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December 6, 2010

Scientifically conclusive long-term effects of horizontal parenting

When I first began horizontal parenting, I admit that I was far more lazy than I was confident. For seven months, my child would only nap whilst lying on me, and I wondered if I was setting myself up to become a doormat (albeit a mattressy one). For ten months, my child spent most of many nights in bed with me and breastfed like a drunkard, and I wondered if this was going to be the rest of my life (plus, my shoulder hurt, but it was better than not lying down at all). Though I gave my child everything she demanded of me (because I was too tired to challenge an indomitable infant, and whenever we made it into a power struggle, she won every time), I wondered what kind of pattern we were be setting. Would I be that mother with the screaming toddler in the grocery store pleading for a small piece of our power-share? Was I falling down as a parent in failing to set boundaries with my six week old? Shouldn’t I be encouraging her to be an independent six month old?  Was this the precedent, and now forever I’d give her everything she demanded with a screech?

The thing is though, and I know this now and I didn’t know it then, that your six week old is a whole other person three weeks later, and that six month old is such a more completely evolved amazing being in comparison that you can’t remember she was ever small. And then six months starts being small, because your baby is a year old, and a year and a half old, and she’s walking, and talking, and pouring you endless cups of imaginary tea. And you’re now negotiating with someone altogether different than that screaming newborn, and it is here where setting boundaries and discipline does become important, but now you’re dealing with a(n almost) person rather than a helpless creature. It’s a whole different game– certainly not an easier one, but one that is not very much affected by anything that came before.

When my daughter was six weeks old and I was racked with guilt over my desire to buy an infant swing rather than rock her to comfort myself, somebody told me to do “Whatever works” and thereby set me on the road to horizontal parenting. I trusted the advice because it was easy, but eighteen months later I can now report with scientific conclusiveness that she was right. There are no harmful long-term effects to taking the easy way out in babyhood and shutting that screaming kid up however you can manage it. Hooray for soothers, and co-sleeping, and baby swings, and long walks in the stroller. Hooray for putting the baby to sleep in a sling, having her eat only avocado for a week, and for having the baby nap on your chest while you lie on the bed gyrating your hips to put her to sleep with the motion. (It works. How did I discover this works? I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.)

One thought on “Scientifically conclusive long-term effects of horizontal parenting”

  1. Jacqueline says:

    I was just talking to a friend yesterday about breastfeeding. I breastfed both my children up to 7 months and I felt like I failed at it because I was so tired that I couldn’t go to the two years I had planned on doing it. My decision was either resent the act and be too tired to enjoy my kids or get a break and enjoy them for the time I had them in my arms. Of course, back when they did feed off of me, there were nights I’d find myself turned over and them feeding off the other breast. Either I did it out of instinct or they moved me, just so funny to remember.

    Since my kids were a very tantrummy-lot (not just because of the autism, but because they get that stubborness from their mom & dad :)), we co-slept so we could get some sleep. They stopped at about 4 years. Most nights were a battle of elbows and little fists in my face. The bed was just too small and they had their own spaces in our new place. I do however miss our weekend family naps.

    Now I hardly get enough sleep because as soon as they get up it’s “Mommy! Mommy!” Sure, I might complain about it now, but in the end these are the complaints I might miss or laugh about in the future. What there is to remember is that like everything “this too shall pass” but sometimes we don’t want it too. I guess one can say that about anything in our lives.:)

    Thanks, you made me remember a few things in reading this about my own “no longer babies”.

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