So TheLittleGuy turned 3 last month. That feels like a big milestone (although not as big a milestone as turning 1, actually. I don’t know what’s going to compare to the relief at sheer survival – mine and his – of early infancy .) But still, 3 is big. And part of the reason it’s big is that it seems to me that 3 is when tips start becoming less generic. I’ve been a big fan of the organization ZeroToThree and their monthly newsletter. And I joked this spring that I’m a bit panicked not to be getting those monthly tips anymore.
I think that people’s personalities are evident very, very early on – if you’re paying attention – but even so, there are so many nearly-universal milestones between 0 and 3 that generic advice will basically apply. It seems, though, that right around preschool age, the personality differences start manifesting themselves enough that generic advice is less useful. I haven’t come across a good FourToSix newsletter, and while there are still plenty of typical developmental stages ahead of us, I find myself filtering most parenting advice even more than ever now. “Will tactic X work with the person I know my kid to be?” is the question I end up asking myself. Anyway, shorter: things are getting a bit less logistically complicated (hey, we can all use the same toothpaste in the house, now! woot!) and more strategically complicated.
On the other hand, though, I’ve also mentioned to several people that in some sense we’re done now right? I kid (mostly), but there is so much hyper-anxiety pressed upon parents about how critical the early childhood years are that I feel like whatever chance we had to do a good job – well – he’s 3 now, so we’re past most of those opportunities! So we did do a bunch of stuff that middle class parents are fussed at about:
- Exclusively breastfed for several months and breastfed a long time after that. (Except with that issue, there’s always the ‘just so long, but not a day longer!’ type of hysteria too; sheesh.)
- We focused on whole foods, he doesn’t really know the word dessert, has never had soda, only gets diluted juice or the rare juicebox treat when out somewhere; has had oatmeal every morning for breakfast for about a year and a half, and so on. In fact, I think he is really made of breastmilk (for awhile) and oatmeal.
- At least one of us has read to him every single night of his life.
- We’ve use phthalate-free, BPA-free stuff the vast majority of the time.
- We provided lots and lots of cuddles and baby massage and leg rubs and foot rubs and pats down and snuggles down to sleep – no ‘disattachment’ possible if we had anything to say about it.
- He’s been greeted with some variation of a big hug, and “I love you, and I am so happy to see you!” every day.
- He has been clothed almost exclusively in soft cotton – but not organic (can’t afford that; sorry child – hope it won’t lead you to therapy later.)
- We tried as best we could to let his own interests emerge (modulo the fact that he lives with 2 other people who have their own interests that we can’t help but demonstrate in front of him)
- We’ve managed to keep his screen time quite minimal and his exposure to commercials/video advertising almost non-existent.
- … and probably more stuff I’ve forgotten already …
Now, there are still plenty of ways we’ve screwed up, I’m sure. Some would argue that the fact that he hasn’t been with one of us every hour of his life for these three years has done irreparable damage – but we live in the society and economy we do, so that can’t be helped. Also, 24×7 infant- and toddler-care care is not one of my, umm, core competencies. There are things I wish we’d done more of and things I wish we’d done less of, but I feel like we’ve done ok at setting a decent foundation for him.
We’ll keep doing the best we can, but if all the exhortations about the importance of those early years are right, then many things are just no longer in our control! And our influence matters less and less. So, good luck, kiddo! Mama’s always happy to offer advice – let me know if you have any questions!