I like to ask other parents to share how they raise their kids. I think we’ve made some good choices with Annabel, and I think that’s largely in part to getting many differing perspectives and opinions on different topics. I read lots of “What to Expect” type things: My Toddler This Week, My Two Year Old Today, etc. I’ve always been a researcher and I like to know what might be coming and how I can prepare. Half the time, the stuff I read never applies to Annie, but I feel knowledgeable and like I have some control, which I know is ridiculous but I humor myself.
I don’t give advice with the same enthusiasm that I receive it. I used to love shelling out parenting advice. Your kid hit his head? Mine does it all the time, as long as she doesn’t lose consciousness or vomit, he’s fine! Your four-month old doesn’t like solids? You might have started him too early! Daughter eats food off the floor? So does mine, and she hasn’t died from it!
But then…my daughter did die. And even though it had nothing to do with anything I could control, I felt completely unqualified to give advice. I worried that I could say something as basic as, “Change your baby’s diaper when it’s dirty,” and the person I was speaking to would think, “Yeah, that sounds good, but her baby died, so …”
I started to keep my mouth shut. I never wanted to offer up anything I’d learned from my time with Madeline because I didn’t want to invite scrutiny. I was already turning over every decision I’d ever made in my mind, regretting letting her eat that apple slice off the floor. I couldn’t bear the thought of other people thinking the same things…what if they were right?
I’m trying to get out of my head, but I’m not doing the best job. If someone directly asks me for advice now, I’ll give it, but I will then worry for days that something bad will happen as a result of my suggestions. Or maybe nothing will happen, and I’ll finally have to admit that everything is random and entirely out of my control. That should be comforting, except it’s not. It means there’s nothing I can do to keep it from happening again.
I know it’s irrational. I haven’t really felt rational in three years.