by Carrie Wells, Ed.D.
My sister and I often have debates about parenting. She comes from the perspective of a nurse, former preschool teacher, and stepmother. I come from the perspective of special education teacher and mother of two. I decided today to try to find something in my old LiveJournal, and I came across this entry. It's from June 10th, 2008...sounds exactly like something my sister would write today (and, ironically, she's the same age I was then). Here goes:
While I am not yet a parent, I have contributed to the development of more children than most people who are parents, so I feel somewhat fit to have opinions on the matter. I've also coached/counseled many parent over the last 10 years.
So...I'll actually start by saying that I agree with something my sister said. She was at Babies R Us buying a shower gift for one of her close friends. She talked to me about the experience and made a really good point...everyone spends SO MUCH MONEY on baby things: furniture, clothing, toys, etc. but how many of thoe parents spend that kind of time and effort on their children when they're not babies? When they're toddlers, elementary-age, middle/high school-age?
I was given formula. Do I think my mom was selfish for this or made a poor decision? Not at all. Research suggests that women who breastfeed have children with higher IQs. My IQ doesn't need to be any higher...all that would do is separate me more from the rest of the population. Perhaps women who breastfeed are also women who have intelligent husbands who earn a good living for the family, allowing the women to have the luxury of staying at home, spending countless hours breastfeeding? To accurately evaluate this, you'd have to have two identical groups and a very large sample size. In addition, I have had students who were mentally handicapped whose mothers did breastfeed, so I just don't see this research as being significant. As Richard says, correlation does not necessarily imply causation.
What I think IS important, that people don't consider from the moment the child is born...is shaping appropriate behaviors. Things are "cute" when a child is little...a little reaching for mommy's hair and pulling, putting inappropriate things in his/her mouth, etc. Boundaries should be set, I believe, early on. Maybe this is my "teacher perspective" - something my mom is always accusing me of having. But I have a co-worker whose baby, by about 4 months, was accurately using multiple manual signs to make requests, evidenced by the baby's satisfaction when her requested wants/needs were met. How great is that? To teach communication at 4 months of age? I began saying words, that my mom thinks were meaningful, at just a few months old. At one, I was putting two words together to create phrases (my famous "me make-up.") Did breastfeeding help me to do this? No. I guess I can almost say my mom's appropriate reinforcement of my behaviors is what helped.
I remember when we had the big hurricane here almost 3 yrs ago, I was with Kayla and Kyra and they were bored to tears with no electricity...and I got out paper and markers and we made silly paper hats and I entertained them for a long time with that...something so simple. THAT is what parenting is all about. It's about time, creativity, encouragement, introduction of skills at a young age, and reinforcement of desirable behaviors.
I have thought a lot about this because:
1. I have two pregnant co-workers I am close to.
2. Two of my friends growing up are now mothers.
3. I feel the pressure of a biological clock ticking.
4. I am trying to figure out what to do with my life...do I want children? My own? Adopted? Richard isn't too thrilled with the adoption idea...but damn...I don't know if I want his grandmother's genetics mixed with my crazy family's genetics! ;)
5. With my new business, I need to start thinking more about these things because I want the family involvement portion to play a role in the therapy sessions. I know that I really encourage time and attention and development of appropriate behaviors with my students' families and I would continue to do so with my private business.
It's just a lot to think about...and the idea of burning out on the baby decisions is scary. I'd want to make sure I have lots of stamina before embarking on that kind of journey.
Funny, right?? The saying goes "Money changes everything" but I think it's really time that changes everything.