Babies, Milestones, and Bragging

    Expert Parenting Pointers

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    Q:

    We’ll be around my very large family this holiday with a brand new baby. He’ll be about six weeks old when we visit. I’m already feeling antsy about passing him around from family member to family member. Should I try to get over it or is there any parenting science to back up my concern about this practice.

    A:

    Congratulations on the birth of your little one! Your question brought back my own memories of the anxiety I had as a parent of a newborn. I think I barely left the house with him during his first three months, so I know how you feel. Looking back at that time in my own life I now have some perspective that might be helpful.

    I do believe that as a parent you have every right to do what feels comfortable for you in this situation. If you have concerns about many different people handling the baby, I would approach the situation as follows. Let your family know ahead of time so that they have clear expectations. You can simply say that as protective parents, “We ask that you respect our wishes about contact with the newborn during the cold and flu season.” While your family may be disappointed, it is important that they make you feel welcome and comfortable and that means excepting boundaries even if they might not agree.

    As to the parenting science, children do have to build up their immunities and the only way to do this is with exposure, so there comes a point at which you just have to accept the inevitable. Children under the age of three contract ten to twelve viruses a year. While you cannot control much in terms of exposure, the one thing you can ask is that when handling your baby, any adult must wash his hands thoroughly. Hand washing is the single most effective way of cutting down on exposure to germs. And of course anyone who is known to be ill must keep their distance.

    Hopefully your family will not be too disappointed in having to enjoy your baby from some distance. Try not to fret too much and enjoy the holiday visit with your extended family.

     

    Q:

    I just got home from a friend’s house and was amazed to see her 9-month-old almost walking. My little guy is finally sitting up by himself – if I put him there. Should I be worried?

    A:

    While it is great for babies to have buddies, this is a common danger for parents. It seems we can’t help but compare our babies with his or her peers. But it is important to keep in mind the fact that each baby grows and develops in his own way and at his own pace.

    What is key for parents to understand is what falls within the range of expected development at each stage. You can get this information during your baby’s pediatric checkup. Let your baby’s doctor know what new behaviors you have observed and ask if there is anything else you should be seeing at this age. In addition, it is helpful to have a resource which offers developmental lines, meaning the milestones for each month of life. The Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg age-by-age series is a good one. I also like Infants and Mothers by T. Berry Brazelton, MD. This book addresses developmental differences during the first year of life.

     

    Q:

    We’re not well-off, but we do fine. All of my kids get a few nice presents at Christmas, but our family doesn’t go overboard. Every year the same kid on our street harps on how many presents she got and how expensive they are and asks my daughter what she got. My daughter has actually told me she wants to make up things so she doesn’t have to listen to this girl (who she considers a friend) brag endlessly. How do I help my daughter deal with this girl, short of stuffing a sock in her mouth when she’s at our house?

    A:

    Where to begin? There are so many issues couched in your question. First and foremost, remember that the best way to parent is from your wisdom and your values. It sounds to me as though you have set a good example of living within your means and taking the emphasis off of material things and gifts around the holiday. This will serve your daughter well as she continues to grow and mature. Remember that it is not the stuff we give our kids that they remember, but the time we spent with them and the way we made them feel and help them experience the holiday season.

    As to the issue of this kid on your street, it might be a good idea to have a conversation about friendship. I think your daughter has given you an opening when she told you that she was tempted to make up things. Ask her what she looks for in a friend and then ask her whether this girl truly measures up. Share with her what you value in a friend and let her know that true friends don’t try to compete with one another or make the other person feel inferior.

    In addition, I would coach her as to how she might respond given the inevitable scenario you describe. Let her know that one choice is to simply say she had a fun holiday and that she is grateful for the things she received. This way she won’t be caught off-guard and drawn into a conversation that makes her feel uncomfortable. Remember that these are life lessons that are all a part of growing up.