I follow many parenting rules, because I believe each rule works well for me. I have adopted some of them from other people in my life, developed some of them by looking at others and created some rules from my own experience. Every rule is there to prevent me from re-inventing the wheel. Life is a process of going forward and choosing which direction to take is a constant battle. Much like the Bible that gives the believers a framework for life, my parenting bible is my framework for raising my kids.
If you are a believer, you do not need convincing or proof. Whether you believe in God or in another set of rules, you do not question the rules. You accept them as commandments and this gives you the confidence and the certainty to keep going forward in your life. The difference between believers and non-believers is in the questioning and the doubt.
I am not saying there is no place for questions in life. On the contrary. They are very important in coming up with the commandments of the bible, but once you have come up with a commandment, it becomes a living guideline. Questioning it makes it (and you) weaker.
You may be wondering about having rules that are “set in stone”, because that is the idea of a bible – total credibility, surviving the challenges of time and endless validity. Well, I am a strong believer that nothing can be “set in stone”, because the rules of the past are not all valid anymore and they do not survive time challenges. No god has ever said anything about the Internet and today’s social technology, for example, yet they are a growing part of our life today.
So bibles are evolving scriptures that need continuous updates to suit the challenges of time and they get their validity from life experiences. Therefore, we all need to stop from time to time, go over our parenting bible and review it with questions like “Is this rule still valid now that my son is 15 years old?” or “I wrote this commandment 20 years ago. Is it still a strong belief for me now?” Maybe the best reflection question is, “How can change my bible so that will take me to my destination faster, more easily and more happily?”
So I do not think any bible should be set in stone and I think it evolves with every experience we have. Having a review session from time to time is necessary to keep it valid and strong. The bible I had when Eden was born was not the same as the one I have today. For example, When she was a baby (almost 22 years ago), traveling was not part of my life and I had no commandments related to traveling with kids or babies. After seeing what traveling has done to Eden and traveling with Tsoof as a baby, I adopted many commandments that made the choices of what to do with Noff, who was born about 6 years later, much easier.
- Raising kids is a privilege – it is the ultimate human creation. Do not underestimate your role in designing their life. It is a big responsibility with great joy. Children come with a “no return” tag, so do not make the decision to bring a child (another child) into this world lightly and when you are pregnant, take care of the holy place where your baby grows and develops – your body. Do not abuse your body when you are pregnant.
- Babies need loving male and female role models and to grow up around other people – do your best to stay with your partner and be in a good relationship. A good relationship between the parents greatly affects the kids’ health and wellbeing. Try to have an extended family around them. If they are not around, have good social circle of friends to substitute.
- Relaxed parents = Relaxed babies – babies have the most sensitive feelers. They sense their parents, especially the parent who spends most of the time with them, so take care of yourself!
- Talk to babies all the time – tell them what you are doing, explain everything, use big words, big concepts and discuss thoughts, ideas and feelings. Babies absorb everything, even if they cannot yet show it.
- Breast milk is best – if you cannot breastfeed, give it up. An upset mother “turns the milk sour”. Breastfeed for 7 months if you can. This was written in my parenting bible when Eden turned 7 months. I wanted to breastfeed for a long time, but that was in contradiction to 32 other commandments about treating my body as a temple. After 7 months, I realized I was getting upset trying to avoid so many things and being tied to the feeding schedule and I wanted my body back. With Tsoof, I did not have to question myself anymore. I said to myself, “7 months seemed to work well with Eden, so I will do the same with Tsoof”, and it was exactly what I did with Noff too. Last night, we had a girls’ night out and one of my friends said she had been pregnant or breastfeeding for 10 years of her life. She had her babies about 2 to 2½ years apart and breastfed each of them until she got pregnant again. She told everyone how being in a cycle of not sleeping, not having her body to herself had gotten her out of balance and how badly it had influenced her life. I immediately told myself I had been lucky to develop my breastfeeding commandment with my first child.
- Do not be upset when babies make a mess while eating – eating should be fun. It is not a science experiment done in a lab. Dirty shirts are not the end of the world and your baby practicing independent eating and successfully getting the spoon into their mouth is more important than the cleanliness of their shirt or the eating area.
- Babies cry as a form of communication – this is how they say things. They cry when they want you, they cry when they are lonely, they cry when they are wet and they cry when they are hungry. Learn to recognize the difference between the cries and treat crying as their way to communicate. It is not always a sign of distress, anger or disappointment. When you communicate respond to your baby’s crying, talk and do not complain.
- Babies should sleep in their own room, in their own bed – having the babies in Mom and Dad’s bed is not healthy for the couple and does not give the baby the space he/she needs to rest and develop healthy attachment. For the first 2-3 months, babies can sleep in my room to make it easy to breastfeed at night, but after that, they go into their rooms. Mom and Dad’s bed is a great place to sneak into early in the morning (especially on weekends) and when the kids are sick. Do not send messages that will be hard to change when the next baby comes along and even a king size bed can no longer fit everyone in.
- There is no such a thing as an overdeveloped baby – when you read about the “right” age to start crawling, sitting, standing, walking, talking, etc, remember these are just averages. If you babies do anything earlier than “normal”, it is not dangerous or anything like that. Babies do what they can and we should not prevent them from developing just because the average baby does it later. On the same note, developing later than the average is not necessarily a sign of a problem. Babies do not have exactly the same biological clock.
- Babies do not need total silence to fall asleep – babies who get used to sleeping in complete silence become fussy and make their parents’ life harder. When there are more kids in the house, the baby just does not sleep and it is very hard to invite people over. Get your baby used to falling asleep under normal conditions.
There are many baby rules in my bible. I have tried many more and only kept those that worked for me.
Eden was born on the first day of the 36th week. I had high fever and could not breastfeed for 10 days. The nurse told me I did not have any milk when I took her home, but I insisted. On my first night home, Eden slept for 7 hours and ate well every 4 hours like clockwork.
When Tsoof was born 6 years later, and after losing 2 babies, I came home and thought I would go with feeding by demand (because everyone around me said it was the right thing to do and I had doubts). I came home after a cesarean and Tsoof wanted to eat every hour. At night, I was so exhausted I started crying. I was so nervous I was convinced it was the last time I ever breastfeed. Tired and upset (and on medication), I woke Gal up and said to him, “We have two options now. I either give up breastfeeding or you take him away from here and do whatever you can to let me sleep for 2 hours”. Gal was wonderful and I kept breastfeeding Tsoof for 7 months (every 3 hours).
When Noff was born over 6 years later, the literature and the discussion about breastfeeding by demand was even more popular, but I already had a commandment, without doubts, that said breastfeeding by demand contradicted rule #33 – Take care of yourself!
I hope you understand how important it is to build your own bible to boost your confidence and why backing it up with experience eliminates doubt.
Come back next week for the next part of the parenting bible: change.
This post is part of the series Ronit's Parenting Bible:
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Who’s in Charge?
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Love
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Food
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Babies
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Change
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Role Model
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Manners
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Gender
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: School
- Ronit’s Parenting Bible: Money