Dear Amy: I’m a new parent of a five-month-old baby.
My partner and I love our baby, but we have different approaches and I’m concerned that my partner’s parenting approach won’t be good for our baby in the long term.
We’re both introverts, so making “conversation” to promote language development doesn’t come easily to either of us, but I try as much as possible to talk with baby, narrate what I’m doing, sing, etc.
My partner mostly makes nonsense sounds or says “hi” to the baby.
Soon I’ll be going back to work and my partner will be watching the baby a few days a week. I’m worried the baby will be delayed because of not enough stimulation.
I can’t figure out how to bring this up without it just sounding like criticism.
Am I overreacting and/or overthinking this?
— Concerned Co-parent
Dear Concerned: You are right to understand how important it is to connect verbally with babies. Narrating your activities will acquaint your child with human speech and language. It’s also a good way to get through days that can be long and tiring.
But your partner is also narrating the day to your baby — just using different language patterns.
“Nonsense sounds” mimic the music of language, and your baby will hear these and start to imitate them. When you and your partner hold your baby close, make eye contact, and mirror or imitate your baby’s sounds, your child may laugh – this is a delightful example of early humor emerging.
My overall point is that it’s all good. Verbal or babble: the connection is the thing.
One way to help your partner with parenting during the time you’re at work would be to encourage them to join neighborhood groups of other parents and children. This might be challenging for an introvert, but being around others will expose both parent and baby to stimulating experiences and lots of opportunities for learning.
I highly recommend the work of T. Berry Brazelton, whose compassionate and commonsense advice has influenced generations of thoughtful parents. Check him out on YouTube, and read his book: “Touchpoints-Birth to Three,” written with co-author Joshua Sparrow (2006, De Capo Lifelong Books).
Dear Amy: I want advice on how to be an awesome mother-in-law!
Our 30-year-old son has been dating a lovely woman for three years and they are engaged to be married.
We are a close-knit family.
The problem is that I have trouble feeling connected to her.
I want to love her but I’m not there yet.
She is easy to be around, but I feel like we have very different interests.
Part of me worries that she is only making the effort to get to know me now – before they are married, so she can prove to our son that she is worthy.
We are already so tired of hearing all about this wedding … this seems to be the biggest topic of conversation for her!
I’m not excited about spending large sums of money on a wedding.
We understand we should pay for the rehearsal dinner and we have offered to pay for the musicians at the cocktail reception.
It’s going to be a giant and very traditional (Italian Catholic) event.
We would rather give them a down payment for a house than pay for this.
I am trying to focus on connecting, so I have asked about us going to look at the rehearsal dinner locations.
The wedding is about a six-hour drive. I hate long car rides, but I will be a good sport.
— Mother of the Groom
Dear MOG: The way to be a good mother-in-law is to be understanding, non-judgmental, and open-minded. You should try to be available when asked, but not interfere.
Every choice this young woman makes is followed by your opinion that it is not your taste. You even suspect her motives in relating to you.
Your son has chosen her. You don’t have to be her best friend, or a mother-substitute. You don’t even need to be “awesome.” But you should enter this relationship by accepting her, as she is, and making a choice to trust her.
Dear Amy: I have a general question. Why is it that so often people want to confront someone, but they don’t want to upset them or “hurt their feelings?”
Are we all such cowards?
— Asking for a Friend
Dear Asking: It takes a level of bravery to be deeply honest, especially when you know you will upset someone you care about.
I admire this kind of honesty.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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