“Every child is different.”
“We need to allow our children to be themselves.”
“Everyone parents a little bit differently and that’s ok.”
“You have to do what’s best for your family.”
These are some of the expressions that you will hear parents say. Everything in the parenting world is flowers and butterflies until you try to apply these expressions to certain aspects of parenting. By certain aspects of parenting, I mean: potty-training, giving your kid a pacifier, or how long you let them have a bottle.
By age one, you are supposed to put your kids on whole milk and take away a bottle. If you allow your kid to have a pacifier at age two you clearly don’t care about your child’s dental health. And if your kid isn’t fully potty-trained before they turn three, then you are just a lazy parent. Well, that’s what a lot of parental bystanders will say.
Why, all of a sudden, do we go from tolerant, loving people, encouraging parenting each child differently and doing what is best for the family, to a judging, accusatory society that attacks any parenting style that doesn’t align with the arbitrary standards of what we are supposed to do?
There are examples of this everywhere. But this one hits home for me:
Recently, Melissa Joan Hart posted a photo on Instagram of her napping toddler. She captioned the picture: “Sometimes I have flashes where I can see my boys 20 years in the future. Especially when they do these grown men things like hands down the pants. PS someone needs a hair cut on his giant head”. So what is wrong with this? Well, the napping boy happened to have a pacifier in his mouth—and social media went crazy criticizing her parenting style for allowing her son to still have a pacifier.
Really, people don’t have anything better to do than criticize that??
And they probably won’t have anything better to do than criticize me either.
My son is 3½ years old. For the most part, he is potty trained (although, that just recently became the case, but that is a different story), but he still likes to drink his milk from a bottle. He is fine drinking water or juice from a sippy cup, a cup with a straw, or even an open cup (with a little help so he doesn’t spill). But when he comes home from preschool and says in that cute little voice, “Mom, I want a ba (his term for bottle) and snuggle.” I mean, seriously, who can say no to that? I don’t even want to say no. I actually sort of bask in the fact that my three-year-old wants to sit still for a few minutes and snuggle with me—because Heaven knows he is moving at the speed of lightning the rest of the day.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we have tried to get him to give up his bottles. For two days, all I offered him was milk in a sippy cup. He ate meals normally, refused to drink milk at all, and cried so much he worked himself into several naps both days—and that is highly unusual. We have offered prizes and sticker charts. We even went so far as to have Santa ask him to give up his bottles. Now you would think that most children would be mesmerized by Santa and be willing to do anything that he would ask. Not my little boy. He very adamantly told Santa “NO!”
While our tactic didn’t work, it was kind of funny to watch the scenario play out.
Should he still have a bottle? Probably not… but really, how is this harming him? Will it somehow cause physical or psychological damage to him that I have allowed him to drink milk from a bottle for this long? No. Does he need a bottle in public or does it restrict his everyday activity? No. Does he only want to drink milk from his bottles and neglect his other food, which he needs in order to get a well-balanced diet? No.
So when I ask myself these questions and find that the answer is “No” to each one, I relax a little bit and have decided that it’s ok. Eventually, when he is ready—as we keep encouraging him to drink milk from a sippy (yes, I am one of those parents that thinks that learning is a process)—he will give up his bottles.