Defensive Parenting 101

February 2, 2006

So I’m half-watching The Today Show this morning as I get ready for work. Al Roker is out on the street, making small talk with the overeager fans who show up outside the studio hoping for their 15 seconds of fame.

Al approaches a mom who is holding her baby boy. He is clutching a bottle, and languidly sucking on it.

“Talk about hitting the bottle!” says Al, in an attempt at witty banter.

“We’re trying to get him to stop!” says the suddenly defensive mom. “He’s 19 months old.”

I cringed in recognition when I saw that. The books say babies should be off the bottle by 18 months, and she was clearly stressing that her boy was a little behind schedule.

What is it about new parenthood that puts so many moms on the defensive? Why do we feel such a deep need to conform to arbitrary deadlines and expectations?

My daughter just turned 1. The most common question I get is, “Is she walking yet?” I respond with a quick, “No, but she is crawling and standing and cruising, and she should be walking soon, and her doctor says she is right on schedule developmentally…”

My girl was also an extremely chubby infant, with the kind of fluffy physique that often elicited comments from strangers. I found myself preempting them by proudly pointing out, “She’s a big girl! She’s off the weight charts! But the doctor says she is really healthy, and there is no such thing as a baby that’s too fat…”

Well, no more defensive posturing. For the record, my daughter isn’t walking yet…and I’m kind of happy about it. I’m enjoying this last little while of limited mobility, because once she starts walking, it’s a whole new ball game. I will take a few more months of peace over bragging about my physically advanced child any day.

Yes, she is chubby. And I like it. I cherish the rolls on her legs and the multiple folds in her arms. As a breastfeeding mom, it made me feel like I was vital to her nourishment and well-being. The truth is, now that she is crawling and losing a lot of that chub, I am sort of sad to see it go.

Yes, I still nurse her occasionally. No, I don’t know exactly when I’m going to wean her completely. Could be next week, could be next month. And I don’t care if uptight people have a problem with it. It’s really no one’s business but mine and my daughter’s.

Yes, I work full-time. Yes, my daughter attends a day care center two days a week. Yes, I’m aware that kids at day care centers get sick a lot. I’m also aware that she has a great time there, is socially well-adjusted, and this arrangement is what works best for our family.

So join me, fellow moms. No more excuses or defenses. Get it off your chest once and for all, then let go of the guilt, for godsakes!