I have many friends right now who are having children for the first time or who are planning on soon entering the "First Time Parents" stage of life, so I thought it might be interesting to them to read a blog post about life with an 11 month old. A preview of coming attractions, of sorts. I'd enjoy reading a post like that about the months beyond our current status.
When they're first born, the questions sound like do we schedule the baby or live by demand? Do we make them cry it out or do we not? Do we nurse or give them formula? And as baby gets older, the questions change to when do we introduce solid foods? How do we make sure baby gets a well-balanced meal? And we face yet another set of questions at 11 months: what behaviors will we allow, high chair etiquette, and do we remove baby or the object in question?
1. Allowed Behaviors.
One great piece of advice I read in Baby Wise (LOVE these books.) is that you will find discipline easier if unwanted behaviors are never allowed from day one, versus allowing the baby to do something for a while and then trying to end that behavior once it becomes destructive or fails to be cute any longer. In the same vein, if it wouldn't be okay for them to do something at someone's house, they aren't allowed to do it in ours- for example, taking books off the bookshelf or dvds out of the dvd cabinet. I wouldn't allow Roman to do that at a friend's house so he isn't allowed to do it here. That way he has no problem understanding the rules and he is set up for success rather than failure when we are out and about. It won't leave him confused as to why he's in trouble this time but he just did it an hour ago (at home) and it was perfectly fine.
2. High Chair Etiquette.
Once a baby is old enough to sit in a high chair, there are automatically decisions that you make (or don't make!) that set the stage for the future. For example, are they allowed to grab at the spoon? (no, sir!) Is it okay for them to throw things off the tray? (Absolutely not.) Can they yell and make loud noises while in it? (Um...no!) Are they allowed down the moment they get bored or do they have to stay in it until all family members are finished eating? (more on that in a sec) Is it funny when they spit food out of their mouths? (It seemed like it the first time...not so much the time and time and time after that. Mommy lesson learned. Ha!) And more.
We have decided for our family that we have very specific expectations for high chair behavior. Since we do not think it is okay for our children to leave the table at a restaurant and walk around (before the family is finished eating), they will not be allowed to leave the high chair and walk around when the mealtime isn't over at home. We have a little boy who loves to walk and is busy 100% of his awake hours- anyone who knows us can vouch for his high activity level. But that doesn't change the fact that when he is put in the high chair, he stays there until Jerr and I have finished eating, too.
Another decision we've made is for Roman to eat each meal from his high chair, including every snack. It provides opportunities to practice good behavior and is just cleaner and less to vacuum later. Plus, Sophie can't help herself to his meals. It also teaches him to be mindful about when he is eating and will, I hope, keep him from developing habits that find him mindlessly eating while watching tv. It's important to me that we are teaching our kids healthy living habits for life!
3. Remove baby or the object?
I've found there to be two basic schools of thought concerning the things babies/young children are allowed to get into: remove the object, thereby removing the temptation for trouble, or teach baby what they can and cannot touch. I know people from both sides who have found success with their choice. (Yes, that means I actually know people- more than one!- who have SUCCESSFULLY taught their children that they can't touch that pretty decorative item instead of child-proofing their decor.) We are also of this school of thought. To child-proof our house we have put the plugs in the electric sockets and will be installing a drawer-closer-thingy to the knife drawer since Roman is able to open that drawer. Everything else has stayed where it is: glass and otherwise. All other drawers and cabinets are able to be opened: dvd case, etc.
Yes, this makes me work to know where he is and what he's doing at all times but I find it important to make teachable moments out of life. He has to learn that he can't mess in Sophie's food and water dishes because I'm not going to go to the extra work during the day of putting them down when she needs to eat and drink and putting them up when she doesn't. To me, there isn't a good reason that Roman can't learn to obey the word "no." And he has...for the most part! There are days he pushes boundaries and wants to know if his fingers really will be flicked if he puts his hands in Sophie's water bowl after I have told him not to. Yes, handsome boy, they will be. And I'm sure many more boundary-testing days will follow. But this is our family's house and we have decided to raise our children in a family-centered home, not a child-centered home. Sorry, Roman, it's not all about you and you will have to learn to behave appropriately in our family home. We will not decorate around you.
Jerry and I have decided to make one exception- Christmas time. Since the decorations and tree will be seasonal only and out for a short 2 months, it's not worth the battle to keep Roman from pulling ornaments off the tree or messing with the garland I usually hang from the table in the living room. This year I will decorate for the holidays keeping Roman in mind, as much as is reasonable. So what if the Christmas tree's lights and garland go the whole way down (maybe the garland is even overly hopeful?) but the ornaments are limited to the top half. Who will really notice anyway? It's worth it to make sure our sentimental ornaments stay safe and don't become the martyr of a lesson taught. Some things are worth the sacrifice. The "Our First Christmas 2007" ornament is not.
So to those of you who are approaching parenthood for the first time, or who have a baby younger than Roman, I hope this inspired some thought and dialog at home. Jerry and I have had a BLAST talking about our personal thoughts on parenting and how we see our household being run. And more than anything I have learned that "the rules" look different for each family, depending on what you're willing to put up with and how you were raised. I'm also learning everything evolves. It's a process. It's a constant try and fail until you find what works. All I know is that it's been the most rewarding thing I've ever poured my time and effort into and I can't wait to find out what the next month looks like...or next week, for that matter! :)