I think every first-time parent may go into their new adventure with some delusions of grandeur when it comes to how actual parenting is going to be. We idealize it because we want everything to go smoothly so that our children will have a better childhood and a better life. But unfortunately, that’s not always how it goes.
That’s where OUR parents come in. They help us adjust our expectations and handle the down-turns. Why? Because they’ve been there. In many cases, multiple times. This fact alone makes their help and advice invaluable for many years so come. They are still your parents. You trust them. After all, you’re alive, aren’t you? So how do you tell your overzealous mom or dad or in-laws that sometimes it’s okay for you to go it alone and that you really do know what’s best for your child?
This isn’t an easy subject to broach because, after all, these are some of the closest people to you and depending on that may even be offended at your refusal for help and advice. Friends can be so much easier that way, and tend not to push the subject too hard. Parents and in-laws however, can become insistent that they know what’s best because they are so close to you and because they are used to holding the parenting role.
Some grandparents are very supportive. My daughter has one. We’ll call them grandparent 1. Grandparent 1 has only one child, but is nonetheless qualified to give at least some practical advice. Grandparent 1 does lots of research and is the kind of person that doesn’t come to any conclusions without having done so. Grandparent 1 also realizes that many many years have passed since they raised their last child or even changed a diaper and is open to new thoughts and methods because, hey, times change. Having this type of go-with-the-flow personality makes it so much easier to take or shoot down advice. If you have this kind of grandparent in your life, don’t worry about making your opinion known. They will respect it. And if they don’t, they will usually respect that it’s your decision to make.
On the other side of that spectrum, a person (we’ll call them ‘grandparent 2’) very close to my husband and I was not as supportive of our decisions as we hoped. We make our own baby food and so far our daughter has taken very well to most of the veggies. She did not like peas or green beans. The poor thing made the funniest faces. The grandparent was present for both of our daughter’s first encounters with these and told us that she didn’t like them because they weren’t sweet, and to add sugar, brown sugar, or honey. For those of you who have read our previous blogs, the reason we go through all the trouble to make our own baby food is to keep her away from all the added sugar and stuff she just doesn’t need. I politely explained this to grandparent 2. I also explained that it says right on the bottle of honey that children under one year old should not be given any at all, and I was even told this by her pediatrician. There was some harrumphing in that I-know-better kind of way but the subject ended without much more prodding until the next food our baby girl didn’t like. This time my husband stepped in and said that we won’t add anything to her food. It wasn’t until she tried apples for the first time and decided that they were too tart for her that we really had to put our foot down. We had to get a little less polite this time which I really don’t like to do, but if you have to, you have to. We outlined why we didn’t want her to have the excess sugar right away. 1. It’s very bad for you. Some studies have linked sugar intake to Autism symptoms such as the following…( http://bit.ly/1Zq7Rnh ) , ( http://bit.ly/1oOzDMm ) and cancer ( http://bit.ly/1XdVb4o ) , and while I am okay with the occasional treat I feel that long term habits are born at a young age so starting now could save her from more risks later. The jury is still out on both of those studies, but moderation is key to any healthy diet and that’s the point I am trying to make. Do not make any significant changes to your infant’s diet without first consulting your pediatrician. 2. Why are we going to all the trouble of making the food just to add sugar to it? No-brainer there. 3. Honey, which was suggested again, when given to babies with immature digestive systems can cause botulism because of the bacteria it contains. ( http://bit.ly/1NmHYnH ) Even though this is rare, it can be fatal. Why take the risk? After a few rude remarks grandparent 2 conceded defeat.
The point here is that your wishes should always come first and if the grandparents cannot accept that after a polite request you may need to be a little harsh. Your baby is your baby. And if there are things that you would like done your way and only your way you need to make it known, loud and clear. Eventually, they should come to understand that they are not the parent in this situation and while some advice is okay, no means no. If you feel that the grandparent in question is the type to slip cookies under the table or buy ice cream behind your back, you may need to restrict activities with them for a while. Children need schedules and stability…they crave it. Some spoiling every once in a while is perfectly fine but when it is a habit it will start to cause problems for you long term. Nip it in the bud early. This advice works well in any kind of parenting issue from grandparents allowing bad behaviors or buying them the toy you specifically told them ‘no’ to.
Good habits and healthy eating start early. Given what we know now, it seemed stupid not to stick to it. We started her on peas (which, admittedly, was a failure. She hated them!) with the intent to get her to be okay with vegetables first. This way we wouldn’t have to fight her on it later. Adding any kind of sweeteners would have made this pointless. The other thing to keep in mind is children are extremely adaptable. My daughter reluctantly came around to peas and doesn’t spit them out anymore. The more you bend to the will of the baby the more the baby will expect it. Sticking to your ground is always the best option; keep trying! She is even coming around to green beans now! It just takes time. Sometimes we forget that everything is new to babies. Something they like today, they may not like tomorrow, and that’s ok. Your skills as a parent will tell you when something should be changed or adapted to fit you baby, and only you and your partner can decide that. Whether you take advice or help from grandparents (solicited or unsolicited) is up to you. If you think you have a ‘grandparent 2’ on your hands you have to decide how to handle it your way. Just be as tactful as possible. Nobody wants their feelings hurt, and a grandparent that thinks they are just doing what’s best can easily feel that way. Don’t let anyone force anything on you or your precious bundle of joy. Parenting is your journey.
Watch for the next installment of The Pros and Cons of Grandparents Part 2 - Time: Too Much or Not Enough?
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