Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Parenting Mindset, Part One; Now What?

You know, I can already hear the groans.

Oh, boy... here we go... another preachy judgmental defensive first-time-mom on the war path...

I hate being preached at, judgmental horse poop makes my teeth hurt, and folks who get defensive when I honestly wasn't intending to attack them just plain confuse me, so I really try not to do any of those things to people.  FTM is accurate, so I'll forgive the eye-rolling.

For now. *wink*

But as my little guy gets bigger and starts to show me a little more personality, the fact that one day he's going to purposely do something I've told him not to do is looming ever nearer on the horizon.  So I've had to put some serious work into the "how will I handle ____" sort of thinking.  I'm thinking about this time next year, this time in 2015, Christmas in 2027, you get the idea.  Obviously, I'm focusing more on the early challenges that are fast approaching, but those later hurdles are in the back of my mind and applicable ideas get tossed that direction once in a while.

Those of you who follow me know that I lean pretty heavily toward following my instincts where my son is concerned.  While I've gone through several manure-loads of anxiety and stress over the past four months, every time I step back, take a breath, and just play it by ear, things improve.  Whether that's JJ's demeanor and behavior or my stress levels and attitude, things get better.  Those instincts led me toward things like co-sleeping (even bed-sharing), baby-wearing, leaving my son intact rather than circumcising, using cloth diapers, and never ever leaving my child to cry alone in his crib.    

As I started to think about the coming years, the "terrible twos", the "NO" and "MINE" stages, the inevitable moments of sassiness, I found that the conflicts between my upbringing and my instincts were leaving me very perplexed.  I was raised in a significantly messed-up household, but for the sake of the current subject, I'll leave out the complexities that growing up with an abusive parent added to my particular stew, and address the parenting I received from my mother.  

While I remember my mother as loving and gentle, even occasionally permissive, she soon found herself resorting to the punitive methods which she often professed to despise from her own childhood.  Time outs, spankings, groundings, loss of a toy or a privilege, loss of a promised outing due to misbehavior, etc.  My mother used to carry a kitchen spatula in her purse, to be used as a spanking instrument on the bare behind of the child who dared act out in public.  We always knew it was there, and let me tell you, for something that never left marks, you could feel that sucker for DAYS.  As we got too big to spank, she still had to control her children, of course, but it became more and more about the special things we were denied when we failed to measure up, and less and less about the talking things out that she tried in our early teens.

To many in the United States, that looks like a fairly reasonable approach to parenting.  It looked that way to me... until I was faced with a child of my own.  Suddenly things took on a very different perspective.  I started to remember being confused by early accusations of lying.  Feeling hurt and angry when a punishment seemed unfair or out of proportion.  Getting into still more trouble for refusing to submit to a spanking, or asking for an explanation of exactly how I had sinned this time.  Obeying rules, not out of desire to do the right thing, but merely to avoid punishment.  The difference between "hitting" and "spanking", between "stealing" and "taking away your _X_ because you did _Y_", between "lying" and "editing for your own good", all began to sound disturbingly like those exercises in semantics adults use when trying to justify their actions to the child who has spotted a flaw in the logic.

It occurred to me... I used to be that child.

I really... REALLY don't want to be that grown up.


Okay... now what?

Next time... Part Two; Finding Another Way


  1. I can totally relate! I have a 4.5 month-old, and similar wonderings have been popping up in my mind. And the instinct thing...sigh...just learned my big lesson! I read so many "sleep training" books, and bought into them, and messed with a good thing. My baby went from waking 3-4 times a night to waking 5-15 times. But they all SAID to do this or that, and I listened, instead of just doing what worked for us and following my gut. UGH! That was a rough two weeks! My goal now is to stop second guessing myself! Yes, I am a FTM, but I still know what is best for my baby! (You and I have a lot in common: cloth diapering, no circumcision, baby-wearing, etc.) I've enjoyed reading your posts. :)

    1. Glad you're enjoying my little corner of the blogosphere! The next Parenting Mindset post is coming soon! :)

      Re: Sleep training... there are so many self-proclaimed experts out there. I have to ask myself how they became "experts". Some by studying their own children, some by studying other people's children, and still others by analyzing the work of people who studied other people's children. So in the end, all the expert opinion in the world is no substitute for the field experience of just paying attention to your own kid's cues. I've found several books to be helpful as far as telling me why my son is doing X or Y, and I've taken useful ideas from most, but my "sleep training" has largely been "I have X goal in mind, that's what we're shooting for, and he'll do it when he's developmentally ready. My job is to remove as many obstacles as possible to facilitate his progress toward X goal."