A few days before I left Cal last month I was contacted by a local newspaper reporter who wanted to know my views on what she called New Age Parenting. Eventually she didn't use what I said, I suspect because I didn't go along entirely with her ideas. I read the article and no, I did not agree with what she had written. According to her, our generation of parents follow the guidelines as laid down by baby books and we are less inclined to go along with traditional views.
I really don't agree with that. In fact, on reading the article over I was a little relieved she hadn't included my comments because I didn't want to be misinterpreted on this particular subject. V and I both have large families and many family friends. So obviously, we get a lot of unsolicited advice. Now, when The Wee Bhaeblet was born I did not listen to most people. Thank goodness for that, because a lot of the things they said were against my own views on how a baby should and should not be treated. (Such as giving him a battery of medicines for colic. Honestly, sometimes, giving a poor two month-old three different medicines a day may not be the best you can do for him.) But by and by, especially when the time came to wean WB, listening to all my female elders paid off.
My family by and large discourage bringing up baby by the book. We're all bookworms, but their stand is that those books are written for Western conditions -- which is not an entirely invalid argument, in certain aspects of babycare. So I secretly bought Spock one day and set out to read up all I could. Now I don't always agree with Spock, but for one thing I'll be eternally grateful to the man -- he managed to convince me, as nobody else could, that my baby, with all his quirks, is very normal. Now, for a first-time mother who is constantly going against the advice of her family and is a first-class worrier to boot, that is a big achievement.
So what I told the reporter was simply this: yes, I read the books. Some, like Spock and Ferber, have been of immense help to me in understanding The Bhaeblet. That is not to say I follow the methods they recommend, but it makes my life easier if I can understand why he does the things he does. (Some things remain inexplicable, but I imagine they are beyond explanation. Such as, why on earth does he lick everything in sight? Why has he been chewing away since his third week and not produced a tooth or any sign of one yet? Why does his hair stand up straight all the time? Why is he such a clown? Who gave him the authority to scold me?)
And I also listen to all the mothers and grandmothers around me. Particularly where food is concerned, because they come up with safe and delicious things for him to eat, and he is a baby who likes his grub, so mostly it's satisfying making stuff for him. I did not listen to them when they told me how to carry him etc. because V and I carried him in whatever position suited us and he hasn't come to any harm so far. I even carried him under my arm, like a roll of cloth, while V balanced him along one hand. We didn't listen when they told us not to let him try to sit, then stand, because he was too young. He didn't think so, and kept trying, so we let him have his way and made sure we supported him carefully.
What I'm getting at here is that, we try, as far as we can, to read, to listen, to absorb as much as we can. And we try to see what our son wants. And what he can do. And then we figure out what to allow him. In my opinion, that is a perfectly safe way to raise a child.