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Mom and Dad: Don’t Rush Childhood!

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New parents, this one’s for you. Take a deep breath, look at your tiny baby, and enjoy the immense gratification that comes with holding a brand-new life. There’s nothing more spectacular in my opinion.

Now, try your best to cut out the noise you’re hearing from everyone around you about this amazing individual sleeping through the night, being potty trained, or learning to talk. I’d even further suggest that you put down all those parenting books. None of them will be the same, yet all will send you into a certain frenzy trying to decipher this new creature in your midst.

So here’s my two cents. Babies are all unique individuals, but they’re not tiny adults. Babies cry for a reason. They wake up every few hours at night for a reason, and they have little control over their bathroom functions for— you guessed it—a reason. Sadly, we grownups often look for quick solutions to temporary inconveniences that will, in due time, take care of themselves. Most of us already know that a baby’s development in its first year is pretty rapid, with those first few months of life so dependent on mom or dad. Babies need to be nurtured, comforted and fed when they’re hungry. But despite all this knowledge, societal pressures have made many of us believe that without enforcing a schedule or routine on our offspring early, we’re sure to fail. Some books even tell us to ignore our basic instinct of tending to a crying baby. That’s bound to create a lot stress for new parents.Photo: www.thesafestline.com

So I had to laugh when I read an article recently about elimination communication (EC), a movement gaining some attention that involves parents placing infants over sinks or toilets to do their bathroom business. Is it possible? Sure. As any mom can tell you that it’s fairly easy to get a baby sans diaper to let loose. And while babies are pretty smart, most of their innate intelligence exists so that they can form bonds with their caregivers to be fed, helping them thrive.

Is EC, fashioned as a natural parenting method, just another way that big people are attempting to control a part of their young child’s normal growth and development? Do we really need potty-trained infants? Does that make parents feel successful? Is it helping the environment? I’m sure the answer to the two latter questions is yes, but that doesn’t mean we should be doing it.

Truth is, I flinched when I saw the “Bumbo” seat in the family rooms of many well-meaning parents I know. For those not familiar with this item, which has been linked to accidents, it is a seat that allows a baby to sit upright before being ready to do so on his or her own. For most healthy babies, they will learn to sit up unassisted between six and eight months, when their bodies’ development makes it possible. But for those eager parents who can’t wait a few extra months, or weeks, there’s this gadget. I managed to get my three children through the first six months of their lives without one.

Such examples point to an overall theme. Are we just growing too impatient and not giving our children the appropriate time they need to develop naturally, without some over-imposed ideas about what is right? Hurrying childhood has potentially deleterious consequences for older children, too. I’ve heard of girls as young as six venturing out to their friends’ houses for sleepovers, and eight-year-olds with their own cell phones. What will 10- and 12-year-old children have to look forward to? Are we just rushing our children’s childhood away? Do I dare mention Miley Cyrus's recent performance on the VMAs?

 

My friends know that I love to foster my children’s independence in the healthiest ways I can, and I’m far from being an overly protective parent. But I can still hear my parents’ words “enjoy being a kid” ringing in my ears. I didn’t fully get it until I became an adult, but now I realize just how right they were.

While we’re all flawed as parents, isn’t letting our children be children one of the most important things we can do on the job? Each developmental phase lasts such a short time relative to the rest of our children’s lives. Pretty soon our babies will be older, facing more complex issues and, likely, with their own cell phone bills. I’m pretty sure going to the potty won’t be on their list of concerns.

Julia Sherwin is a freelance writer and mother of three who lives in Chester County. She is a former college journalism instructor who enjoys running, biking, swimming, traveling and cooking. 

Email her at jsherwin73@gmail.com  or follow her other parenting articles at juliasherwin.wordpress.com.

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Photo: www.thesafestline.com