Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting Advice

At first you may think that getting advice is not the problem - avoiding it is! People will be anxious to impart to you their child-rearing wisdom as soon as your pregnancy starts to show, rushing up to you in grocery stores and at bus stops to tell you what you should (or shouldn’t) be doing. The confusion comes when you try to sort out the useful information from the sheer lunacy.

Ignore these whack-jobs. You know your body (and later, your baby) and you know what works for you.

When you do want advice, your pediatrician will be a most important source, so choose him carefully. All doctors are busy, but it’s vital that you feel you can call when you need advice or information. Don’t expect that they’ll drop everything to help you (unless it’s an emergency), but if the office doesn’t get back to you that same day it’s time for some re-evaluation. Your child’s doctor should give you an opportunity during an exam to ask questions (which you should write down beforehand to save time) and take the time to explain things you don’t understand. He should speak directly to your child (when the child is old enough to respond) and he and his staff should treat the child gently. If the doctor has a sense of humor, add 10 points to the “win” column.

If you hold very strong opinions about medical issues such as breast vs. bottle, schedules vs. feed-on-demand, or co-sleeping, be up-front about it at your initial appointment. If the doctor doesn’t agree with you it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if he is respectful and not dismissive. You need to remember that the doctor is your child’s medical professional, but you are the parent – the final decisions are yours.

If you adore the doctor but his office staff sets your teeth on edge and makes you re-examine the principle of Man as Nature’s last word, keep shopping.

Your own parents are another common source of advice – some good, some not. If you have an adversarial relationship with your parents to begin with, any unsolicited advice from them may feel like a criticism of your parenting – and who needs that? Even if your parents are fantastic, odds are that medical science and parenting theories have changed a bit from when their children were small and they may not understand the latest thinking. (Note to our kids: Millie and Mollie are immune to this time paradox – it’s one of our Super Powers.) Still, they did some things right (look at you, after all!), and undoubtedly learned many of the tricks of the trade which they’d be delighted to pass along to you. Same goes for your friends who are already parents (or nannies or babysitters).

Books are a great source of parenting advice if you can find a few you trust and then stick to them. There are probably even more parenting books out there than there are diet books, all of which contradict each other, and each of which claims to be the One True Way. The truth is that there IS no one true way, there’s only the way that works for you; and what works for you today may not work tomorrow or next week, either. Do some browsing, find a few authors that make sense to you and stick with those unless you need to research something in greater depth later. (I’ll publish a list of my Top 10 parenting books tomorrow.)

Finally – remember to Ask Millie and Mollie! That’s what we’re here for!

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