving up your life for your children,” instead of supporting all moms as they strive to live fulfilling, rewarding existences while raising tomorrow’s mothers and fathers.

“Do the best you can,” Jong writes at the end of her piece, “There are no rules.”  Good advice. I just wish she meant for everyone, not just the folks who agree with her way of thinking.

Do you employ a particular parenting method?