The great controversy of our time

Many people — mostly parents — seem to have absurdly intense opinions about every single solitary aspect of parenting. They have these dogmas that they attach to the most unremarkable minutia of everyday parenthood and they will defend these orthodoxies ruthlessly. I don’t get it. These zealots get specific — I mean, REALLY specific — about how they think all human beings, everywhere, no matter what, should raise their own kids. Here’s an example: Today I got into a conversation with a stranger at the coffee shop. At some point she asked me if our newborn twins cry a lot. To this, I smiled and said something like, “Hey, thank God for pacifiers, right?” I guess I was expecting a knowing nod or at least a slight smirk in response. Instead, her face turned pale and her expression cold. She had a look that would have made sense if I had said, “Hey, thank God for bear tranquilizers, right?” This pleasant interaction had taken a dark turn. I had mentioned pacifiers. The little rubber nipple things you give to babies — she had feelings about it. Strong feelings. She whispered in a stern and hushed voice, as if to avoid the ears of the evil operatives for Big Pacifier who are likely monitoring her and the other members of the anti-pacifier militia, and she said, ” Oh, I don’t believe in pacifiers!”

“Uh, you don’t believe in them? I’m not even sure what that means. They aren’t a religion, as far as I know.”

Well, she then went on to give me a 15 minute speech about the horrors of pacifiers. You give your baby a pacifier and, next thing you know, they’ve become a junkie or a terrorist or something. All because of the pacifier. Pacifiers are tools of Satan. She has a child, you see, and she didn’t use them with him. Therefore, clearly, nobody else ever should use them ever in the universe for any reason. She explained how she was able to get her baby to stop crying through natural means. Well, everyone has to be proud of something, and this was apparently her something. I would have felt sorry for her if it weren’t for the fact that my pity was overridden by my revulsion at her obnoxious and pretentious attempt to turn a friendly bit of small talk into a parental pissing match. Later that night I told my wife about the interaction. Naively, I exclaimed, “I can’t believe that people actually give a crap about who uses pacifiers! How stupid!” My wife was not surprised at all. Pacifiers, she explained, are “controversial.”

Controversial. The death penalty controversial. Internment camps were controversial. Apparently, silicone orthodontic teats for infants belong in this same category. Of course. It’s parenting — everything is controversial. Maybe I’m the crazy one, but I don’t have an ideological position on pacifiers. I don’t have an ideological position on most parenting decisions. If it’s safe and it helps and it seems like the right idea, we’ll probably give it a try. Fools that we are. And I hate to pull the twin card, but seriously, lady, you tell me how much you care about your bizarre anti-pacifier code after spending even one single night with two fussy infants. Who knows, maybe you’d suffer through sleepless night after sleepless night, clutching firmly to your unnecessary principles while telling yourself over and over, “Can’t use the pacifiers… Anything but the pacifiers…” Maybe you’d do that. Maybe. You can’t really know until you’ve run that particular gauntlet. And even if you did, I can’t say I’d admire your decision, honestly. Why be a martyr for such a silly little thing when you could calm your baby and get some sleep and carry on with your life like a normal person? If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far about raising twins, it’s this: Be practical. This is no time to be a freaking crusader about some largely insignificant facet of child rearing. When the sh*t is hitting the fan (literally — my son projectile pooped onto my oscillating fan a few days ago) you just need to do what is necessary to resolve the situation. Especially because there’s going to be another situation to resolve in, like, 46 seconds.

I’m not saying I don’t have principles. I’m just saying I don’t have principles that govern things like pacifiers and similar banalities. I’m also not saying I’ve never had an opinion about how other people raise their kids. But my opinions in that regard have to do with very broad and basic ideas about how all children in a civilized society should be raised. I’ve articulated some of them recently. But, outside of the sorts of plainly destructive practices I’ve discussed before, I think you should just love your kids and do what’s best for them and your family. And, yes, it is as simple as that.

Just as long as you don’t swaddle. I don’t believe in swaddling. Seriously, if you swaddle you are a horrible person. I will fight you. I swear, I will punch you right in your stupid swaddling face. Nobody should ever swaddle their kids. Ever!

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12 Responses to The great controversy of our time

  1. Wait til ya take on the “rub some whiskey on their gums when teething” lobby. It’s been awhile since my kids were infants but even then it was only spoken about to the very highest level of trusted confidants.. i.e. our parents who recommended it after using it on our gums.

  2. Kirstin says:

    My kids weren’t into their pacifiers, and I wished they would’ve been… It’s a lot easier to take the pacifier away than the thumb when they’re older…

  3. momn3boys says:

    Haha! I personally don’t give a crap who uses pacifiers and who doesn’t. If it works, go for it. Wait until your kids become teenagers. It doesn’t stop. (The other day someone made a statement on Twitter to the effect that if your kids grow up and vote for pro-abortion politicians it’s your fault because you didn’t parent them well. I stupidly decided to vehemently object to that statement. This person basically said that I’m responsible for what my kids hear from other kids, and since she homeschools HER kids and I don’t therefore she’s a good parent and her kids are perfect, and I’m just an irresponsible parent. I wanted to kick myself for getting into a stupid Twitter argument like that!)

  4. As a mother of twins, I agree.

  5. mervMEG says:

    Pacifiers are the great controversy of our time?

  6. Wait till you start potty training. Then the controversy will revolve around your choice to use pull-ups. We are there and it is ugly.

  7. idiotwriter says:

    This made me laugh! Seriously?? Poop on the fan and all! Exactly. I can’t imagine having twins – never mind doing it without ‘breaking’ the ‘rules’ imposed on us by the great parenting debate. Just wrote a comment that turned into a ‘blogpost’ (maybe I will do that;) ) – so will leave it there 😉 truthful and fun post.

  8. CountryGirl says:

    This made me laugh. I have two kids. My neighbor just about had a stroke when she found out we did co-sleeping. She, you see, did the cry it out method (CIO) with her very low-key, complacent child who never cried…ever. How on earth could anybody choose to co-sleep ?! Apparently, our kids were going to grow up to be clingy, needy, spoiled children. And sex ? You have sex with your children in bed ?! NO?? Oh..then you don’t have sex at all ?! (Who says the bedroom is the only place to have sex ? We have a whole house !). I just said “You do whatever works for you, we are doing what works for us”. My two kids were and are very strong-willed as in “I will cry until I vomit and get hives and/or you go insane, whichever comes first” from DAY ONE. We did what we had to do to get sleep !!! They are now normal (whatever that is) kids, ages 7 and 13, who transitioned happily (no crying) to their own beds in their big girl/boy rooms at the age of 3. If you really wanna get a debate started we can discuss breast feeding and child-led weaning. 🙂

  9. Sandra says:

    As the mother of 4 kids, I’ve heard all the “controversies” surrounding the right and wrong ways of parenthood. I had three great sleepers. And then my 4th. This child is a wild card. I would pay lots of good, hard earned money for her to take a pacifier because its apparently impossible for her to sleep without a boob in her mouth. Well, pacifiers may be controversial but some amount of decent parental sleep is necessary. Good read Matt.

  10. twinmomma says:

    I have 4 month old twins ( they are my first) and before I had them I was totally against pacifiers (don’t ask me why because for the life of my I can’t remember haha) That lasted for about a week after they were born, when I decided I actually needed my hands because they would wail everytime I took my finger out of their mouth.

  11. Kelli says:

    It is good to see a Dad chime in on the “Mommy Wars”. When my kids were growing up we had playgroup. We all parented in our own unique way and no one was ‘better’ or ‘worse’. We were Mom’s getting together and socializing while our kids played. Mutual respect. We talked about movies and cute actors and needing more sleep and all kinds of stuff. But these making every moment a ‘kodak’ moment did not exist. I remember one day specifically. There was an eclipse and it got to 70% in our area. I took the kids all over town; to libraries that had safe telescopes to the park so we could use our paper plate with the hole in it and see crescent suns. I did not take one picture that day, but the memory… is life long lasting. GREAT ARTICLE…. We need a LOT less judging and a lot more respect of each other! If your child need his/ her ‘sucky’, that is YOUR business. Tell others to mind their own business.

  12. Lisa Reynoso says:

    This was a hoot! I have 3 kids. Tried pacifiers with all three. Waste of money. Third one sucks his thumb, but only when he’s tired. The other two wouldn’t take thumb or pacifier or anything else.

    I, on the other hand, took a pacifier on day 2. That’s a no-no nowadays, since it can “cause nipple confusion” for breastfeeding mothers. But guess what? It didn’t for me. And it allowed my mom some peace. And I don’t even remember using one, so I guess it’s all good. 🙂

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