All Those Questions

I remember being a brand-new mom, pacing in the pediatrician’s office with my newborn, and reading her all my scattered notes on nursing.  “What do I do!?”  I wanted to know.  The lactation consultant’s advice differed from what I’d read online, which contradicted the guidelines in the various books on breastfeeding I’d pored over.

The doctor’s response was not the black-and-white answer I wanted.  “I think you should stop reading so much,” she said.  “Also, tonight, instead of reading, try having a glass of wine.”  She went on to assure me that I knew my daughter—and knew what to do with her—better than any expert, and to relax and trust myself a bit more.  

Parenting Advice

For a couple years, I heeded her words.  I read a little less, took parenting advice with a grain of salt and remembered to add “wine” to my grocery list.  When I picked up a book that instructed me to diffuse my toddler’s tantrums by kneeling in front of her, getting in her face and wailing like a caveman, I knew that felt off for me.  So I didn’t do it, and instead honored my instinct to talk to my daughter in my normal, modern voice.  When a sleep-training book forbid me from comforting my baby at night because, it said, children who fail to get sufficient sleep are more prone to becoming serial killers, I determined I wasn’t a “cry-it-out” mom.

However, this era of trusting my parenting intuition crumbled, when my older daughter was a few months shy of 2 1/2, and a friend asked, “When are you starting potty-training?” and handed me a copy of a potty-training manual she swore by.  The book also swore, over and over, that toilet training would be infinitely easier, simply by completing the process before your child reached 2 1/2.  The author’s credentials were impressive.  She had personally and remotely coached thousands of children out of diapers, and she all but guaranteed success within five days.  So I hurried to finish the book, underlining, sticky-noting, and reading whole chapters aloud to my husband at night. 

Potty Training

We each took a day off work, and blocked out the long Fourth of July weekend ahead, for the completion of this milestone.  For FIVE DAYS STRAIGHT, we hovered over our daughter like circling hawks, poised with disinfectant spray and old rags.  We lugged the potty chair to the library and the park, we rushed home from outings after being gone all of 15 minutes, we sat on the tile floor next to our daughter on her potty chair and read a year’s worth of Highlights Hello.  Everything the book told us to do—we did it, and at the end of this exhausting mission, on a potty-training scale of 1 to 10, our daughter was a solid 5 or 6. 

When our second child neared the 2 1/2 mark, I re-read the copious notes I’d taken from the book, intent to determine how to fine-tune and tighten up the process this time around.  The morning we were to begin training, however, she was completely defiant and unwilling to cooperate.  She threw all her fancy new underwear in the trash, and was crystal clear that she was a hard “no” on potty-training.  Caving to the child’s resistance, the book implied, was a decision that may or may not reveal the strength of your character, but every firing instinct was telling me to listen to my kid.  So I put away all the potty gear. Then, somewhere around year three, my daughter quietly, uneventfully transitioned off diapers. No books, no parenting advice, award-winning methods. 

Potty trainingLead With Your Instincts 

There is a wealth of wonderful ideas and information in parenting books.  But these authors so often present their method as gospel.  Looking back on our two vastly different potty-training journeys, I wish I had asked my older daughter for her input.  It didn’t feel right to wake up one morning and inform her that her diaper days had abruptly ended.  I want to encourage moms to look into their kids’ eyes and thoroughly weigh what they’re communicating, and then make the decision that seems best for their family.  Not the decision that the bestselling parenting book tells you to make.  As my pediatrician advised, lead with your instincts. 

Also, don’t forget to stash a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in your refrigerator to enjoy when your little one is asleep.

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Ashlee grew up in Newbury Park, and returned to the area after studying journalism at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and teaching English in Santiago, Chile for two years. She spent three years as a working mom, before leaving the corporate world to become a full-time, at-home parent. Her daughters are 4 and 6 years old, and she relishes getting to experience her old childhood stomping grounds through their eyes. An Enneagram 4, Ashlee enjoys reading, running, music, collecting vintage fashion magazines, and sharing a fun cocktail with her husband after work while their kids sit/jump beside them on the couch and watch "Pinkalicious." She is a whole-hearted believer that “it takes a village” not only to raise a child, but also to raise a mother. She is grateful for a supportive family, friends, and community, and is passionate about the power of writing to connect us and let us know we’re not alone.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Ashley, You are such an amazing mom and the proof is in your girls. I I love this article so much I really believe moms need to trust their instinct and know they are doing what is best for their kids. Moms and dads should enjoy this time and know they are doing it the best they can ❤️

    • Thanks Suzanne! Thank YOU for being a trusted adult who is such a warm, caring influence in my kids’ lives. It takes a village, glad you are part of ours.

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