Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Parenting Rant Deleted

I woke up at 4 a.m. mad. How dare she tell me how I should be raising my child? I couldn't fall back asleep. The degree of anger I felt disproportionate to the imagined insult, I lay in bed and fumed. I woke up and wrote a rant which I immediately deleted because it failed my two part test: 1) would I want this used against me in a court of law and 2) would I want this published in the newspaper (or contemporary online equivalent). More importantly, I deleted it because I realized after writing it that my acquaintance hardly knows me or my kids so her comments had nothing to do with me. 

So instead, I'll begin with one of my father's favorite sayings: You just missed an excellent opportunity to keep your mouth shut. That sums up my opinion on telling other people how they ought to be raising their kids. 

Back when I only had one child and knew far more about children than I do now, I was full of opinions and advice. Now, unless directly asked, I tend to keep my mouth shut. Why? Firstly, I keep quiet because I realize that experience with one child is not sufficient experience to predict the behaviors of other children. My second baby has been surprisingly different than my first. Secondly, I don't advertise my parenting philosophies because it's so easy to inadvertently piss someone off. We parents can be a rather sensitive bunch. 

I do have ideas and opinions about child rearing, but I am happy to keep them to myself. Expressing them would likely piss off and alienate parents whose beliefs differ from mine. I tend to not advertise the choices I make regarding my children and the decision making process behind them. It seems that just by making different choices than other parents, they automatically assume that I disapprove of their choices. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "I know you're probably going to disapprove, but we've decided to..."

In truth, I don't believe in a a one-size-fits-all approach to child rearing. If the family is happy and the kid is thriving, then it's working. 

If you put your baby in childcare at 6 weeks to return to work, I have no problem with that. A previous manager of mine told me that she was dying to get back to work 8 weeks postpartum. She was going crazy at home with the baby and wanted to get back to the courtroom. She wouldn't have served herself or her baby by staying home longer if doing so made her unhappy. 

If you forgo all outside childcare, stay home and unschool your kids, I have no problem with that either. I have nothing but respect for Soule Mama and others who take on the awesome responsibility to educate their children at home. 

And thank goodness we have an almost infinite number of possibilities in between. Thank goodness that we as parents have so many options that we can make the choice that we feel is truly best for our children and our families. Lets just not mistakenly assume that because a particular choice seems to be working well for some children that it is the universal best choice. In other words, just because it's working for you and your kid, doesn't necessarily mean that it  would work for me and mine. 

I'm not trying to be all kumbaya yoga blog when I say that I can respect all kinds of parenting. Maybe after seeing enough CPS cases, it's hard for me to muster disapproval for anything that is clearly not abuse or neglect. Really, I can respect any decision you make if it is in the best interest of your family and your child. However, if you need me to make the same decisions to validate yours, I simply cannot do that. 

Since this is a yoga blog, I'll end with a little ahimsa. The next time a well meaning friend of family member gives me advice on how I ought to be raising my children, I will assume that it comes from well-meaning concern and love for my children. I will try to respond with gratitude and compassion and perhaps even sympathy for the parent who may be doubting their own parenting decisions. And if I do start to feel a little angry or defensive, I'll remind myself that my husband and I are happy with our decisions and that our children are thriving. When I think about my beautiful, creative, brilliant children, it's hard to stay focused on anyone's disapproval. When I imagine my girls' smiling faces, I'm filled with a gratitude that eclipses everything else.