That sounds ridiculous right?? That there’s one way to do something so insanely complicated?? The idea that there actually are right answers?? And yet, we read those kinds of posts and articles all the time and hear it just as frequently. This is the same…but pretty different too. Let me explain…
I was feeding my 1yo dinner when she started to get really upset. In a matter of minutes, she was screaming and real tears were pouring down her face. I checked all of the usual suspects, but couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I scooped her out of her high chair and brought her into the bedroom to nurse and as she lay, her little body curled up on my arms, I wiped her tears off her cheeks, ran my fingers through her silky hair and quietly assured her that she was Ok.
Then it occurred to me: I wasn’t supposed to say that she was Ok when she was upset.
Hadn’t I read that a million times?? And I get it. You don’t want to invalidate or minimize your kids feelings and by telling them they’re Ok when they are clearly not, you might be doing just that. So I get that. As a psychologist and a person, that makes sense to me.
But how many other things are we told? We’re not supposed to tell our kids they’re smart or that they did a”good job” because we’re rewarding an outcome instead of their effort. We’re not supposed to tell our children that they are cute or pretty because then they will learn to value their outsides more than their insides. We shouldn’t tell our kids that we’re proud of them because now our children feel responsible for our “parental pride” (this was an actual statement…ugh).
And what about all of the other decisions that we are led to believe are life altering for our kids?? We should be working. Or not working. Breastfeeding. Or not breastfeeding if it’s too stressful (happy mommy, happy baby after all). We should sleep train. Or we shouldn’t sleep train. We shouldn’t let our kids sleep in our bed…ever. Or co-sleeping is the only way our children become securely attached. So. Many. Rules.
So can I just call bullshit??
I mean, let’s just call a spade a spade. Are some choices technically better than others? Yes. Not many, but some are. Research is able to make some of that muddy, treacherous water slightly more clear. And yet… Does any of it really matter in the long run? I’m gonna go ahead and say not really. None of that stuff is going to make THE difference about whether or not you raise a relatively happy, healthy, well-adjusted kid.
You know what does make a real difference?
The love behind all of those decisions.
Because here’s the thing. My baby isn’t going to remember that I told that she’s Ok when she was crying. And that seems obvious because she’s a baby. But even my 3.5yo won’t remember when I occasionally tell him he’s Ok when he’s crying. Nor will they remember or care that they had fettuccine alfredo out of a bag tonight for dinner (It’s frozen!! And pre-packaged!! And FATTY!! The horror!!). My oldest’s life will not hinge on the decision of whether he should start kindergarten in 1.5 or 2.5 years. Or that he was sent to school even though he had a double ear infection (relax, he was well medicated and in perfect spirits). My youngest will be no better or worse off if she winds up taking a bottle past the recommended 15 months. Or if she is nursed to sleep every single time I am home and available. Here’s what they will remember and what WILL make a difference.
The tenderness of my voice.
The kindness in my eyes.
The softness of my hand on their little cheeks.
The cuddles under mountains of covers.
The joy and thrill of being chased and tickled.
They won’t remember the words I say to them and they certainly won’t even know about .001% of the crazy, non-stop decisions that are constantly being made on their behalf, for the sake of their wellbeing.
But they will remember the love. And that IS all that matters.
Does that make sense to you? Do you agree? Disagree? I want to hear about it on my Facebook page!
Dr. Colleen Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, wife and Mommy of two little ones. She has a practice in Chicago’s Loop and Oak Park. To schedule an appointment with her or her staff, please visit: http://www.cirapsyd.com/