When I was seven months pregnant with my first son my straight talking OB responded to my umpteenth question about light cramping with: “I think its time to stop worrying about the pregnancy and start worrying about the baby.”

We worry, research, learn, and practice the stage we are in right now. But with parenting, and maybe other things, it is the next stage that offers the challenges.

For the most part our boys are healthy and typically developing. Which makes our worries pretty typical. Other circumstances would call for other interventions and attitudes. We are common though, so have common rather than critical concerns.

Birth Plan

Don’t even get me started about the “birth plan” the document that parents to be create to help have a joyous birth experience with massages, music, scented candles etc. My birth plan did not include, Boston, being without my husband, but WITH my mother, having to fight for an ambulance transfer, being parked in peri-natal while I was in transition, or having a natural birth 7 weeks early. The whole thing happened on its own. Baby wanted out. Baby came out. Some one caught him. No plan. No candles. No music- which I wouldn’t have freaking heard anyways.

There are many things behind us: sleep training, teething, hitting, and wearing the same unwashed cape to school for a week. The winner for worthless worry  is “potty” training.  There is a library of literature which is better left on the shelves. In my lazy parent opinion.

“potty” Training

See…he learned to use the toilet. Just not to clean up his clothes.

When Leo was “potty trained” at 16 months, and in the little toddler class at school, the big toddler teachers asked me to come in and speak with the parents about potty training. I resisted, saying “we did nothing.” In I went though, and spoke to 8 families about doing nothing. This was before Parenting on Track, when I realized doing nothing was a parenting strategy. With Oliver we did little, with Leo less. There were three people in his family using the toilet. So he did. We never pulled out Oliver’s plastic potty.  We also didn’t ask our kids if they need to pee, nor did we ever remind them to pee before car rides or anything else. Pretty sure there is a natural consequence that can help teach that. Is it inconvenient and annoying to pull over 15 minutes into a 6 hour drive? Yes. Do I value my kid’s ability to listen to his body? Yes Yes Yes. Three yesses trump  one. At 5 Leo was still wearing a pull up to bed nightly. At 8 he was still wetting the bed. He would strip his sheets each morning and start the washer. Steve or I would switch them and together we would remake the bed.  When he came to us and asked when it would stop  we brought him to the doctor who reassured us that it was still likely to end on its own. He gave us a 1,000x copied sheet with “elimination clinics” and send us on our way. The next morning his bed was dry. And the morning after. And for many months following. I’m sure there is some deep thought to be done about placebo effect, stress, and hydration, but instead we focused on the lack of laundry.

Sleep Training

The crib is for playing

I used to resist the word “training”. It felt un-holisitic, too regimented, and as if it required discipline (mine.) Now it is OK, because Vicki uses it, but it is  not my favorite. When Oliver was eight months old he was still sleeping in our bed. He had colic, reflux, and nursed every 1.5 hours. It was horrible. Not at all the lovely “nursing in, family bed” sort of image. More the sour milk, rumpled, wriggly, throw the baby out the window sort of image. Talking on the phone to a friend in 3 day old pjs she offered the pep talk and the phrase that got me through the next few weeks. ‘The gift of sleep.” By training Oliver to sleep in his own crib, and fall asleep without nursing he would have a gift for life. It could be the first step towards his independence.

With the TV volume up, Steve and I held hands through his crying. We decided not to do any words or pats of comfort. Easier to do everything at once, suffer hard but make great gains. Instead of three weeks of hell it was three days. Almost the whole night the first night (or so it seemed to our addled brains, 3 hours the second night, and about 45 minutes the third. Then the change. Baby, mom and dad who had rest for the first time in his life, what seemed like her life, and three months respectively. Thank freaking god. I still haven’t met the family whose kid goes to sleep easily on his/her own that hasn’t done that sort of hard core “cry it out” training. It would be interesting to hear differently. The main tip I have, unless you live in a house the size of Aaron Spellings, is to throw away the monitor. If your kid needs you you will hear. If not you will wake and stress over every snort and murmur.

Stomach Migraines

In third grade the school nurse called us a few times in October. “Oliver is in my office, he bounced in with a smile and reported a stomach ache.” I explain that he has spent a month with off and on stomach aches, and I have been largely ignoring them due to his incredibly happy affect when he reports them. They seem to disappear in 15 minutes, after using the bathroom, when dinner ends, or when something fun comes up. Whichever comes first.  I worried that I feel like a total jackass if he had something terribly wrong, but I am used my old baby monitor logic. If they really need me I will hear them. If he is really sick I would know. What about those stomach aches? Stress, Food sensitivity, some sort of 6 week bug, or  the school nurse told me “stomach migraines” a new diagnosis for kids who have undifferentiated recurring remitting stomach pain. Yikes. I did’t want to gloss over a real problem, but I also never want worry and fear to become its own problem.

Two years later I haven’t heard a peep about stomach pain. Once again I lucked out and my ignor-ance spared us a lot of time and worry.

Speech

For years Oliver had a recurring, remitting stutter, Leo still has a soft S. For both boys I have taken the step of arranging an evaluation with a Speech Language Pathologist. We canceled Oliver’s after his speech became smooth. If only the same  could come to his tuneless singing voice. After hearing his voice on a youtube video Leo asked me about his “s’s.” Once he was worried I decided  Leo’s is scheduled for next month. We will see how much intervention he needs. If history is our guide we will do the minimum necessary and hope for the best.

Social Life

I have had fits and starts of worry about my boys and their friendships. Oliver has a few close friends, and Leo has a far flung global network…none of whom come over for slumber parties.

How do we tease out when worry can lead to preparedness, and when it just derails us? I guess experience. Or guessing. Or experienced guessing.

We worry, research, learn, and practice the stage we are in right now. But with parenting, and maybe other things, it is the next stage that offers the challenges. So best to be prepared for that stage.  Or don’t prepare at all. Worry is worrisome and  pre-emptive parenting is pointless.  Too much of it and you just might miss the good stuff that is happening right now.

Want some straight talk on growing a grown up? This book breaks it all down.

crazy family portrait

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, Parent.co, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at annarosenblumpalmer.com.

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