Sunday, April 15, 2012

PAIL monthly topic: What Kind of Parent Am I?

What kind of a parent do I want to be? What kind of a parent am I? This is the topic for the Monthly PAIL theme post. (Side Note: The HAWMC prompt for today is to write about your writing style. So, I'm just tweaking that a little right? Exchanging "writing" for "parenting". Same diff...)

At 22, I started working for Child Protective Services. I'd babysat for years (like, since probably an age when I still needed a babysitter myself). I obviously knew a lot about parenting. Ha. I had a lot of ideas about what parents "should" do. I would never spank my children. I would always be calm with my children.  I would exclusively breastfeed my children. I would feed my children only the foods recommended by WIC, and on their schedule.

 I had a lot of ideas about how my children would act. My children would never have tantrums,especially in public. My children would sleep in their own beds, all night long.  My children would be on a schedule. My children would never watch television.

6 years later, when the kid finally came along, I learned that I really didn't know much. I breastfed, but, you know, it wasn't with much breastmilk and, really, bottles were just fine, too. I wasn't always the calm parent I'd expected myself to be. I even spanked him a couple of times (though I immediately - and still - regretted it). I lost my temper and yelled frequently.

Some things did happen as I'd planned. I was all about the schedule; feeding, sleeping - they occurred per the schedule. The kid never slept with us, he was always in his own bed. The kid didn't watch TV - as in it wasn't on at our house if he was awake - until he was 3ish (or even a little older). Also, he rarely had tantrums (and to this date, I can only think of 1 that happened in public, though heaven knows it was a doozy).

By the time baby E was born, I thought I had this parenting thing figured out. But he quickly schooled me. What I actually had figured out was the kid. Not parenting so much.

As you all know, baby E slept with us. For a long time. The TV is frequently on when he's awake Fortunately, I haven't ever spanked him. As for feeding, you'll remember our experience with Babyled Weaning, which is probably abhorred by the public health community as a whole. Babywearing is still - at 18 months - a big part of my parenting strategy. We continue to breastfeed (the horror! He has TEETH! And can ASK FOR IT!!) and use breastmilk milk from other mothers. And, really, a schedule?! Hilarious. Also, let's not even mention the whole cloth diapering thing or his mad tantrum-throwing skills.

As of right now, I think I border on being a crunchy mom ("extended" breastfeeding, milksharing, babywearing, babyled weaning, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, to name a few). But I'm willing to bet that, should I be fortunate enough to parent a 3rd child, the way I do it would change again. Because what my two boys have taught me, is that parenting is less about the parent, than it is about the child.  I can have all these plans and intentions, but that doesn't mean - at all - that they'll work for that particular child.

So, when I think about who I truly want to be as a parent, this is it. I want to be loving, trustworthy, and honest. I want to be a good example for my children of how we treat others. I want to provide a nurturing environment that will support them in becoming good, healthy and compassionate people.

That's it.

If a schedule helps them achieve that, then we'll do it. We believe babywearing and breastfeeding do, which is why that continues. We believe spanking is counter-intuitive to that goal, so we'll continue to use other forms of discipline and redirection. Cloth diapering, I believe, is actually one way we are teaching our children to be respectful (to the earth, and to future generations) as well as being healthier for them. What foods we start at what ages or what bed they sleep in, neither of those really makes a significant difference.

So, today, the parent I want to be, is the one who only focuses on the things that are really important. Consider me a work in progress.

Today's lesson: Before my kids were born, I had all these ideas about how parenting "should" be done. Parenting is individual. Individual to the parent. But especially individual to the child. Children don't come with instruction manuals because they're not cars, or TV's. They're all different, just as parents are. And any attempt of the one-size fits all mentality is just laughable, or frustrating.


momto8 said...

I enjoyed reading this post...
I am not longer the expert parent I was BEFORE I had kids!!! and with 8 kids, it is not good to point fingers...because they can point right back!!
i am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

mommy someday said...

Love your post today! :-)

By the way, I was tagged with the Lovely Blog award and have passed it along to you. :-)

Mina said...

Hi, I can't remember how I got to your blog, but I do want to tell how much I agree with everything you said. I was practically nodding the entire time. I can see the difference between soon-to-be parents and those parenting already, because the former are full of theories while the latter have had their theories sliced in half (inthe best of cases).
Parenting is very much individual, and this makes the entire difference.

Alex said...

Very interesting post! I find it fascinating about parenting tailored to each child. Never thought about that...

Elizabeth said...

Glad to have found your blog- it is so pretty by the way! Love the springtime design! I completely agree about parenting children as individuals and using what works for the particular child and situation. Great post!

Coco said...

Absolutely! :) Children have to dictate the parenting style, because you have to give each child what they need and respond to. Lovin the crunchy moms! :)

J.o.s.e.y said...

"parenting is less about the parent, than it is about the child"

It's so interesting to read about this topic from the perspective about a 2nd time parent. That statement makes SO much sense to me. It's obvious you're doing something right!! :)

Kim said...

Hello, Thank you for stopping by my blog. Now that I have a second child, I can already see that they are two totally different people. My baby is way more relaxed and mellow than his older sister ever was. Right now, with him, I am doing pretty much the same things that I did with her. I'm sure as he ages, that will change. I can say, that I am more relaxed on the germ front with him though. :) Everyone told me that I would be more relaxed the second time around. I just laughed....but now I laugh at myself for thinking I'd still be a HUGE germ-a-phob.