Monday, October 13, 2008

The Hidden Baby Gate

Moms and dads do things differently. In fact, any two parents will do things differently (regardless of gender) because they are two different people. Kids benefit from the difference, so we parents have to make sure that our kids are exposed to both parenting styles.

To calm a crying infant, you may sit with perfect quiet in a rocking chair, slowly easing her to sleep. To calm that same crying infant, I may walk the floor, jabber nonsense, and bounce her on my knee until she tires and goes to sleep.

One way isn’t better or worse than the other, since both methods got the baby to stop crying and go to sleep. Even better, she learned that there is more than one way to nurture and to bond with more than one nurturer.

Parenting research indicates that a father is more likely to carry an infant so that she is facing away from him, while a mother is more likely to carry the baby facing towards her. Your baby needs both perspectives. It’s good for her to explore the world and it’s good for her to know her family intimately. It doesn’t matter which parent provides which—and it’s probably best if both parents provide a little bit of both.

Nevertheless, we tend to judge or rank different baby-care strategies, not based on whether they work in the end, but rather on how closely they mirror our method or the method we grew up thinking was the “right” one.

That vision is usually one that conforms tightly to worn-out stereotypes about which gender is supposed to do what when it comes to child-rearing. That limited vision is arbitrary, counterproductive, and completely inadequate to the demands of raising children in today’s world.

The key is to remember that most infants have more than one parent for very good reasons. Don’t let either parent be locked out, because that’s not good for the child.