In writing this testimony, we have seen arguments that people who fail with Ezzo's materials are unintelligent or inconsistent with the materials. My husband and I are well-educated people. My husband graduated from Emory University and had an additional four years of graduate school (total of eight years of education) to become a doctor of optometry. I have a degree in special education and had a few years of teaching experience under my belt when we encountered the Ezzo's materials. We are also Christians, wholly devoted to Christ and rearing our children in the knowledge of Him. However, neither one of us had much experience with small children. We were also away from our families and had little to no guidance in what to do with a new baby. So at the time, Babywise was a Godsend to us. It had a neatly laid out plan that we believed would give us a "good baby" and make us confident parents. By the time our daughter was born, I had the entire book marked up with notes and highlighting. I was determined to do the program correctly. I even had my daughter's routine written out before we came home from the hospital!
Katie was initially very sleepy. She was born almost a month early and had a bad case of jaundice. She was also smaller than most babies, having a birth weight of a little over five and a half pounds. I breastfed her according to the guidelines in Babywise, waking her up for each meal and making sure she stayed awake for each feeding. This was a difficult task since all Katie wanted to do was sleep! The feeding routine went well, however, and it wasn't long before she fell into a nice, predictable hunger pattern. So far we were enjoying the results of Babywise.
Once Katie's bout with jaundice ended and her first month of life was over, her constant sleepiness ended. This was when we began to have difficulties with her routine. We followed the advice in Babywise and laid her down awake without any sort of "sleep prop." Once we laid her down, she began crying. Sometimes she would cry for thirty or forty-five minutes before finally falling asleep. Each time, we never used any sleep props to help her fall asleep. We did check on her, but were very careful not to rock her or hold her for fear of creating what Gary Ezzo called a "sleep prop". I remember taking a shower just so I wouldn't have to listen to her crying. Katie would often wake mid-way through the nap, but I remembered the advice in Babywise about mom, not baby, determining when naptime begins and ends. Thus, I checked to make sure she was physically OK and then left her to cry herself back to sleep, which would often take as long as it had when we first laid her down.
As Katie got closer to three months of age, she was gaining plenty of weight and was well over the 50th percentile. Though we stuck to the eat/wake/sleep routine consistently, she was not sleeping through the night. We were totally frustrated at that point. We were following Ezzo's advice consistently and couldn't understand why it wasn't working. We decided Katie was, as Ezzo said, one of those few Babywise babies who had their clock "stuck." Following his advice, we did not get up to feed her when she woke for her 2 AM feed. Instead, we both crammed earplugs in our ears to drown out her screams. I remember pulling my earplugs out periodically that first night to see if she was still crying. Much to my dismay, each time I took the earplugs out, she was. Finally, just before her morning feed at 6 AM, the crying stopped. When I went to feed her, I found her curled on her side at the edge of her crib, drenched in sweat. When I picked her up, she was completely exhausted and too tired to nurse. I remember thinking, "What have I done? Am I really doing the right thing to her?" The crying didn't last as long the second night. The third night it lasted only ten minutes or so. After that, Katie was finally sleeping through the night.
As the remaining months of her first year went on, Katie finally began falling asleep without crying. She also no longer woke mid-way through her naps. The only exception to this was when she was teething or when she was ill. We patted ourselves on the back for finally achieving the goal of a baby who could fall asleep unaided. One problem we weren't prepared for, however, was that Katie would not fall asleep anywhere other than her crib. This gave the church nursery workers a very difficult time. Each time I would pick her up after church, they would tell me what a hard time she was having. Eventually, Chris and I just quit putting her in the nursery. Instead, I would sit in the church's foyer with her during services. Sometimes I simply would not go to church at all.
Another problem that we noticed was that Katie was easily frustrated much more so than any of her peers. She was behind in her physical development, which made it very difficult for her since she was mentally ready to do things before her body was able. She rarely smiled and people always referred to her as "serious" or "sad." Whenever we were out with her, I felt enormous pressure to make her behave. This was especially true whenever we were with our friends who were also using Babywise. When Katie would throw food off her highchair tray, I felt mortified. When she continued to reach for an object that was a "no touch", I felt like I had failed despite my efforts to train her at home. I kept wondering what are we doing wrong? Why isn't she a "good" baby? I would go back to the book quite often to make sure I was following the advice correctly. Each time I did so, I found that I was. Both my husband and I were becoming increasingly frustrated that Katie wasn't getting with the program, especially since we were implementing it exactly as the book said to! At that time, I began to have some doubts about Ezzo's program, but not enough to sway me from it. I believe my pride kept me from ditching it all together. I just kept thinking, if I stick with it, Katie will be the good baby Ezzo said I'd have if I followed his advice.
After Katie's first birthday, we moved to Indiana. Katie's babyhood was difficult, but her toddlerhood was even worse. We enrolled in a Growing Kids God's Way class at a church we were attending. After she turned a year old, we began training with "the rod" in the hope that it would help her behavior. We were very consistent with the spankings. Sometimes they would deter Katie, but many times they didn't keep her from disobeying. Katie also began to act very aggressively toward me. I remember one incident when she was in the bathtub. She was reaching for something she wasn't supposed to have (the soap, I think) and I told her no. She got very angry and screamed at me, then continued to reach for it. I had "the rod" nearby and used it on her bare bottom. She went into a rage, clawing me and biting me. I spanked her a second time (I remained calm throughout this incident), but she continued to scream, claw, bite, and reach for the object. I remember reading Ezzo's advice in GKGW that if a child returned to the act of disobedience, the parent wasn't spanking hard enough. So I spanked her again. And again. And again, each time she screamed, clawed, bit, and reached for the object. I was controlled when I spanked her. I wasn't angry. Finally, I noticed her skin beginning to welt up. I put the rod down and simply moved the soap out of the way. I was concerned the rod was going to leave permanent marks if I continued the spankings at that time.
One afternoon, not long after the tub incident, I picked Katie up from the nursery where she played during my workouts at our local gym. One of the workers there pulled me aside and told me Katie was having a really hard time with the other children, especially the crawling babies. She was purposefully stepping on them and kicking them. I apologized to the worker and promised I'd work with Katie on this at home. Later that week, the incident happened again, only this time it was much worse. When the nursery workers tried to correct her, Katie flew into a rage and began hitting them and throwing the kiddy chairs. When I got home and put her down for a nap, I sat on the couch and just cried. I knew at that point that the Ezzo's program was not for us, that I was hurting my little girl by using it, and that I had to do something quickly before my relationship with her was completely ruined. After Katie's nap, I drove to the bookstore and bought a couple of parenting books. One was "Relational Parenting" by Dr. Ross Campbell. The other was Dr. Sears' "The Discipline Book." That afternoon and evening, I poured over both of these books and decided my entire approach to parenting was screwed up. Katie wasn't yet two then.
Chris and I slowly re-worked the way we parented Katie. We began a more attached approach, focusing on demonstrating the kind of love Christ demonstrated: a sacrificial love that modeled righteous behavior. We poured ourselves into Katie, teaching and training her gently, focusing on our relationship with her. After she turned two, we began to notice her behavior begin to improve. She still had outbursts and fits, but she began to desire to please us rather than defy us. For the first time in her life, she began hugging and kissing me without having to be asked. The best part of it was when she began telling me she loved me.
At that time, I joined a mom's group and met some attachment parents. I had such a negative image of these parents in my mind because of everything Ezzo had said about their parenting philosophy. I expected their children to be holy terrors. What I found astounded me. Their children were so loving and thoughtful without even having to be prompted! They listened to their mothers and did everything that was asked of them. It wasn't a robotic obedience, either. I could tell these kids genuinely wanted to please their mothers. Moreover, their mothers seemed to enjoy them so much! I could tell that the relationship they had with their children was strong and based in trust and love. As I watched one of them rock her infant to sleep tenderly in a sling, I deeply regretted not having a single moment like that during Katie's infancy. I observed another mom singing to and cradling her son to sleep and I suddenly began to see what Ezzo described as "sleep props" as something beautiful. I promised myself to follow my heart with my next child.
Now Katie is 4. Things aren't perfect between us, but they are better. I have a son now, Ethan, who will soon be entering toddlerhood. How different his infancy has been from Katie's! Chris and I have fed him on demand, rocked him to sleep, and never placed any sort of routine on him. We simply followed his cues and parented him accordingly. Ethan is a happy baby and very social. He has earned a reputation in our church's nursery as a happy, easy baby. We're doing everything opposite of what Ezzo says to do; yet Ethan is turning out beautifully. Katie is so attentive to her little brother. She adores him and is so very tender toward him. I'm so thankful we did not diminish her ability to empathize with the feelings of others. I feel certain we would have if we had continued on the Ezzo's program. Sometimes Katie will ask me, "Mommy, did I like to be rocked like that?" or "Did you like to carry me around in a sling, too?" My heart aches when she asks these kinds of questions and I simply cannot bear to tell her the truth. How can I tell her, "No, honey, Mommy left you alone in your bed to cry for hours"?
Through all of this, I've learned one of the most vital parenting truths: Children learn what they live. Unfortunately, Katie had learned in her earlier years that her cries didn't matter to us. She learned that her parents were scary people that didn't consider her wants or needs to be very important. She learned that life revolved around making things convenient for mom and dad. These weren't the messages I intended on sending her, though that's exactly how she perceived my actions. I can't say whether a child with a different personality would have done fine on the Ezzo's program. All I know is that with Katie, the program was a disaster. Both my husband and I regret ever encountering the Ezzo's materials.