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.