I don’t know if you heard about the latest recommendations on introducing peanuts to your baby. It used to be that doctors told parents to hold off on adding peanuts to a child’s diet until their first birthday; research showed that this prevented allergies. Now they’re saying to introduce it early especially if your child is at risk of developing an allergy because now they have new research. I won’t go into the details here because that’s a discussion you need to have with your child’s healthcare provider but it did make me think about how much has changed just since my oldest child was born twenty years ago (that might sound like a long time ago to you but I assure you it feels like it was just last week) and how many of the considered choices I made are no longer supported by research.
Like car seats. Back in my day you flipped the car seat forward facing when your child hit 20 pounds or 1 year, whichever came first. That was the safe way to do it and that’s what we did.
You go back a little further and kids weren’t even in car seats and they were getting cereal in their bottles as soon as they were born and then there’s that story about my mom feeding my sister raw bacon in her high chair before my sister was six months old. It used to be good parenting to leave your baby unattended out in the sun because there was no better medicine than fresh air and sunshine. Now can you imagine?
It’s not that none of this matters or that we turned out fine so what’s with all this new-fangled parenting advice, it’s just that as parents we can only do the best we can with the information that we have. Sometimes our good parenting choices will turn into bad parenting choices with the passage of time.
We have to resign ourselves to the fact that we are going to screw up even if we do everything right.
Twenty years from now something we know for certain will become obsolete and we’ll find out that the thoughtful, informed care we took with our decision about feeding or sleeping or schooling will turn out to be wrong.
Which means sometimes all we have is the thoughtful informed part because the actual act may turn out to be a mistake.
We are all going to have to learn to forgive ourselves so why not start now instead of waiting for a couple of decades when our choices start looking as silly as leaving a naked baby alone outside to sun themselves for a few hours every day?
Good parenting, if you get stuck on the acts, is a bar that moves. We all fail sometimes. Sometimes we fail a lot. So instead of getting stuck on acts, I think we need to focus on effort, intention, and learning and change.
- Try hard.
- Be fueled by good intentions.
- Keep learning and be willing to change.
I remember at one playdate when we were talking about some change in the research and a mom waved her hand, grimacing in frustration, and said, “Oh man, I don’t want to know! Now I have to feel guilty about doing it wrong all of this time!”
Only we don’t have to feel guilty; we could say, “Great! Now I can make a new decision!”
I know, I know, telling a parent not to feel guilty is like telling water to stop being wet. But we can try. We can feel guilty and then forgive ourselves, understanding that we were doing the best we could and now we can do better. Good for us!