Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Knock on wood

Like most parents, I love it when someone compliments my son.

And I won’t lie: the very best kind of compliments are the kind that make reference to my parenting abilities, whether they’re merited or not.

Graham happily eats everything he’s ever been offered? That’s because you ate so well when you were pregnant. Graham slept through the night at six weeks? That’s because you’ve been so calm and consistent with him. Graham’s happy and good natured? That’s because you and Rob are so easy-going.

Ah, what could be more soothing than the warm balm of self-delusion?

Because the truth is, as much as I might luxuriate in remarks like those, I know it would be disingenuous to take even an ounce of credit for what amounts to just plain old good luck.

Human beings, blessed as they are with self-determination, don’t like to think that their fortunes, good or bad, are a result of something as capricious as luck. When things go wrong, we look for someone to blame. When things are good…well, we must be doing something right.

Especially when it comes to our children, the idea that luck is most often the determining factor in whether babies will be easy or difficult, or more importantly, sick or healthy, is not just anathema, it’s downright terrifying.

For the most part we expect things to go well for us here in the First World in the year 2008. We are armed with knowledge our ancestors never dreamed about and, rightfully so, we use it to try and mitigate the risks that other people in other countries and other times accepted as part and parcel of child-rearing and life in general.

We sterilize baby bottles and toys, we baby-proof our houses from top to bottom, we pay outrageous sums of money for high-tech protective devices like SIDS monitors and video cameras.

We stir vitamins in oatmeal and obsess about every morsel of food that passes our children’s lips. We rush to the internet to research every rash, every bump, every upset stomach. We call the doctor when the cough lingers or the nose continues to run or they just don’t seem like themselves.

But beneath all this tending and protecting, aren’t we mostly just hoping and praying?

Hoping fervently that our kids won’t be the ones in the hospital ads that make us cry. Praying that our child will never be the subject of a eulogy written by their 30-something friend. Whispering "There but by the grace of god go I" every time we hear that life has dealt a losing hand to some other parent, some other child.

I have always said that having a child is not for people who like to play it safe. In giving birth, we give the universe the power to enrich our life immeasurably or shatter it irrevocably. No matter how great your effort, parenthood is a crap shoot and every one of us knows it.

Graham was an easy baby. Graham is healthy. Parenting Graham has been a relatively smooth ride.

And while I’m happy to gobble up all the compliments on parenting that come my way, deep down I know I’m just lucky, lucky, lucky.

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55 comments:

sky girl said...

Yep. Hoping and praying.

:)

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Keep gobbling, because if something goes wrong, people will be just as quick to assign you blame. They can't help it - if they can make themselves believe that it is your fault, they can believe that they can control what happens with their child.

Jenifer said...

I must agree...it has bit a lot of effort and even more luck!

Tot's Mom said...

You're right. There is an element of luck involved. Otherwise, how else can you explain when one sibling is easy to take care while another is such a difficult baby? My brother is experiencing that now. His eldest was such an easy baby but now the younger one is giving them nightmares!

Tot's Mom said...

You're right. There is an element of luck involved. Otherwise, how else can you explain when one sibling is easy to take care while another is such a difficult baby? My brother is experiencing that now. His eldest was such an easy baby but now the younger one is giving them nightmares!

Mac and Cheese said...

I am as grateful for my "perfect" child as you are for yours, but for goodness sake, take some credit! You still made him.

Brittany said...

Definitely praying on this end... lol

Amy said...

so true! i feel so lucky and blessed!

Melissa said...

And may we all continue to be lucky, lucky, lucky!!

Kyla said...

Yes, lucky indeed.

Dawn said...

This is an important thing to remember. Having a second child was a humbling experience for me since my first was so easy but my second...well he's quite lovable but not so easy.
I still think you sound like a wonderful mom though :)

Nap Warden said...

Well said, I feel the same way:)

Corey~living and loving said...

seriously one of the best posts I have ever read. Thank you for that.
have a good day.

Are You Serious! said...

♥ I agree completely!!! My first was so stinkin easy and then I had my twins and one was pretty easy the other one a stinker and when they're together ridiculous! My 4th was dang easy as a baby then she hit 1 1/2 and she turned into a little stinker and still is very sassy and has major attitude! I agree it's a crap shoot! :)

wheelsonthebus said...

One great eater and one picky eater over here, and I did nothing differently with each.

But, to your main point, we want so badly to believe we can protect them, don't we? You hit the nail on the head.

Kathryn said...

Fabulous post! Again!
My hubby and I are CONSTANTLY say, "there but for the grace of God...".

bubandpie said...

One of the kids in Bub's nursery school just lost her baby sister, six weeks old, a full-term six-pound baby. The mind just reels. I'm ashamed (and astonished, really) to report that my first thought on hearing the news was, "Oh, maybe they didn't really want this baby." Not that I would ever believe such a thing - it was just a pure gut reaction, a rejection of the idea that something so terrifying and awful could really happen.

jennwa said...

You are right. All we can do is do our best and pray. Then pray some more.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

I believe in luck. My life to date has been based on pure dumb luck and I'm okay with that.

Teachin' this mommy new tricks! said...

Good advice. A lot of this whole child raising isn't planned out. Things get thrown at you, thigns dont go how you think, and usually things turn out good! Thanks for reminding us :)

Mr Lady said...

We sterilize baby bottles and toys, we baby-proof our houses from top to bottom, we pay outrageous sums of money for high-tech protective devices like SIDS monitors and video cameras.

We stir vitamins in oatmeal and obsess about every morsel of food that passes our children’s lips. We rush to the internet to research every rash, every bump, every upset stomach. We call the doctor when the cough lingers or the nose continues to run or they just don’t seem like themselves.


You DO those things? Oops. :)

I bet you are a really good mom. Take credit where credit is due, sister.

Queen of My Domain said...

I agree and yet we are rewarded by so much more when we are willing to take the risks.

Family Adventure said...

So true. Which is why it is extra important to cherish each and every moment. Because tomorrow is still an unknown!

Great post!

Heidi

mamafabulosity said...

You're too modest :)

linds said...

I think luck as something to do with it, but I am going to have to agree with mamafabulosity, you're way too modest. I think you have a lot to do with it!

newduck said...

I agree with most of your readers - yeah, luck has a lot to do with it, but so do parenting skills. Haven't we all seen people who have absolutely zero parenting skills? Their kids always seem totally directionless to me. So give yourself some credit!

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

Well we still think you are a terrific mom, but you are so right, we are just so very, very lucky. And I pray we continue to be so.

Life As I Know It said...

Yeah, a lot of it is luck, but some of it is parenting too.
Take the compliments!

mamatulip said...

I feel the same way...hoping, praying and lucky.

caramama said...

I love this post. Thank you for putting this out there.

I think there are a few factors at play. There is your child's temperment, which you can't really control. There is your child's health, which you have limited control over. And there is how you handle the actual parenting of your child including your child's temperment and health conditions, which you can control. In the last category, you really are a great mom and deserve all compliments about how great of a mom you are, so don't downplay those!

Even though my child isn't an easy one, I thank God every night that she is healthy and in general very happy. When I think of others I know who have children with major health issues, my heart aches for what they are going through. I pray for them every night too.

ewe are here said...

Human beings, blessed as they are with self-determination, don’t like to think that their fortunes, good or bad, are a result of something as capricious as luck. When things go wrong, we look for someone to blame. When things are good…well, we must be doing something right.

I see this a lot in life, too.


But I KNOW I'm just really incredibly lucky to have the boys I have. Because I'm just not clever enough to have made them so lovely myself. ;-)

Amy said...

This is so true.

Parenting advice is considered bad or good based on it's ability to achieve the desired results, and that is just plain luck. No wonder some moms will swear by a particular parenting book while others call it a waste of money.

Becky said...

Thanks for bumping into my blog and staying long enough to leave a comment.

I just read your tribute to your sweet friend, Julie. Oh, my.

You have a lovley blog. And I intend to compliment you on your son ... he is adorable!!

Have a wonderful week full of blessings!

Melody said...

There's something to be said for luck... And prayer.

Thanks for stopping by!

ALF said...

I have no kids so I have no experience in this area. I really like the name Graham though.

Jennifer said...

Amen.

Amen.

Hetha said...

I was just talking about this subject today with my girlfriend who has one of those children that we all wish for, one who willingly eats and sleeps and is always healthy and generally happy. People are always telling her "just you wait"...yet nothing ever changes, she still has this incredibly easy kid. Most people would take some sort of credit for it , but she and I both say it's luck of the draw.

Lori at Spinning Yellow said...

Just as we can't take credit for many of the ways our children are easy (or good or whatever), we also can't beat ourselves up about the things that don't go so well. I think we like to believe we have more control when we really don't. Most people learn this lesson when they have a "difficult" child, but you seem to get it, anyway.

Great post and insight!

Karen MEG said...

You are lucky indeed, but don't count yourself out so easily. Kids learn a lot by osmosis, and they really do inherit a lot of their parents' traits (good and bad I suppose).
My two are as different as can be. Liam was and continues to be an easygoing, charming, easy kid. The little one, well, we don't all her Diva for nothing! She's still a joy, but definitely different!

Gena said...

Just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Kids are a wonderful blessing and they are all so different, even within the same family. It sounds like your little one is a doll. And, it does have a little bit to do with you and your parenting skills!

Thanks for visiting my blog. Stop by anytime.

MamaGeek said...

I love this post. You're right. I love me some warm balm of self-delusion myself but know it all comes down to LUCK with a dash or two of love. :)

Heather said...

Yes, some luck. But also the person you are. Because when your kid screws up you'll be the first to be blamed for that too. Might as well take credit for the good stuff (which will outweigh any screw-ups, hopefully) too.

I enjoyed this post. It's so true.

C said...

What a fantastic post! Graham sounds like such a great kid! I'm sure it's because he's got such great parents! ;)

La La said...

Yes. Some luck, but there is also much credibility to be given to the two of you being consistent and easy-going. During critical periods of brain growth at 8 to 12 months (right around month 9), mamas download their own brain patterns to their babies. That's why attachment and connection and mirroring are so important. (If mom is not available during that peak growth period, then whoever is there downloads their brain patterns -- it's all so very fascinating). Daniel Siegal, MD and Jim Wilder are excellent resources on this topic.

So, yes some luck and some really good downloading!

Love.

Holly said...

It's not all luck. You're also great parents who try hard. Give yourself some credit!!!

Kimmylyn said...

What a great post.. and yes I agree it has to do with luck.. but as many have mentioned it has to do with parenting too.. now run with those compliments.. :)

Laura said...

And Graham is lucky to have you as his mommy!

LoriD said...

I do count myself as lucky for having well-behaved, healthy, happy children. But I'm not above taking at least SOME of the credit. Gobble up the compliments - it's not all luck!

Megan said...

we moms do love a good compliment- i'm sure any you get are genuine, and there's a lot of truth to them- even if it is (part) luck- i'm sure your mom-skills have a lot to do with it too!

Megan

Lisa said...

I think it's a mix. A baby that sleeps well & isn't super fussy is luck. A toddler that is well behaved on outings and a preschooler who uses their manors without being reminded are products of good parenting.

We are so crazy lucky though to have the resources we do. When I think of just how good our family has it, it can almost take your breath away.

Thanks for the good post!

kittenpie said...

So true. It's a really scary thing.

secret agent mama said...

Absolutely, K. This can't be even more apparent to me, after learning that our friends lost a baby last month, at 37 weeks. It happens. It's happened for all times. And, then I look at my four children. My four happy, healthy, and lovely children and deep down I know I'm just lucky, lucky, lucky. Amen.

Jen said...

What an interesting post. We have also been "lucky" enough to have fabulous kids, "easy" kids even. Although I can't help but wonder what affect our parenting style, carefully planned reinforcement schedules, routines, and consistent affection has had on them.

A lot of times I see the kids described as "a handful" and hear people talk sympathetically to their parents. Parents I know well enough to know that they have made very different decisions about things like discipline, affection, consistency and routines than I have made.

And I wonder why is it that their child is "a handful", mine is "easy," I am "lucky," and the other parent is pitied for the poor luck she drew with her "difficult" children. Was it all chance, or did our behavior and parenting choices play into it at all?

I would like to think that at least some of the very carefully planned & executed things we are doing with out kids are somehow correlated with their behavior in a good way.

Zoe said...

well written and so true

Shellie said...

I'm truly lucky to have the other kind of child. The kind most nothing is easy with. I'm judged all kinds of ways, but I wouldn't change my life for anything in the world. I can tell you are one of the exceptional people who wouldn't judge me, even though experience might make you think I'm just a spaz. My mom used to say she couldn't stand all the praise for raising good kids, since she really didn't have any control if we chose to be good or not in the end.