Q. "In response to 'Let Crying Babies Lie,' I wish you had let this woman know that she seemed like a concerned, caring mother who wants to meet the needs of her young child.
"Are you familiar with Erik Erikson's first stage of development, that a child learns either to trust -- or mistrust? A child learns trust by having her needs met.
"My 2 1/2-year-old also would climb in bed with us during the night. (I refer you to The Family Bed by Tine Thevenin, a self-published book which some libraries carry.)
"Who doesn't like to sleep with someone or in someone else's room? Why are children different?
"Why must we feel so threatened by a young child, so afraid they are out to get us, turn us around, use us?
"We don't like our needs to be ignored; let's not ignore theirs."
Q. (from another irate parent): "I, too, have a child who was waking up 2-4 times a night, and resisted his crib after nursing. After much reading, thinking and discussion with my husband, I realized that not only does my child have needs during the day, but also at night.
"That helped me relax with my child, instead of resenting him. When he awoke, I would simply bring him to bed and both of us would fall back to sleep.
After several months, he would return to his bed after a brief nursing. He is now 22 months old and sleeps in his own bed.
"Your answer saddened me. I think it typifies our society's attitude, which encourages children to be independent very young. Maybe if we allowed them more security, they would be more confident adults."
A. Some days are like this; thank heavens, not many.
There are many ways to rear children and the best ones are instinctive. Parents who follow their own inclinations encourage their children to have the same attitudes, values, discipline, interests--and humor -- that they have. If these inclinations are sound -- and they usually are -- they will be friends down all the days.
However, there are times when parents feel unsure of themselves, or simply can't agree. If they are concerned and caring enough, they read, think, discuss--and they ask questions. Whoever answers -- doctor, psychologist, teacher, or like moi, a plain old parent -- filters advice through a special prism.
No two people ever agree completely -- especially about something as important as child care -- but the advice given to that mother and her 21-month-old child wasn't as different from yours as the headline implied, or you seem to have inferred.
Of course a child should be answered when she cries, day or night. She should be attended, kissed, soothed, but if she cries in the night, she stays in her own bed. At first it may mean checking and calming her 10 times between bedtime and dawn, but she's much too old to need 2-4 feedings, or even one. If self-demand goes on too long, it turns into selfishness.
It isn't as if she's still learning trust at that age. If a child's needs are met in the first year of life, she should be able to keep the faith she was born with. According to Erikson, a child of 21 months is ready to exercise independence. This means she makes extra demands and learns to accept it when a few aren't met.
Some parents are generous enough to share their bed with a leaky, squeaky child. Some will go back to their own beds a few months later, but this is more the exception than the rule.
To this parent, the family bed is the place to tuck a feverish child at night, with a hand across her tummy so a rising temperature can get immediate attention. And the family bed is the special treat -- to cuddle up for a bedtime story, to look at the comics on Sunday morning, to talk seriously about Santa Claus and stars and scares.
It's true that child care is a 24-hour responsibility, but parents have needs too. A child both blesses and stresses a marriage. There's no point in tipping the balance.