Thursday, July 7

Never Say Never

One lesson I am quickly learning as a new parent is the old cliché, "Never say never" (sorry to disappoint, but this post is not about the Justin Bieber biopic or the Justin Bieber song by the same name - although I do get the song stuck in my head every time I see that phrase). I've mentioned in a previous post how we (translation: I) had planned before Brock was born to not use a pacifier but how those plans went out the window around about the second night in the hospital. Very early on, I became aware that sometimes it doesn't matter what you say or think before you have a baby because the actual having of that baby can change everything. So here are three "I will never" statements previously proclaimed by me that I am already retracting:

1.   I will never... talk to people through my baby.
Back in the day before Blaine and I got married, I worked at a preschool/daycare for three years. I started out in the "Baby Room" which included babies between the ages of 6-12 months, and I worked every day from about noon til 6:00 so I usually had to talk to the parents when they came to pick up their children. There are all kinds of things you can learn about what NOT to do with your children from working in a daycare, but one thing in particular that always annoyed me to death was when parents would talk through their children to me. Since the babies I worked with couldn't talk yet, if the parent wanted to know something about the child's day they would have to ask me. Now, either many of the parents weren't aware their child couldn't talk or they were just too passive-aggressive to address me directly but I can't tell you how many times I was the third party in conversations like this:
"Oh, Luke, did they not feed you all of your bottle today? I bet you're starving!" (actually precious Luke had eaten all 6 bottles she'd sent for him and just couldn't force down the remainder of that 7th one)
or "Poor Ethan, they've got you dressed like a homeless man today don't they? What happened to your clothes?!" (well, lady, Ethan's diapers were two sizes too small so they leaked in every pair of clothes you packed for him)
or "Aw, Lily Kate, why are you crying? Will they not hold you sweet girl?" (no, I'm sorry, there is 1 of me and 6 of them, so I cannot sit around holding her all day long like you apparently do at home)
Needless to say, I was not a fan of this type of communication and always vowed I would never participate in it once I had a child. Unfortunately I've caught myself on several occasions doing just that. Thankfully, it's usually only with Blaine that I find it happening (aren't spouses generally the recipients/witnesses of our worst behaviors?). And usually it's not with such an angry or accusatory tone as some of those parents had toward me. Here are a few of the comments I've unwittingly found myself saying:
"Brock, did daddy not brush your hair?" or "Brock, I wonder why your daddy dressed you in that outfit? It doesn't match." or "It's okay buddy, daddy doesn't understand the concept of overstimulation."
I admit these statements have come out of my mouth at one time or another. I annoy myself when I realize what I'm doing! But I do kind of see the appeal in it now that I have a baby. I have a tendency toward passive-aggressiveness myself so for some reason it is much easier to say no to someone as though it's coming from Brock rather than coming from me (e.g., when a stranger wants to hold him, I can look at B and say, "Oh, you're just too tired to be held right now aren't you? Do you want to stay in your carseat?") It's still annoying, but I can't say I won't ever do it again. You have my permission to slap me and tell me to be direct if I ever do this to you though.

2.   I will never... tiptoe around my house just because the baby is sleeping.
This particular "never-ism" stems from experiences I've had at other people's houses who won't let you talk above a whisper if their baby is asleep. I always joked with my sister-in-law about how she would prohibit the use of the ice maker once her daughter was in bed. My perspective was that babies should get accustomed to sleeping through the noises that we make every day and that we shouldn't cater the environment around the baby. I remember saying things like this even when Brock was 4 or 5 weeks old and still in that newborn state of constant sleep that is dead to the world. I recall a particular occasion where Brock was in his rocking seat next to me in our bedroom while I was blow drying my hair, the dog jumped off the bed onto the floor barking because the doorbell rang and the child never flinched, stirred, or batted an eye. I remember smugly thinking, "See if you just let them get used to the noises, they'll sleep through it fine." Oh, how I've eaten my words on this one.

Brock isn't a newborn anymore, and the older he gets the less soundly he sleeps. He is moving out of that oblivious stage of sleep and gets disturbed more easily. The problem is that even though he's outgrowing the ability to sleep without disruption, he's not outgrowing the need to sleep uninterrupted. Two things I've learned about my son: He loves to eat and he loves to sleep. He's a pretty content and easygoing baby until he's hungry or tired and you don't give him what he wants (he comes by it honestly). Take away the food or the sleep and he can become a pretty angry little fellow. Not to mention early wakings from naps result in a completely thrown off schedule for the day (see point #3). So where does that leave us? That leaves us walking around on tiptoes, not using the ice maker, and holding our breath every time the UPS man rings the doorbell and the dog goes flying down the stairs barking. That leaves us hoping that the brush collectors, the garbage truck, and the neighbor with the unnecessarily loud Mustang will drive by only when Brock is awake (which never seems to work out to our advantage). That leaves us whispering to each other in every room of the house, afraid to flush the toilets or use the microwave, and setting the television volume at level 8 even though I'm pretty sure Brock can't hear any of this over the sound of his calming ocean noise machine. It's amazing what you'll do to preserve your sanity with a baby. But family and friends, rest assured that we will not impose these restrictions on you if you come to visit us. We're not going to force our ridiculous behavior on others - baby or no baby!

3.   I will never... schedule my life around the baby.
My final "never-ism" is a little tricky because I'm not sure that I've actually broken it. What I meant by making this statement is that I don't want to become crazy obsessed with my child and make everyone else work around my schedule and forget that I'm something other than a mom. I'm a big fan of the Babywise books and the general theory and philosophy behind the books. A basic summary of the babywise principles is that the best approach to raising children is to adopt a parent-directed approach rather than a child-centered approach and that it is important to make your marriage and your spouse the number one priority and then welcome the child into that solid relationship. The books emphasize the fact that just because you take on this new role of mother doesn't mean you abandon the old roles you previously held such as wife, daughter, sister, friend, etc. I've really tried to keep these principles in mind and I've used these methods with Brock pretty much from day one, which I think has resulted in a very content, predictable, secure baby and two very happy parents.

The problem with this "never-ism" is that life with a baby is never simple or easy. While I may not schedule my life around Brock in an unhealthy way, it is inevitable that I'm still scheduling my life around him. We went to a cookout this past Monday for the July 4th holiday and every moment of that entire day was focused on how best to arrange Brock's eat/wake/sleep schedule so that we could spend an extended amount of time out of the house that evening when he would normally be sleeping but still have him be pleasant and content. It was successful for the most part (with a little help from some wonderful ladies who wanted to hold and rock him the entire time we were there), but I couldn't help but notice as we left the party that I felt a little envious of the other party-goers who probably had not needed to think of the party until a couple of hours before it took place and who only had to get themselves ready and could arrive or leave at whatever time they desired. You just can't do this when you have a little baby... or well, let me rephrase that and say Shelby Vandegriff can't do that with a baby. I'm positive there are a lot of parents who are a lot more laissez-faire with their children's schedules than I am and do just fine, but I can't operate that way. I'm a Type-A posterchild with a compulsion for list-making, day planners, and organization, and since Brock is my son, my need for order and routine naturally flows into his life (hopefully not in such a way that it will cause a need for therapy later on). So for now at least, a large part of my day is spent figuring out how to balance my needs, Blaine's needs, and Brock's needs so that we all end up happy and content.

Well, lesson not completely learned yet but definitely in progress. The moral of the story: Watch what you say regarding how you'll deal with your babies. I am at least recognizing the importance of watching who I make my "never-ism" statements to, and I've mostly concluded that Blaine is probably the only person that it's safe to do this with. I know he is pretty much on the same page as me and he'll be merciful and won't judge me when I have to retract my statement (but more importantly he usually forgets most of the things I tell him anyway so he'll have no recollection that I ever said it in the first place).


  1. I am guilty as a non-parent of this very never-ism thinking. Thanks for not excluding non-parents like me from from reading! I enjoy reading!

  2. Oh my gosh I am laughing out loud in the library. Shelby, you need to write a book some day! Thanks for making my day a little brighter! It's a great reminder that there are wonderful things going on outside of my life, which is inundated with studying and writing!