Monday, December 28, 2009

In our kids best interest...

Been thinking about highly strung, overly uptight, anxious and self-involved parents - you know the kind. Those parents who pour over every single study available online to comb out the "truth" about conventional parenting choices, mostly to prove they're all wrong. Parents who consider themselves conscious. Parents prepared to cut everyone, including grandparents out of their children's lives for using the wrong WORDS.

Parents like me.

Well, parents like the parent I've been from time to time.

You know, and I'm sad to admit this now, but for the sake of a honestly I will, there was a time when I had myself so tied up in knots about Dave referring to my boys penis' as "willies" that I was seriously wondering if he was the kind of parental figure I wanted in their lives. It wasn't only that he steadfastly refused to use the right word, but he also had a tendency to be grouchy and to call them naughty, and yes, even to use the word "No" like it actually had some sort of positive influence on their behaviour.

For a while, I thought my children were better off without their grandmother - my mother - because she dared to question me picking my eldest up when he but murmured his need for me. "Oh, is that all it takes for you to pick him up?" she asked, and based on that I refused to let her babysit him. She felt my rejection deeply. So deeply, she actually moved to another state because she was sure I didn't want or need her.

I'm very sad about that now.

Obviously, I STILL want my boys to know that their penis is their PENIS and not their WILLY. I also still believe the word "No" is completely and utterly useless when applied to a children under the age of three or four, and it's much better to just state to the child what you would like them to be doing instead. I absolutely still pick my babies up BEFORE they cry whenever that is possible - and it's almost always possible.

The thing is, I started to realise that while I was being the best parent I knew how to be, I was also robbing my children of so much with my hyper-anxious, closed minded, overly critical view of everyone else's behaviour toward them.

No, my kids eating copious amounts of fruit was NOT a good thing, especially for Erik, it sent him nuts. Cocoa also sent him nuts. Very occassionally well-meaning people ignored my pleas to abstain from feeding my children these foods. At first I would just cut those people out of our lives, but soon I realised our social circle was becoming incredibly small and someone sourfaced. Also, my kids were feeling the underlying anxiety and acting it out.

When my eldest was 15 months old, I took him to visit my mum interstate. I was a wreck. I just KNEW she was going to do EVERYTHING wrong. She wasn't going to abide by my very narrow, unforgiving guidelines about how to act around him. And she did do a lot of things "wrong" too. The thing is, Erik wasn't suffering, he was DELIGHTED with her. He basked in the glory of her grandmotherly attentions - even when they were peppered with the occassional, "If you're a GOOD BOY, I'll give you a car from this box on the fridge, but if you ask you won't get one, you just have to be good and wait"...

Today he LOVES his grandmother.

My ILs said and did EVEN WORSE stuff! They gave him and Easter Egg when he was 9 months old. They didn't support my full term breastfeeding (they thought it was odd and should definitely be done behind closed doors), they bought us a COT! They were TERRIBLE! MIL even upset Luey when he was 18 month by threatening him passively with the wooden spoon!!! He set her straight - he didn't hug her for 3.5 years after that! He LOVES her all the same.

My children would be missing out on so many relationships if I had just cut out the offending friends and family who refused to be as conscious as me (despite my long-winded explanations of the merits of my research). Their lives, and mine, would have been very much poorer for it all.

I think also, my children would not have learned to just do what they believe and command the respect they know they deserve if they had never had to "endure the horrors" of interacting with people who didn't believe the same thing as they have been raised to believe.

I see my kids as bi-cultural. They know that a penis is also called a willy but that that is a nickname that people use because they aren't very mature (hehehe)... They know that "good" and "bad" is about perception and not reality. They know that many people expect babies to sleep in cots and drink from cups after the age of 12 months, but that you don't have to do everything most people think is true. They know that they CAN have chocolate, but that it might make them feel out of control, so to be careful when having it, or to say no if they think it's not a good time for being out of control.

They know that people aren't perfect. They know that imperfect people love them, so they don't have to be perfect either. And they are sorrounded by LOTS of people who love them!

PS. Something else I learned is that you can read all the same studies, know all the same stuff and come to different CONSCIOUS parenting choices. Conscious is not a catch-all for one way of thinking.


Rachael said...

Good one Sif.

I hear you! Yeah there are still things said and done around my kids that make me cringe, but most of the time that's stuff that *I'm saying*'s ingrained.

I love them the best I know how and know that's what the other people in their lives are doing too.

Jen said...

Was nodding along Sif. I have spent the last 6 years just trying to be the 'right' type of parent and putting myself and the kids through hell trying to ensure that we have the right balance so that they grow up confident and happy. It is only recently that I have relaxed things a notch, I grew up with teasing in humour and could tell the difference and not be offended and so I no longer feel guilty when it happens in this house (or when Pa does it to the kids). I think that is one of the things that has helped Kaeden develop his sense of humour and be able to accept that not everything is literal (we are still working on that though :p) .

There are also other things that I am standing up to when family speak around the kids that I don't believe in and don't want them to hear. They (family members) may not want to hear the opposition to their views but that is bad luck for them ;).

I lol'd at Rach saying it is normaly her saying it, I cringe often at the words that escape my mouth, but being a parent is hard and finding the balance between what you admired in your parents and what you didn't and taking the admiring parts and using them is very hard. I don't think the learning and growing will ever stop in this job :)

Sif Dal said...

I am concerned when I see children being shut away from every form of society that offends the parents. I'm not advocating taking children in abusive situations, not at all. I'm talking about being sure that in an effort to protect our children from unneccessary injury; emotional or physical (by way of exposure to toxins, not by way of beatings), we don't actually inadvertantly CAUSE injury to our children by way of isolating them and depriving them of otherwise loving relationships with their kin.

It takes a village to raise a child, and villages have never been sets of completely homogenous people who view and understand everything identically. I think that saying is ALSO a warning to parents NOT to isolate children from variety in experience. Every new generation has to distinguish itself from the previous generation and thereby reject some of the understandings of the previous generation. Let's not model for our children that only way to reject something is to cut it completely out of your life...

Jayne said...

I completely agree.

Good Job!