Disclaimer: I am (clearly) not a parenting expert. I have, however, found that what we did, and do, works REAL well for us, so I thought I'd share. And also, lazy. So YES.
I am not indicting your parenting style. You do you. Whatever works in this crazy game of parenting.
So. I've been thinking of writing this blog for some time now. Because I seem to end up in convos where someone asks me why I've done what I've done with my kiddos, and typically my answer is "I'm lazy". And I gotta say, the laziness has TOTALLY worked for my fam. Worked better than I ever imagined it would, quite honestly.
So here's the scoop. We had every intention of being "normal" parents- bought the crib, set up the room, had all the typical parenting books ready, bottles in the cupboard, breast pump purchased, the whole nine. Then, this happened. Babygirl showed up at 29 weeks. All 2 lbs 10 oz of her. And in a flash, everything changed. I had 2 months in the NICU- 2 months where all I did was sit in a recliner and hold this very tiny person skin to skin. And while I did that, I read. A. LOT. It started with the kangaroo care (skin to skin) and from there, I entered into the world of attachment parenting. I had never heard of it, but it became clear pretty quickly that, ready or not, this would have to be our parenting style. Lucky for us, we fell head over heels in love with our daughter, and with this style.
I was terrified to put her in a crib to sleep- getting to watch your child stop breathing and need oxygen from a tank blown into her face a few times will do that to you. In the NICU, the nurses were kind enough to "not notice" that babygirl slept through most of the night on my chest. Her vitals were always best that way. And we continued the trend when we came home. There was just no way I was putting her down for sleep. Neither of us would get any sleep if I did that. She slept on my chest, nursed when she woke and was hungry, and we both drifted easily back to sleep. For the first 2 1/2 years of her life. Then I got pregnant, and at 28 weeks, my supply completely dried up, so the co sleeping continues, just not the nursing her. And now we're joined by our little man, who is just about a year old. Although his entrance into this world was no drama, I still just couldn't bring myself to put him in a crib. So we have our little family in our big king bed, and we love it.
So here's the lazy: we have zero amounts of bedtime routines, except prayers. Occasionally, there'll be a bath. Sometimes a book, depending on what time we manage to get upstairs (daddy has to work late a lot so dinner happens on the later side most days). We change into jammies, we giggle, we snuggle, and within about 15 minutes, both kiddos are out. Ok, both kiddos and daddy, who gets up at ass o'clock for work. No screaming, no crying, no asking for water, no "get back into bed". Just a really nice, relaxing, cuddle fest. And that leaves mommy free to watch all the garbage television she can get on Hulu and Netflix, or read a book (my nightstand is well stocked with books, nightlights, snacks, remotes, and my phone. always be prepared).
This works on so many levels for us. Obvs, because we're lazy. Also, because we travel a ridiculous amount. Whether it be because the entire family decides to join daddy in California on a work trip for 3 weeks, or because we're constantly flying back and forth from here to Jersey to see our families. We spend an inordinate amount of time sleeping somewhere besides home. And not a pack and play, travel bassinet, extra bed/ room is needed. No packing all the extra things. No special blankies or stuffies, sometimes not even pj's (we generate a LOT of body heat between all of us). No hard nights cause the kiddos are somewhere new. Not even an issue with time changes, which amazes me. No settling back in to our "bedtime routine", or lack there of. Lazy. And awesome.
So. Bottles. When girlfriend was in the NICU, she was too tiny to eat. So for the longest time, they fed her through a tube up her nose. Around 33 weeks, we gave feeding her a try. They told us that bottles are easiest for their little jaws, so we would try that. And that if we wanted it right from the breast, expect to be in the NICU for a longer amount of time. She took a bottle fairly well, but didn't seem to like it so much (she had been latching on to my nipple since I started holding her, but not able to suck). So we got the first bottle out of the way, and I announced that that would be her last bottle until she was also able to nurse. Thank God for lactation specialists. They clued me into this amazing thing called a nipple shield, and girlfriend took full feeds immediately. Like, doctors were pretty amazed she was nursing so well immediately. And so, the bottles went bye bye. Cause I had had almost 2 solid months of nothing but pumping and I. WAS. OVER. IT. All the suction, and the cleaning, and the feeling like a cow, and the stretched out nips, and the cleaning. And then the warming and the filling up the bottles, and the finding a bottle that would work for her, and THE CLEANING. NOPE. No thanks. Plus, every time someone tried to give her a bottle, she'd slap it out of their hands. She had opinions. So, she simply went every where I did. And nursed wherever, whenever she liked. And I never had to clean pump parts and bottles again. Which was glorious!! And due to the cosleeping, I was not sleep deprived, and the hubbs didn't have to get up in the middle of the night, so he could still function at work. I didn't even bother buying bottles for little man. He's never had one, never will. And by the time girlfriend was a little over 1, she was drinking out of cups. All of this was made possible by my next lazy tip:
Moby/ ERGO/ Babywearing! Here's the thing. I used to work out. My nickname in my family was muscles, cause when it came to moving furniture, lifting heavy things, doing hard work, I was your man. And although I would rather get myself waxed everywhere than ever lift weights again, I'm still fairly strong. But. It is simply asinine to carry around a 20 pound effing infant car seat, along with a 30 pound diaper bag and then a baby. Why would anyone do this to themselves? That's a lot of shit to cart around. And those car seats don't fit well in anything- not grocery carts, not high chairs in restaurants, barely in a car. So I lived in a moby wrap until the babes were big enough for the Ergo carrier. They were never fussy because they were being held, so we never needed pacifiers (lazy lazy lazy, who feels like dealing with that drama when it's time to give them up), if they were hungry, the boobs were right there for the taking and usually no one noticed that I was constantly feeding my kiddos, I had my hands free to get shit done (and I really really love to make lists and get shit done....it's kinda my thing), and because I refused to pump and bottle, I never had to carry around bottles and paraphernalia in my diaper bag, making it significantly lighter. Lazy lazy lazy win. The kiddo witching hour when you're trying to get dinner together and baby just wants you? Wear em. Just be careful. We had a mishap with little man that makes me a million times more careful in the kitchen. But on the plus side, both my kids love to play in the kitchen and help. We'll talk about this more in another section. And for all the folks that told me my kids would never learn how to crawl/ walk etc....they both walked early. Oh joy of joys. I would have preferred lazier kiddos, quite honestly. We also didn't have to deal with strollers ever. Crowded places, airports, malls, parks....no strollers. So much easier to navigate. Until I got pregnant with little man, and by about 18 weeks wearing girlfriend was just no longer an option. but by that time she loved to walk, and the stroller was an ok option for her when she was (finally) tired. One less thing to pack and carry around. Because lazy.
Baby proofing. Never fully understood this concept. I mean, gate off some stairs for a while. But padding every. single. thing. in your house? That sounds like work. And so, we didn't. We just straight up didn't. We stuck those plastic thingies in the outlets, because electrocution. We kept the door closed to the cat room, cause kitty litter doesn't make a good snack. Other than that? Nope. We have a stone hearth and fireplace. No padding, and no accidents. I was a bit nervous with girlfriend, cause she was my first, but she always just seemed to know it was there and slowed down before she got there. I thought perhaps it was because she was a girl (although her fearlessness at the playground and the launching herself off of all the things would suggest that had nothing to do with it). But little man has also never had an issue with it. Actually, I happened to watch him one day, and he naturally slowed himself down before he got to the fireplace (right around 7 months old), then used it to stand himself up, looked around, and got back down. They seem to have a natural awareness of what's around them, not only in their home but everywhere else as well. I'm inclined to think it's because we didn't pad down the house like a Little Gym, and they had no choice but to figure it out.And we also don't use plastic for their eating and drinking needs. Glasses and metal utensils and real plates. Girlfriend broke one plate, once. While unloading the dishwasher when she tried to pick up too many at a time. Lazy. And winning.
Food. Ah food. The bane of most parents' existence. Look it up and you'll find 24 million blog posts and articles about just how sucky it is to feed little people, and their tyrannical demands. And we don't want to go all medieval on them, so we feed them pre-cooked shit shaped like dinosaurs and sigh. Once again, laziness prevails, and it seems to be working for us. I didn't feed them solid food until they were a year old (little man I started a little earlier, but he didn't really do anything but taste a little until 11 months). I one time made a puree for girlfriend. It was stupid. She just wanted what was on my plate, and couldn't care less about the orange colored ridiculousness I was trying to give her. So. I stopped making separate food. Some of her first meals were pasta bolognese, moussaka, chicken mole fajitas, and spinach sauteed with garlic and olive oil. She loved it, she ate off of our plates most of the time, while sitting on our laps (cause who needs to always have a high chair with them? ain't no one got time for that). She ate everything we gave her, and she pretty much still does. She obviously has foods she doesn't prefer (she no longer likes the moussaka with the goat cheese bechamel topping, she just wants to eat the meat and eggplant mixture). But there's food that I don't like so I'm not gonna sweat it. Not only does she loooooove to eat, but she loves to cook too. She flips her own eggs and pancakes, she helps cut stuff up (with a special knife from pampered chef that doesn't cut skin but can cut through most veggies and fruits and sometimes even chicken). She knows how to properly salt and pepper food, and she is OBSESSED with dipping things in olive oil. Screw ketchup, she knows the good stuff. We've never ordered off of a kids menu for her, and don't ever plan to. In California, we tried to give her chicken fingers once, in Disneyland. She took one bite, spit them out, and hasn't tried them since. I find that hilarious. And little man the other night chowed down on Serbian meatballs, a yogurt cucumber dill salad, and roasted potatoes. Start em early. And they both are really really neat eaters. I don't know if it's because I waited to feed them, but I'm always kind of shocked by the lack of mess I have to deal with. And I firmly believe this was because I was too damned lazy to cook them separate food. Seriously. Who has time for that? That's nonsense. If children in other countries can eat food with flavors and spices, why can't ours? Do we have different stomachs that I don't know about? It's like some doctor somewhere said American children are only capable of eating bland food (enter Gerbers and the jars of nasty) and suddenly everyone panics and only feeds kids things that no one else would ever eat because it's disgusting. Either way, it's working for us. And for some reason, they don't really snack, either. Unless I am. And sometimes I share.
So, the daily grind. Little miss can entertain herself for HOURS. Coloring, drawing, somehow figuring out by the time she was 2 1/2 how to write all of her letters, and then writing her name without either of us having taught it to her....I still don't know how that happened. She builds lego towers and train tracks, and takes care of her babies, and races cars. All without mommy's assistance. Granted, the first year plus of her life was spent being carried around by me. She had a rough start and she loved to be carried and I loved having her on me. No swings, no seats, no play mats unless she was really showing interest in being put down, and then the playmat lasted about 5 minutes. And there was no dropping her off in the nursery at church. And she only had a babysitter a total of 5 times in her life so far (my mom, and some really close trusted friends). Yes, that means we didn't do date nights. Out. We would put her to bed and have date nights in. (but we also waited for 5 years of marriage before having kiddos so we kind of expected that there'd be a period of time where going out wouldn't happen so much). She was mommy's girl for sure, and not surprising, considering again traumatic first 2 months of life. But she's quite the independent little thing now. And little man is shaping up to be the same, but he WILL go to the church nursery, and he's happy letting anyone hold him. He's also pretty chill about just hanging out playing in the play kitchen, or playing Godzilla to all big sister's train tracks and towers. They give me time to get stuff done while exploring their surroundings. No crafts provided by me. No setting up games. No whining. No boredom. And somehow, learning has happened. Again, if I figure it out, I'm gonna find a way to sell the method because seriously!! I had zero to do with the learning of all the letters. Maybe it was from watching SuperWhy?? Lazy and loving it.
Yes, my kids sometimes watch TV. not all that much (unless we're sick, in which case, bring. on. the. disney. movies.) We cancelled cable, and I LOATHE all things Disney channel, Disney junior, Nick junior. The shows don't have much to offer learning wise, and I hate commercials, and I'm still trying to figure out why Caillou is even a thing. We watch Superwhy, I tried Sesame Street but she never took to it, and unfortunately she did take to Thomas the Train. I have a really hard time not rolling my eyes while this nonsense is on (Gordon is a real asshole), but it's only the Christmas episode that's on Netflix so I suppose I'll suck it up. Anything else they watch are Disney movies....because mamma likes to sing along. And here's the great catch- if your kid doesn't ever watch commercials, your kid will NEVER ASK YOU FOR SPECIFIC TOYS EVER. This has been the greatest discovery in the history of my household. Her favorite thing to do is grab a gift bag, throw a bunch of crap she finds around the house in it, and excitedly proclaim "Happy Birthday! I made you a present!". This makes my mommy heart happy. And also not hearing about how badly she wants a certain toy is glorious. Lazy, non cable having, not having to watch nonsense I don't like, goodness.
Napping. She stopped at 2. And before that she only napped on me until she was about 18 months old. This is not as awful as you think. She napped, I took walks. She napped, I went to the mall. She napped, I went to "play dates" where I'd sit and chat with friends and drink coffee. We weren't chained to the house. Same boat with little man, naps on me. But then girlfriend and I can go to the park. Or the children's museum. Or hang out outside and paint. Lazy.
Speaking of parks....she climbs all the things. all the time. No fear. And I've never once told her "oh honey you can't do that". I'm always a little shocked at the number of parents who do. If your kid wants to give it a try, why would you say no?? Maybe stand there and make sure they don't fall off of it, but why discourage their bravery? If they think they can, they probably can. The few times she didn't want to try something, she was the one who approached it, looked at it, then said "nope" hopped down and found something else. Trust their instincts. We're all wired to survive. Let em do their thing. Just like I've heard kids ask to try their parent's food, and they say "you probably won't like it." Self fulfilling prophesy, people.
Cleanliness. My kids seems to really enjoy being clean. I find this amusing and awesome. Since day 1, I've given the kiddos showers with me instead of baths. I have no time or patience for filling up a tiny tub that a mini, wet, squiggly thing is going to work their hardest to get out of, just to get me and the entire bathroom wet in the process of cleaning my child. Then, I have to scrub out said tub? No. Thank. You. While they were itty bitty, they would lay on a blanket outside of the shower door while I showered, then I'd bring them in to wash them. As they got a bit older, they moved into just hanging out in the shower with me, then me washing them. Girlfriend started washing herself when she turned 3 (don't worry, I still check to make sure all the bits are clean). We can get up and out within 45 minutes, including showering all 3 of us and doing my hair and make up. Lazy.
Along with the attachment parenting, I started reading up on a more gentle discipline than any I had heard of or thought to use. Mainly, it's just an understanding that your child is a person with feelings just like any person, and respecting those feelings, and working with a toddler's natural curiosity and abilities instead of fighting against them. Part of it is always comforting them when they ask for it, even when you don't necessarily think they need it. I find a well-timed hug, kiss, and snuggle will tame the tantrum that's brewing. I give her choices a lot- should we brush our teeth or brush our hair first. As long as she gets to choose, she does what needs to get done with no yelling from me. And she started dressing herself around 2 years old. Buttons still trip her up a bit, but girlfriend can pick out an outfit, put it on, including shoes, brush her hair and brush her teeth. And loves doing it.
We have time-ins, instead of time outs. I never liked the idea of sending them away if they've done something wrong. So, we go together to a spot to sit and calm down. We take some deep breaths, and she tells me why she's mad/ sad/ happy and screamy, etc. These work so well for her. Usually, she just wanted a bit of my attention all to herself, and that gives her the opportunity. Do we have those days where everyone is yelling at everyone? Of course, I have children. Does she have days of some defiance which makes me want to put my head through a wall? Yup. She's 3 1/2. But I feel like those "terrible 2's and 3's" weren't ever really a problem.
Alright, so the truth is, the lazy parenting is our pay off now for the work we put in early on. It's true, I missed out on some nights out because I had a nursling that I wasn't willing to leave at home. We didn't, and still don't, have that many date nights....maybe 2 a year. But it's just a season and we actually both really enjoy taking the kiddos with us out to dinner or just out and about. It's considered extreme by many, but setting up that foundation for what we have now? Lazy priceless.