My friend J and I have known each other for 22 years. We met in college, became roommates, and now live in the same city. I don't see her as much as I'd like, thanks to busy family schedules and a lake that separates us (though let's not be dramatic, it's only about a 20 minute drive.)
Not only is J generous with her hand-me-downs, she has given me a few pieces of parenting advice over the years which are pure gold. These were not unsolicited drive-bys - they were little gifts that came when I asked questions on the parenting e-mail list we're both on. Her younger child is a couple of years older than T, so she's got more experience, but recent enough that she's still got useful details.
Baby Zombie Eye
If she hadn't told me about this, I would *still* be wondering why my kids never nap and wake up 10x a night. It was THAT life-changing for us. When T was about 12 weeks old, I posted a question to our email list about naps. When did we expect babies to be on some kind of schedule? How do we accomplish that?
Most of the answers came back as "it's still early", but only J gave me the info that changed our lives significantly.
She told me to keep an eye out for T's "tired signs" and mentioned her baby used to get this glassy-eyed, unfocused look when she got tired (long before she'd get fussy). Once she saw that, she'd try to put her down for a nap. Experienced mamas, this sounds so obvious, right? But as new parents, we assumed that a newborn would just fall asleep wherever she was, and we didn't have to *do* anything about naps. Hah!
So we made a plan. T's other tired sign was nice and obvious - yawning. We counted yawns. When she got to Zombie Eye or 3 yawns, we'd put her down for a nap - nurse her and put her in the crib in a darkened room with white noise. If we got to the 2 hour mark without seeing these things, we'd try for a nap anyway. And O. M. G. This worked wonders within days.
Prior to doing this, T would stay awake for HOURS (because we were too dumb to realize she needed help to get to sleep!). One day at 8 weeks or so, she was up for 9 hours STRAIGHT and then cried for the next 3 (who wouldn't!).
We tried the same tactic with M, except she doesn't typically get Zombie Eye until it's too late, after she gets to the fussy stage. M's tired sign? Eye-rubbing! Again, super obvious, so lucky us. But with M we had to be even more vigilant because she masks the tiredness and gets her second wind easily when people are around playing with her.
Don't get me wrong - we were blessed with two fairly good sleepers. But we never would have discovered that had J not given me this magic advice.
No Power Struggles
J told me there were a few things you couldn't make a kid do: eat, sleep, and use the bathroom. If you try, you'll get stuck in a horrible power struggle. It's better to avoid getting into that position.
Again, *so* brilliant. It got me out of the mindset of "she *should* be doing xyz", or worse, "she *has* to do xyz". I keep this one top of mind, and trust that my girls will do these things when they need to, with our help and routine, of course.
This helped me get through potty training with T and her current habit of waking up in the middle of the night to play in her room. It makes me less crazy when M gets up at 1am and is ready to PARTY. We just go downstairs and she plays in the gated living room while I nap on the couch.
Don't get me wrong, I'm still annoyed when they don't do what I (think I) need them to do, but I don't get all dictator-y about it. Most of the time, anyway. I'm still a work in progress.
Fair Isn't Equal
J told me this one before I was pregnant with BabyM so it didn't really sink in at the time, though I recognized it for its brilliance. She said her grad school adviser told her that fair didn't mean everyone got the same thing - it's each person getting what they *need*.
*So* true for siblings, especially those with different personalities and big age gaps. M doesn't have the attention span for more than one or maybe two short board books, while T would love to read together for hours. I don't try to make sure I read the same *number* of books to both girls.
I know M loves it when I just sit in the playroom with her and let her do her own thing. T wants me to participate actively in her games. What fills each of their cups is pretty different, despite them being sisters in the same house with similar temperaments.
I'm grateful to have a wise friend like J! What about you - what did you learn about parenting that rocked your world?