Uninvited Advice about your Parenting Style
During the holidays, parents and parents-in-law come into town and invariably want to help you run your household. Well-meaning advice can quickly become annoying. (Understand of course, that I am only making assumptions here; I’m not necessarily speaking from experience. The advice I have received from anyone in my family reading this article has been deeply appreciated and considered.)
What do you do when your child’s grandparent challenges your parental authority? Do you stand your ground no matter what?
Let us not be hard-headed, though. Some advice from our elders may actually be good.
I’ll admit it. When Eli, my son, was a newborn who seemed to hate being in water, I figured it would just be easier and better for both of us if we skipped daily baths in favor of every other day baths. On the off days, I would give him what my grandmother used to call “bird baths”—full body wipe downs with a warm, damp cloth minus water immersion.
On bath days, Eli would scream as if he was being physically hurt and I hated hearing him go through what I was sure was a traumatizing experience. So it got to a point where all baby baths were given by my husband and as fast as he could get through it. Whenever I saw the bath water running, I would leave the house so as to not hear my baby boy cry.
As a result, if my husband happened to be out of town or stuck at work, Eli happened to not get a bath. Instead, he would receive the warm, damp cloth wipe down. The bird bath. Besides, I’d heard from a pediatrician that newborns do not need daily baths anyway. No harm. No foul.
“You’re not going to believe everything the doctor tells you, are you?” my baby’s grandma said exasperated after I used the pediatrician as the excuse for why I wasn’t giving my son a daily bath during her holiday visit. She then went on to tell me how she bathed her newborns — and her mother bathed her newborns, and everyone she knew growing up and through early adulthood bathed their newborns—not just every day, but TWICE a day. My blood pressure shot up just thinking about that.
Then the final guilt-producing blow: “Don’t you want his skin to stay soft and healthy?” she asked me.
In my head I answered, well of course I do. Of course, I want my son to have baby soft skin. Of course, I want to be a good mother. Of course! And I am a good mother, aren’t I?
But as I stood there, I said nothing. I just watched as my baby’s grandmom began to prepare a warm bath for him and gently slipped him into it. Not so gently, Eli shrieked at the absolute top of his lungs. My husband stayed, but I went to my room, closed the door, and got under the covers.
After about five hour-long minutes, the shrieking ended. When I finally emerged from my room to assess what I was sure would be massive emotional damages, I found my son peacefully and comfortably napping in his grandmom’s arms. I had not seen him look so relaxed in weeks.
It turned out that Mom, that is, Grandmom, was right. Sort of.
After that, my husband started giving Eli a bath every day (but not twice a day). And slowly, Eli stopped hating his daily water immersions. After awhile, Eli even seemed to enjoy his baths sometimes. He definitely seemed more relaxed after particularly long and soothing dips in the tub. But every so often, he would go back to screaming.
So the day came when my husband was out of town for a few days for work. Decision time. Should I skip the baths in favor of the easier wipe down option? Or should I honor my mom’s advice, my husband’s new routine, and my son’s growing acceptance of water?
I decided to go ahead and give him a bath. He cried. Loudly. For about a minute. Then, he relaxed. And I relaxed.