Breaking All The Rules: Stuff I Thought I'd Never Do As A Parent (That I Totally Do)

Before I became a parent, I admit I thought plunking a small child down in front of the TV seemed kind of mean. And after: sometimes I thank the universe for children’s programming on PBS.
Publish date:
January 29, 2013
parenting, kids, rules, breaking rules, winging it, flexibility

When I was pregnant with my kid, there are a few things I said I would never, ever do as a parent. Among them: give my baby a pacifier. I had read about how pacifiers could lead to ear infections and dental problems, and how they could interfere with breastfeeding. I just was not going to do that, I decided.

We had been home from the hospital for a week when I broke the “no pacifiers” rule.

Seth was going back to work, my mom was going home to Iowa, and I was about to be alone with my baby for the first time. Just as my entire support system prepared to walk out the door at 8:00 a.m., Oliver had one of those massive, oh-my-god-what-is-wrong-with-my-baby crying fits. You know, the kind where all major food/poop/love needs are being met, and there is no discernable reason for the tears and also nothing you can do about them. He would not stop crying.

I was still in pain from all the stitches that were holding my ladyparts together, and -- on top of that -- I was not getting any sleep. Like, no sleep. So I started crying, too.

My mom gently suggested that I could maybe open one of the packages of pacifiers that we’d received at the baby shower? Too tired and freaked out to argue, I agreed.

It worked! Oliver calmed right down and slept peacefully. And suddenly I did not give a damn about any of the anti-pacifier decisions that I had made before. From that day forward, I was pro-pacifier.

And with that, I learned my first important lesson as a parent: Never say never.

Over the years, I’ve let go of many things I said I wouldn’t do: let Oliver sleep in my bed, play with toy guns, watch TV, and eat junk food -- just to name a few. Once I was actually in the thick of parenting, I learned that flexibility works better than rigidity. Sometimes the convenience of letting a toddler fall asleep in your bed outweighs all the damage you have read you could be doing by not sleep-training him (or vice versa).

Before I became a parent, I admit I thought plunking a small child down in front of the TV seemed kind of mean. And after: sometimes I still thank the universe for children’s programming on PBS, and also that show “Yo Gabba Gabba” (which I never, ever want to see again) -- otherwise I never would have been able to get anything done in Oliver’s earlier years. In my house, self-imposed rules are meant to be broken.


Parenting, like writing* is one of those things that sounds like a lot more fun in theory than it actually is in practice, and you don’t really know what you’re in for until you’re in it. I mean, I love my kid more than I ever knew I could love another person, but raising a child is not all organic food, playdates, crafting and inspiring the young minds in your care, while you look totally stylish and put together -- even if some parenting magazines and blogs are really good at advertising it as such.

Having a kid sometimes means wearing yoga pants 90% of the time and wondering how one tiny human can be so sick so often. (Is he licking the floors at daycare? you wonder, as your three-year-old vomits for the third time in an hour.)

And having a kid also means learning to be totally fine with just winging it. Sometimes things do not go the way you plan. Sometimes your kid does not want to get in the car, finish his dinner, do his homework, or clean his room. Sometimes you even have to resort to bribery.

Do you have any rules in mind for your future children? If you have kids, did you break your own rules right away, like I did with the pacifiers, or are you a totally in-control super-mom who has stuck to her guns about food and naps and TV-watching? Teach me your ways.

*Writing, in theory: drinking whiskey, being profound and witty, impressing people at parties. In practice: getting crumbs all over my keyboard, being a shut-in for 12 hours a day, wondering why anyone would hire a hack like me. Glamorous!

Somer is not much of a rule-breaker in general, so her Twitter is pretty boring: @somersherwood.