screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-5-41-06-pmWhen 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.

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.

Our family hasn’t hit the real meat of the parenting stuff…peer pressure, scheduling and prioritizing interests, all that is teenage hood. We are still wearing capes to school. There are many things behind us: sleep training, teething, hitting, and in my opinion the winner for things that don’t even need to be considered and for which there is a library of literature- potty training.  I’m trying to think of one piece of this that actually merited any worry at all.

“potty” training

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.  At 5 Leo is still wearing a pull up to bed nightly. We don’t talk about it. He tells us when there are 1/3 pull ups left and we buy another pack. We also don’t ask our kids if they need to pee, nor do we 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.

Sleep Training

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.

Stomach Migraines

So as I am typing this up the school nurse calls. Oliver is in her office complaining of a stomach ache. He has been in twice today already. He seems chipper she reports, bounced in with a smile. 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 am going to feel like a total jackass if he has something terribly wrong, but I am using my old baby monitor logic. If they really need me I will hear them. If he is really sick I will know.

It did make me research symptom tracker apps for the iPhone, thinking we could tap the body part, slide a pain scale, and tag it with notes, environmental factors, time of day etc. Then animate the whole thing. It would be super useful for hypochondriacs, and or data geeks. Maybe I will build it. After the procrastination app.

What about those stomach aches? Stress, Food sensitivity, some sort of 6 week bug, or  the school nurse tells me “stomach migraines” a new diagnosis for kids who have undifferentiated recurring remitting stomach pain. Yikes. I don’t want to gloss over a real problem, but I also don’t want worry and fear to become its own problem. 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 maybe not.

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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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