This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short. If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on. I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.
When we decided not to ever give Ellie a bottle, that also meant that we couldn’t easily leave her with another person for any length of time. When a baby nurses every two hours (with really only an hour and a half break between nursing sessions), that doesn’t leave much time for going out! This also led us to consider other issues, such as whether and when to leave Ellie in nursery at church, with babysitters at home, and in nursery at a Bible study that I was attending.
When you ask people about this topic, you’ll get varying responses. One I heard often was that Ellie needed to get used to being separated from me and that eventually she would learn that it was OK and that I would come back. And so it was OK if she was unhappy while I was gone because it was good for her to learn that I would come back.
This didn’t really jive with our determination to be responsive to her all the time and never put her in a situation where she needed to cry.
Ultimately, my mother’s heart told me that I wasn’t comfortable with leaving Ellie anywhere and with anyone unless I was rock solid sure that she was not going to be unhappy. This has led us to decide the following things:
1. We aren’t going to put Ellie into nursery at our church* (or in any similar situation) until she is old enough to tell us that she wants to go when we ask her. We also want to be able to communicate clearly with her when we pick her up, to make sure that everything was OK. We’re anticipating that this means she won’t be going to nursery until she’s close to three although one never knows how and when a child’s language skills are going to develop!
We keep Ellie in church with us until the sermon starts. Then Nik and I take turns taking her into the overflow room, where we can listen to the sermon and Ellie can play freely. Ellie usually is willing to play quietly when she has the freedom to move around and we’ve found that she isn’t a distraction to the [very few] other people in that room. Yes, this means that one or the other of us doesn’t pay full attention to the sermon every week but we’ve decided that is an acceptable sacrifice to make to ensure that we are meeting Ellie’s needs.
2. We don’t go out in the evening. This means that we don’t go out on date nights. I know, shocking. How does our marriage survive? How will we even know what to talk about when Ellie goes to college?
Here’s the thing. We didn’t really ever go out on date nights, even when we were dating. From the very beginning, we just talked and talked and talked. We didn’t go out to movies. We rarely went out to eat (at least once we got married). We just hung out with each other. And guess what? We still do! Ellie usually goes to sleep by 7:30, which gives us a couple solid hours to be together (ahem, if I don’t go upstairs and sew while Nik is doing schoolwork!). We honestly don’t feel like this is a sacrifice. We love cooking together, eating together, and talking together. We don’t watch TV. We [very] rarely watch movies. When we have free time, we talk. I think we probably talk more than many couples do, even those who go on date nights. This works for us.
Parents of older kids have told me that as their kids have gotten older, they’ve felt the need to get away because older kids stay up later and can understand what you’re saying! So I’m sure once Ellie is bigger, we’ll feel the need to get away by ourselves. By that point, Ellie will be older and this issue won’t be an issue anymore.
3. We only ask Nik’s mom to babysit during the day, when we know that Ellie is going to be happy and content to be away from us. We are certainly blessed to have Nik’s mom near us to babysit when we need her. If we didn’t have her close by, we would probably call on friends who Ellie sees regularly to help us if we needed babysitting. In any case, we only are willing to leave her with people who we know will call us as soon as it becomes clear that she is unhappy and not willing to be consoled. We don’t ask Nik’s mom to babysit often at all, not nearly enough for Yiayia’s tastes!
We prefer to stay close to Ellie, knowing that sooner than we think, she’ll be asking to go to Yiayia’s without us to play!
Ellie will eventually know, in her heart of hearts, that when we’re gone, we’re going to come back. We just don’t think she needs to learn that lesson when she’s one. She’ll learn it eventually. I asked some like-minded friends about this topic back when Ellie was two months old and one of them told me she tries to to make determinations about what’s okay for her kids not based on whether they will be able to eventually cope with it when they see that there’s no other choice but rather on whether they should even have to deal with something if they’re not ready to. In other words, why force Ellie to learn to be independent from me before she’s ready when eventually she will be ready? I’m not worried that we’re going to end up with a whiny, clingy, dependent ten-year old. All children eventually learn to trust that their parents will come back and to even look forward to getting to be with other people. We just don’t feel the need to push Ellie to learn that.
Right now, Ellie clearly is NOT ready for me to leave her with anyone other than Nik, Nik’s mom, and a couple other very well-known trusted friends. She cries quite quickly if I have to leave her, even for just a few seconds, when we’re in unfamiliar (or even some familiar) situations. This confirms to me that we’re making the right decision to keep her close to us.
When she’s ready, she will tell us. And then, yes, Yiayia will finally get to babysit as much as she wants to! 🙂
*I do want to be clear here that we have no reservations at all about the nursery at our church. I worked in the nursery for several years and I know it’s a vital ministry for parents. We’ve just made this particular decision because it’s what we think is best for Ellie.
Here’s an article that helped us feel better about thinking that date nights were a modern unnecessary invention (at least for us).
Here’s an article that confirmed my thoughts about raising happy, independent kids.
Update, 10/17/12: I wrote a bit more here about Ellie’s transition to being away from us (at two years old).