Wanna do something controversial? Have a baby. Seriously.
I’ve read a few posts on other blogs recently on parenting styles, and then I spent some time talking with my friend Jodelene last night who is also a mama. A mama going through a trauma, so she has different diversity parenting issues to deal with than me. Also my friend Monica‘s blog posts have been rattling around in my brain (this one and this one.)
All of it has me reflecting on parenting. Parenting styles, specifically, and tolerance. You see I love Monica’s post, I don’t agree with it all, I personally think that we still need to fight for breastfeeding. I think too much lips service is being paid to breastfeeding, doctors say breast is best while handing new moms a can of formula, just in case. Women are still being asked to cover up, or to take it to the bathroom, or are being discriminated against by articles like this one (hmm they did remove it). On the other hand, I think she’s right, women who choose to bottle feed are also being discriminated against. I know I have been quick to judge in the past. If a woman has truly been presented with all the information to make an informed choice, I believe she has a right to chose, even if I don’t make the same one.
Everyone comes from different parent sets, and some of us feel the way our parents did it was right. After all we all turned out okay, right? And some of us want to steer in a completely new direction, opting to do it in a different way, then the way we were raised.
It seems to me that parenting style are increasingly being categorized with catchy titles. Ferberizing, Baby Lead Weaning, Baby Wise-ing, family bed etc. etc. Unlike in the past where we mostly just called it parenting, and you did it your way, and we did it ours. Now we have books, websites, experts presenting at our mom groups on the merits of ‘their’ way, all putting styles, and the ‘rules‘ on how to implement them, into neat little boxes. And the problem, as I see it, with labeling, is that it leads to exclusion, other parent discrimination, and the us vs. them mentality.
Are you a monster if you let your baby cry it out? Are you creating an unhealthy attachment if you let your kids sleep with you? Should you go to jail if you spank your kids? Are your kids going to be uneducated idiots if you homeschool, or allow them to chose their own educational path by unschooling? If a “typical hippy” mom with her baby at the hip, breastfeeding uncovered, while handing her older kid a raw vegetarian snack, starts talking about how fantastic the epidural was, should she have her sling revoked?
When Petra and Elijah were born I started a company that made slings and other baby products, so needless to say I was of the babywearing camp, however, I wanted nothing to do with an AP parenting group. Why? Because those Attachment Parenting moms and dads believed that you should wear your baby 24/7, and I couldn’t live up to that standard. Imagine my surprise when I learned that was not the case at all, and that an AP group would have been a great fit for me.
You see, I’m pretty crunchy, I think. I have strong views about how I feel is the right way to parent. Sometimes it’s a rousing success, and sometimes it’s a complete flop. Both these experiences help me to shape the way I parent the next day. The way I raise my kid shouldn’t have to conform to a way, but I must admit I get hung up in it too.
The other day Micah was miserable. I was tired. He kept pinching me, pushing me away, but didn’t he want to be put down. He wanted to nurse, and bite. He needed sleep, but the arching of his back at the moment his eyes fluttered shut kept jerking him awake, and the screaming had me fearful we might have another ASD kid in the house. I had him in the sling, the wrap, the mei tai, he wanted nothing to do with being worn. I rocked him in the chair. He was changed, and fed. I tried nursing him, over and over, he clearly wasn’t interested. I tried homeopathics, and then Tylenol in case of teething, or other unknown discomfort, and after several hours it seemed personal. I’m rational, I know it wasn’t, but somewhere in the moment it felt like he was punishing me , that he was forcing himself awake of his own choosing. Didn’t he know I have other kids to care for too, a home schooling lesson ready, a puppy who just pooed in front of me, and lunch, an hour late, to make?
I wanted to hurt him, I really did want to. Finally I set him in his crib, and went to call Kyle to sob and vent, while he wailed. We don’t let our kids cry it out. That day I left him to cry. Some would have me believe that I risked brain damaging my child by allowing him to cry, maybe I did, but I should have put him down sooner. I was seriously at the end of a rope, but I felt like I couldn’t put him down, because I would be abandoning my ideal, I had a box to conform to. It was a box of my own design on some levels, and one imposed upon me on others.
The whole ordeal left me to wonder how many kids are perhaps brain damaged by a parent who snaps, because they are to involved in a parenting style to break the rules. In the end I spoke with Kyle, admitted defeat reluctantly, and asked him to come home because I was a ‘crappy’ parent who couldn’t handle it.
My good friend Kim, who I felt was the shining example of how to execute perfect attachment parenting, surprised me one day. She told me of a story the she had either read, or heard, in the news of a new mom who killed her infant baby by crushing it’s skull in a incident of frustration. Expecting condemnation on the horror of it, instead she said something to the effect of: unless you have kids you can’t know how easy it is to feel that way. As a new mom, at the time, I was so relieved that I wasn’t the only one. So, we talked about how sad it was that she would have to mourn her baby, while many would likely feel she didn’t have the right to mourn because it was of her own doing. I loved Kim a little more that day, and I love her a lot more today, she is one of my moms I look up to.
I don’t know where the parenting books are going to take us next, what the next ‘way’ will be. I don’t see that things are going to get less separated, in fact I believe it will likely become more so. I wrote an article for The Shape of a Mother that asked moms to embrace each other as moms, instead of stacking themselves up against others to see who made it though pregnancy the least ‘badly’ that included this line:
No matter who we are on the outside, we all want the same thing for our children, room to grow, happiness, and love. How we provide that, is as diverse as our physical appearance.
So, I now say embrace each other as mothers regardless of how your body is changed, and love each other as mothers, and fathers, regardless of how you parent, as long as it is done respectfully, with love, without willful harm, and with the intention to form a well rounded, tolerant, beautiful grown person. After all, parenting has always been diverse, it always will be, and learning about diversity is the best way to understand it, and to decide about the ways you would like to raise your children.
My parenting style is likely to continue to change, at least I hope it will, as I find the best way to get though to my kids and to feel good about the choice I’m making. I also hope I can make myself more open to other parents even if I would never do it their way.