Many people — mostly parents — seem to have absurdly intense opinions about every single solitary aspect of parenting. They have these dogmas that they attach to the most unremarkable minutia of everyday parenthood and they will defend these orthodoxies ruthlessly. I don’t get it. These zealots get specific — I mean, REALLY specific — about how they think all human beings, everywhere, no matter what, should raise their own kids. Here’s an example: Today I got into a conversation with a stranger at the coffee shop. At some point she asked me if our newborn twins cry a lot. To this, I smiled and said something like, “Hey, thank God for pacifiers, right?” I guess I was expecting a knowing nod or at least a slight smirk in response. Instead, her face turned pale and her expression cold. She had a look that would have made sense if I had said, “Hey, thank God for bear tranquilizers, right?” This pleasant interaction had taken a dark turn. I had mentioned pacifiers. The little rubber nipple things you give to babies — she had feelings about it. Strong feelings. She whispered in a stern and hushed voice, as if to avoid the ears of the evil operatives for Big Pacifier who are likely monitoring her and the other members of the anti-pacifier militia, and she said, ” Oh, I don’t believe in pacifiers!”
“Uh, you don’t believe in them? I’m not even sure what that means. They aren’t a religion, as far as I know.”
Well, she then went on to give me a 15 minute speech about the horrors of pacifiers. You give your baby a pacifier and, next thing you know, they’ve become a junkie or a terrorist or something. All because of the pacifier. Pacifiers are tools of Satan. She has a child, you see, and she didn’t use them with him. Therefore, clearly, nobody else ever should use them ever in the universe for any reason. She explained how she was able to get her baby to stop crying through natural means. Well, everyone has to be proud of something, and this was apparently her something. I would have felt sorry for her if it weren’t for the fact that my pity was overridden by my revulsion at her obnoxious and pretentious attempt to turn a friendly bit of small talk into a parental pissing match. Later that night I told my wife about the interaction. Naively, I exclaimed, “I can’t believe that people actually give a crap about who uses pacifiers! How stupid!” My wife was not surprised at all. Pacifiers, she explained, are “controversial.”
Controversial. The death penalty controversial. Internment camps were controversial. Apparently, silicone orthodontic teats for infants belong in this same category. Of course. It’s parenting — everything is controversial. Maybe I’m the crazy one, but I don’t have an ideological position on pacifiers. I don’t have an ideological position on most parenting decisions. If it’s safe and it helps and it seems like the right idea, we’ll probably give it a try. Fools that we are. And I hate to pull the twin card, but seriously, lady, you tell me how much you care about your bizarre anti-pacifier code after spending even one single night with two fussy infants. Who knows, maybe you’d suffer through sleepless night after sleepless night, clutching firmly to your unnecessary principles while telling yourself over and over, “Can’t use the pacifiers… Anything but the pacifiers…” Maybe you’d do that. Maybe. You can’t really know until you’ve run that particular gauntlet. And even if you did, I can’t say I’d admire your decision, honestly. Why be a martyr for such a silly little thing when you could calm your baby and get some sleep and carry on with your life like a normal person? If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far about raising twins, it’s this: Be practical. This is no time to be a freaking crusader about some largely insignificant facet of child rearing. When the sh*t is hitting the fan (literally — my son projectile pooped onto my oscillating fan a few days ago) you just need to do what is necessary to resolve the situation. Especially because there’s going to be another situation to resolve in, like, 46 seconds.
I’m not saying I don’t have principles. I’m just saying I don’t have principles that govern things like pacifiers and similar banalities. I’m also not saying I’ve never had an opinion about how other people raise their kids. But my opinions in that regard have to do with very broad and basic ideas about how all children in a civilized society should be raised. I’ve articulated some of them recently. But, outside of the sorts of plainly destructive practices I’ve discussed before, I think you should just love your kids and do what’s best for them and your family. And, yes, it is as simple as that.
Just as long as you don’t swaddle. I don’t believe in swaddling. Seriously, if you swaddle you are a horrible person. I will fight you. I swear, I will punch you right in your stupid swaddling face. Nobody should ever swaddle their kids. Ever!