Enough with “sensitive”

I read the most ridiculous thing on The Good Men Project earlier today. Nathan Graziano can’t sleep in his own bed because his 8-year-old son has taken his place, and sleeps in the parents’ bed with his mom every night. Go read the article. I’ll wait.

Oh, you’re back already? Awesome. Let’s start with a few things:

First, I think The Good Men Project is a noble endeavor. There’s nothing wrong with examining what it means to be male–and especially to be a father–in today’s culture. Second, I think Graziano was brave in writing about an area in which he struggles.

And third, I think the piece is utter bullshit.

I’m a stay-at-home dad. I love my kid more than anything in the world, but I also understand that I am his parent. What I say goes–it’s not negotiable. I’m the adult; I’m the one capable of reason and making correct, beneficial decisions for my child. There has to come a point where you have to grow a pair and do what needs to be done.

Being sensitive to your child is a good thing. I try to give Noah choices, as far as his limits will allow him. He can choose whether to watch Sesame Street or Blue’s Clues. He can choose between grapes or an orange for a snack. But he can’t choose to sit around in a dirty diaper all day. I won’t let him. He can’t choose to throw a tantrum and expect to get his way. I won’t let him.

In other words, I love my kid enough to be a parent to him.

We made the decision not to co-sleep with Noah, largely because he was a pretty good sleeper by the time he was 12 weeks old. He sleeps through the night on his own. We can generally count on putting him down around 7:30 p.m., and he usually wakes around 7 a.m. It’s a blessing. But there are nights he wakes himself (and us) up screaming from a bad dream or some other discomfort.

One of us goes in with him. We rub his chest and calm him. We may take him to the rocking chair and rock with him for a bit. But we rarely ever take him to bed with us. One rare exception was a week-long vacation where he was sick the entire week. He slept with us then for a couple of nights, but transitioned back to his crib easily, and without fuss.

What gets me about Graziano’s piece is this: It smacks of weakness masking as sensitivity. I’m all for being sensitive to your child’s needs and desires. But at the end of the day, if you’re a parent, you have to be strong. You’re the model of adulthood the child is going to see. That should terrify some people. Hell, it terrifies me.

If you love your child, it does NOT mean they always get their way. In fact, it certainly means the opposite. Good parents set boundaries. Good parents expect certain behaviors from their kids. And because kids look for those boundaries, when they find them they feel safer.

I’m not advocating a John Wayne-type parenting style, pilgrim. But sometimes–and only sometimes–a Dad has to do what a Dad has to do. Sometimes you have to suck it up, Nancy, and move your kid to his bed. You steel yourself against the screaming and the crying and the caterwauling. You do it for your sanity, yes, but you also do it because it’s the right decision for the kid.

Feelings are wonderful, great things. But sometimes you set them aside. You man up. I’ll talk to folks about how I feel about a subject, but at the end of the day, the way you act is more important. Hemingway said “What’s right is what feels good afterward.” I wonder how good Nathan Graziano feels about himself. If his article is any indication, it’s not good.

I don’t understand how it’s become permissible in society for parents–for fathers, especially–to let their kids dictate their lives. Good parents set boundaries and enforce them. (And they also know that sometimes–just sometimes–it’s OK to break those boundaries, too.)

Nathan Graziano isn’t doing his kid any favors by tacitly approving this behavior. I hope he loves the boy enough to change.

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6 thoughts on “Enough with “sensitive”

  1. I’m kinda torn on this, Bobby. I see both sides. In my opinion, to put his foot down now would only take away the sense of security that his son has developed. If he truly wants his son to sleep in his own bed, there are ways to go about the transition without negative effects. It would require him to man up and be consistent with the follow through…which means getting up each and every time to put him back in his bed. I guess the dude really needs to ask himself what his goal is. Is his goal to get his son to sleep in his own bed? Then do what it takes to make it happen. Do it in a loving, confident, consistent pattern. It’s a win/win situation. The son continues to feel the security that he has known and needed, the dad gets to sleep in his own bed with his wife without feeling like a jerk.

    This is my humble opinion, anyway. I’ve been there. I know where the dad is coming from first hand. I’m not a big disciplinarian…never have been. With my love of psychology, I was able to find a way that worked without my son or I having bad feelings about it. (Which was very important to me). There are few things that I put my foot down on…I save those for situations that you were speaking of, (ie the diaper). Some things are simply non-negotiable. Noah is going to be an awesome adult. By allowing him to make his own choices on those things that he is capable of, you are showing him so many things that most people are unaware of. You are showing him that you trust him, you are allowing him to express himself, and his own will, within boundaries, for his own safety. Those are what I call “life-lessons”…it will apply to almost every situation throughout his entire life.

    Good job, Bobby 🙂 You are raising an emotionally healthy child. This is a rarity in today’s world. Noah is blessed to have such an insightful daddy.

    • Thanks for the input, Lori. I guess the thing that gets me is that the guy seems to fear interacting with his kid as a parent would. For me, that’s flabbergasting. I think you can instill discipline and still love your child–and the child can still tell you love him/her. It doesn’t have to be win-lose for the child or the parent. 🙂

  2. I can tell you only have one child. I was a really awesome mom, until I had my second baby. It is a million times easier to deal with sleep issues with only one kid in the house. Our son is five now. We followed all the ways to get him to be an independent sleeper in his own room. That worked beautifully until his baby sister was born. Then everything changed because her crib was on the other side of the wall from his bed and she woke up, a lot, in the night.

    It is also a completely different story when your child is 3,4, 5 and they are dealing with anxieties that they don’t have at 2. Just be very, very careful judging any parent whose child is older than yours…it will come back to bite you, guaranteed!

    • Thanks for your input. I’m sure you’re still a good mom; I know with more kids comes more challenges. I just think, for our family at least, setting boundaries is a big issue. But who knows? You may be right–Misty and I are trying for another little one, so I suppose we’ll see. Regardless, thank you for coming by and commenting.

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