As a parent have you ever had thoughts like these (but would never dare admit to them)? These thoughts, yes I’ve had them and I bet some of you (maybe most) have had them as well. They are scary and deeply embarrassing thoughts as a parent. They’re even mortifying if you fathom the thought of sharing them with others. The truth is, parenting is hard; it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. If it were, we’d all be unicorns and our little leprechaun children would be more like carebears.
Four children later (one stepchild) and not a day goes by that I don’t wonder, “How do others do this!?” I can’t be alone in this sentiment and I think an important part of parenting is being vocal about fears, embarrassment, and yes those dark thoughts about gaining superpowers and flying away forever. I don’t think this is much different than the fight or flight response, except sometimes it feels like it happens every day.
I think back to some of my earlier parenting decisions with my wife and we looked for every solution to make our lives easier, not necessarily our children’s lives better. One of those rash decisions was urged on us by Doctors, friends, and random strangers on the Internet. Enter Dr. Ferber…
Every once in a while there’s a new trend in parenting, and in this case, the Ferber method1 is rooted in a historical piece from 1894 by Emmett Holt, “The Care and Feeding of Children”2. After having raised 4 children and having 40 years of life experience myself this entire philosophy runs counterintuitive to what we experience as humans.
My mother died semi-recently, and I got down, sad, depressed, and yes, I even cried. Did my wife adopt the Ferber method and just ignore me to let me “get over it” and learn to “be strong”? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. When a person cries, no matter the age, the central experience is some variation of sadness or need (save for happy tears, those are just weird). The core needs greatly depend on the why behind the cry. What I feel in my gut is that letting babies cry it out is you’re teaching them that the one or two central people in their lives aren’t there for them. While, logistically, you might not ALWAYS be able to be there for them but when you can be you should be. What’s the point of a support system if you don’t offer support.
It’s all easier said than done though isn’t it? New and old parents alike are looking for the “solution” to their sleepless nights and endless frustrations but the truth is, parenting is just hard. Some are more well equipped than others (my wife, I don’t know how she does it). It’s really easy as a rational human adult to get frustrated at 3 am for the 8th day in a row to look at closing the door and ignoring the crying as a solution, but it’s not. In a way, it’s running away from your problems, your inability to cope with the situation, to step back and realize it’s a small human in need. Trust me, we tried the cry it out method because we thought it was “correct”. After all, so many others subscribed to it. However, it ended up not working for us and maternal/paternal instincts kicked in and support was given. No matter the personal cost.
Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of nights I thought about the various questions posed at the beginning of the article, would google judge me for searching, “local fire stations to leave a baby at,” probably not. Do I feel guilty for having those thoughts? Sometimes, but the realization that these are the things many think about but never vocalize is a huge part of the problem in society. As the great Charlie Puth once said, “We Don’t Talk Anymore.” While these kinds of things are sometimes uttered at therapy sessions, which I do recommend, they are also valuable to a parent who feels alone in the process. You see, just like picking up that crying child to show support, leaning on another friend for support when you think, “What if I left the child with my parents, forever,” is your support in a time of need.
Taking a step back, parenting has been one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things I’ve ever done. It’s also been the cause of premature grey hairs, fantastical thoughts about reincarnation so I don’t make these same mistakes again, and let’s say, “imaginative problem solving” that I’d never act on. Take a breath, realize that, “this too shall pass.” Appreciate the good moments, fantasize about ways out of the bad ones, and hope to hell one of your children end up taking care of you until you check yourself into a mental ward. In the meantime, get a support system just like you are for your babies.
Let me know what crazy thoughts you’ve had. Let’s start a dialogue.
Emmett Holt in 1894 “The Care and Feeding of Children” - https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15484/15484-h/15484-h.htm ↩︎