There is no finish line.

Last night I searched for “infant developmental timelines” to explain our daughter’s re-occurrence in night waking and nursing. I was immediately inundated with awful YOU PARENT WRONG posts. These sorts of debates, “experts,” and forums really got to me with our first child. I was certain that every behavioral bump in the road was a result of terrible choices made on my part or was going to a permanent fixture in our life. The debates and varied advice over sleep training, bottle feeding, pumping, formula, sleep sacks, swaddles, room sharing, bed sharing, baby led eating, weaning, baby wearing, walkers, and so on stressed me out beyond belief. Now I find myself mostly just annoyed (especially if they manage to get to me).

Our first child is only three, I’m far from a parenting expert (a title I would find suspect regardless), but I have figured one thing out for myself: I should not parent as if there is a finish line, because there isn’t.

There isn’t a ceremony when he turns 25 where all the other parents from the same year congregate, and those with the most categorically successful children are applauded for selecting the superior sleep ideology 24 and a half years ago.

As parents you do what you think is best in that moment. Sure, there are some helpful studies we can reference along the way, but most will be replaced approximately 18 years from now when we will have no chance to employ the new wisdom.

So hey there, competitive, law-school driven, type-a self: THERE IS NO WINNING. STOP TRYING TO WIN. I “win” by having a rich and healthy relationship with the small humans I’ve created. This can be created thousands of different ways and will depend on the child, where I am as a person, our marriage, where we live, our professions, etc… There is no race to be won here, only adjustments and probably lots of hugs and laughs.

Babies and children, like adults, change. All the damn time humans change. It’s infuriating but inevitable. Hey self, find a sure-fire way of getting Max to bed? Next week/month/year it won’t work. That doesn’t mean I’m a shitty mom. It means he is growing, changing, and developing. Our life and schedule will grow and change with him and his sister. That’s OK. This too shall pass. I won’t be arguing over bedtime with him when he’s 30. I promise.

To quote the great Doctor Who “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly… time-y wimey… stuff.”

I’ve come to believe parenting is a lot like that. It’s not like “sleep training directly creates a CEO with 100k salary.” It’s more, “we made this choice about sleep options because it worked for our baby and life style, so we slept better and had a better family dynamic so our children were more relaxed and enjoyed school, and as such they’ve gone to fruitful lives” or “we tried that sleep method and were miserable so instead we did this and as such had a better family dynamic so our children were more relaxed…” You get the idea.

Anyway, I guess what I’m getting at is this: Don’t get lost searching for a finish line that doesn’t exist. The only prize in parenthood if getting to know, love, and respect this brand new human you had a hand in making and influencing. Try to enjoy it, won’t you?