If there is one thing I have learned from being a parent, it’s that I don’t know anything.
Before our daughter was born, my husband and I decided that our baby would never use a pacifier. Pacifiers were a crutch for weak parents who didn’t know how to properly comfort their children, I said with all the infinite wisdom of a woman who had never even changed a diaper.
My husband and I had no experience with children or pacifiers so our decision was based solely on an air of superiority that can only come from two people who have no idea what the heck they are talking about. But we had skimmed the better part of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” so we felt pretty secure in our first parenting decision.
Two days after we brought our daughter home from the hospital, she started crying and wouldn’t stop. We fed her, we changed her, we rocked her, we burped her. But she just kept crying. In a final desperate move, my husband said, “Don’t we have a pacifier somewhere?” We dug a pacifier out of a gift basket in the closet and read the instructions. We boiled it for five minutes, let it cool, then popped it into our daughter’s mouth. Magic happened. She began sucking on it and immediately calmed down and fell asleep.
The next day, I went and purchased every Nuk pacifier I could find. We kept them in the car and in our pockets. We had found the answer and there was no way we were going to be caught without one.
As it turned out, the pacifier wasn’t the only thing we were wrong about. My husband and I always shook our heads at people who put TVs in their children’s rooms. “That’s horrible parenting; our child won’t have a TV in her room until she’s 25, at least.” That’s what we thought until we discovered we had a child who never slept.
I’ve heard parents talk about children not sleeping through the night until they were six or seven months old and I have to laugh. Our daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was two-and-a-half years old. My husband and I were shells of our pre-child selves. I spent over a year with wet hair thrown into a ponytail because I never could quite remember to blow dry my hair before I left the house. My husband fell asleep daily on the train to work, missing his stop on more than one occasion. We discovered that Red Bull and Mountain Dew could render a sleep-deprived person semi-functional and began subsisting on mass quantities of caffeine.
Then we discovered that our daughter would sleep if the TV was on. The only TV we had was in the living room so we began letting our daughter fall asleep on the couch. We would then try to move her to her crib, but she would wake up and scream. Thus began our life of shame: we let our daughter sleep on the couch. We did this for about three months until we agreed that we couldn’t continue to let our two-year-old sleep in the living room. So we bought a TV and put it in our daughter’s room. It worked. She fell asleep in her room and slept all night. My husband and I started sleeping through the night as well and the fog finally cleared from our brains. It was a miracle. Still, we felt like horrible parents and hid the TV in the closet each day so no one would now how unfit we were.
Now our daughter is almost seven and we have finally learned not to judge other parents. Parenting is an art, not a science and everyone paints their masterpiece a little differently. It can’t be learned from a book—it’s something you fumble your way through daily, making decisions based on desperation and a total lack of sleep. The truth is, it doesn’t matter if a child has a pacifier or watches TV or eats McNuggets four times a week, as long as that child is loved.
But just in case I’m wrong, I have started a fund to pay for any counseling our daughter may require for all the mistakes we’ve made along the way.