I held my pregnant belly and nodded politely. I was ready for the pearl of wisdom, the sage counsel, the tip gleaned from the latest book. At this point in the lifelong journey of listening to parenting advice, I knew what to expect. Or I thought I did.
It was then that I heard it — the best parenting advice I ever received. "Do what works for your family."
My daughter slept poorly from the beginning. Well out of the newborn phase when other kids were logging eight hours, Norah was still logging well over eight wake-ups. I started doubting my ability to mother my daughter if I couldn't even get her to stay asleep. As I struggled with sleeplessness and self-doubt, I became keenly aware that others would do things differently. Sleep train, cry it out. After all, this was ridiculous. What child at this age is up all night? What kind of parent would endure the sleep deprivation? Still, I felt deep within myself that I wanted to do the unpopular thing. And yes, it felt excruciating. I was almost constantly tired, with no end in sight.
It was in that time of exhaustion that I pulled on the wisdom I received. It was mixed in with the rest of the advice and was, at times, difficult to see. But it was there: do what works for your family. And so I did.
That advice has stuck with me in my parenting journey. Like panning for gold, I continually strain it out and let the other words fall away. It was the best verbal gift I had been given, and I continue to cling to it. Free of judgment and prescription, free of cultural expectations or the popular parenting craze, what works for your family will be just that — unique to you.
May these words give you permission to go with your gut. May they encourage you to do what you feel is right. And may you give this gift of acceptance to another parent.