Not For Me, Not For You

I’ve seen a trend lately of people getting agitated over articles discussing how you will absolutely positively harm your child by ________. Fill in the blank with pretty much everything imaginable and once you’ve filled in all the blanks go back and find the antonym for every word that you’ve used and fill in the blanks again with all of those opposites.

Life is not so simple. Life is a balancing act. We should speak less about what others MUST do, and more about the reasons why certain things work for us, don’t work for us. We should talk about why something is FOR US or why something is NOT FOR US. But we should draw the line at saying “not for you”.

It is no better to say “You should not be feeding your baby formula” than it is to say “You should not nurse your baby in public.” It is no more right to say “You should never Cry It Out” than it is to say “You should not nurse your baby to sleep.”  There is an error in your statement. You used the word “you” and not the word “I”.  “I will not be feeding my baby formula”. “I will not be nursing in public”. “I will not use cry it out”. “I will not nurse my baby to sleep”.

Parents all filter information through their lives. They choose what fits, what doesn’t fit. They filter with their memories, their experiences, how their experiences colored them.

One parent who was spanked as a child will be a proponent of spanking because they see it as having been a positive influence in their lives.

Another parent who was spanked as a child will never raise a hand against their child because they see it as having been a negative influence in their lives.

One parent who understands the guidelines for safe co-sleeping will say “This is for me”. Another will say “I feel it would be dangerous for my child.”

One parent might feel that time outs put distance between her and her child, and another parent might feel that that space is necessary so that they both can cool down and address the situation from a place of calm.

Declaring that no one should ever be allowed to talk about anything ever is a bad solution. I recently had an eye-opening experience where I published a letter to my daughter on the subject of “Waiting It Out” and sleep training. Many people felt that it was helpful to them as they struggled with feelings of guilt over following their instincts. I also received some comments suggesting that my letter might make others feel guilt or sadness.

I ultimately decided to leave my letter as it was because it spoke about my filtering process, how I listened to what people told me, looked at my child, and did not see how it applied to her or to me.

I think that many in the attachment parenting communities get lost in their thoughts and discover things that feel deeply true to them based on their experiences with their own children within their own lives. And then other people in non-AP circles get lost in their experiences and find things that they feel deeply true to them based on their own experiences with their own children within their own lives. Then they all state the truths as they see them.

I think that we all need to pause and remember that just as our children are not exact replicas of us, no one else is. As attachment parents or gentle parents or peaceful parents or whatever labels we choose to use for ourselves, I think that we need to use the same ideas in our writing as we use them in our parenting. Would we portray our ideas as being such absolute truths if we were speaking to our own children? Or would we talk about our experiences and understand that their experiences might be different from ours?

We have all been upset or annoyed by articles of proponents of methods that differ from ours telling us that we will somehow damage our children if we don’t do something that just feels WRONG. I know that when I’m told that my daughter is manipulating me into picking her up at 3 months old, I raise an eyebrow.

People can learn through our positive stories and our positive words about the things that we find helpful. They can learn from positive example, or they can choose their own path which feels more right.

Speak your truths, but consider drawing the line at “Not for me” rather than “Not for you”.


10 thoughts on “Not For Me, Not For You

  1. This applies to so many things in life.. the way many humans think that in religion, politics or child raising one size fits all. That their way is the only one. Excellent piece Sarah.

  2. Really lovely, I couldn’t agree more. The other thing I see so often is the heartbreak moms face when something they so badly want to be “for them” doesn’t work out because their child has specific needs, temperament, etc. that they didn’t anticipate. I guess I’d just add the level “Not for *this* child” to “Not for me” to take it one step further, since ultimately every decision is/should be based on the individual child’s needs.

    Wonderful post!

    1. Agreed. I would have preferred to continue nursing my middlechild until “my” minimum of two. He self weaned at 18 months because I was pregnant with his little sister.

      Sometimes life and our children have ideas and paths of their own. And sometimes we have to give up what we want for what we or our kids need within the context of our lives.

  3. Sarah, what about car seat safety? I agree with you that I could work on my wording of phrases for pretty much everything I say to people. I can’t seem to push that to car seat safety. I can’t seem to use the phrase “We chose to max out the car seat limits” over “You really shouldn’t forward face your one year old.” I know it sounds rude. When I see a mom doing that sort of thing, or advocating for it, I can no longer worry about the mom’s feelings. By that point I’m more worried about the child’s safety. Perhaps I’m thinking about it wrong, though. :)

    1. Realistically it is between them and the law, and they are the ones that will have to live with the consequences. We each have different ways of evaluating risks/benefits and what may seem unacceptably risky to us may seem reasonable to someone else.

      I choose to max out the limits of rear facing and 5 point harnesses because I would not be able to live with myself if my child was injured as a result of being less safe in the car than he could otherwise be. If someone else feels that their child would be perfectly safe seated in a different way or that they would be able to live with themselves if their child was killed in an accident… It’s their child. Not mine.

      Now if they go on a public internet forum spouting nonsense about “expiration dates are a marketing ploy”, that doesn’t mean that I won’t contradict their information. But at the same time I’m not objecting to what they choose to do with their children, I’m just objecting to the fact that they are spreading wrong information because wrong information interferes with ANOTHER PARENT’S CHOICE and their right to make an informed decision.

        1. I agree. But that’s on the lawmakers and not the parents.

          I guess I’ve just gotten jaded.

          Part of it is also that different people have different ideas about “judgement” and I know that I’ve been judged harshly for bringing small children on public transportation. The judgement changes nothing, it just makes me feel sad and self conscious.

          I view it as an unacceptable risk, but MY views shouldn’t change another person’s life via force. Either the person feels that they are compelling and adopts them or that person does not.

          1. It’s on citizens to push the lawmakers, though. I just can’t stand back and watch kids get put in danger. To me that would be similar to keeping silent while a parent abuses or neglects their child. Just because the effects aren’t immediate doesn’t mean it’s not a pressing issue.

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