Parenting is weird, sometimes. I have changed my mind about so many things in the last 15 years, I can never imagine trying to actually put my parenting technique into rules. Sometimes I’ve done things differently between kids, because they are so different. Sometimes I change my mind within the same week with the same kid because I realized the previous stance was NOT WORKING. Even if it worked before. Sometimes I switch up techniques 10 times in one day because NOTHING is working. I don’t think I could ever say anything as basic as, “I practice attachment parenting.” Or, “I do Cry It Out.” While both of those might have been true at certain points with one or more of my children, I know – in MY world – parenting is dynamic. Ever changing. Nothing is static. No decision I make today (Save the majors like: Don’t do drugs. Don’t torture small animals. Don’t vote against Gay Marriage.) regarding rules for my children or styles for my parenting, will stand the test of time. If there’s anything I’ve learned in 15 years and three children? For me? Nothing lasts forever.
(There’s always a but…)
Sometimes I get frustrated when other parents do it. Or maybe, I get my feelings hurt with how other parents do it. Because, somehow some people think things are black and white. You can’t do THIS without condoning THIS. If you do THIS then you must ALSO mean to approve of THIS. If you let your kids eat cookies and chicken nuggets they’ll never like vegetables! Or, another variation: If you DON’T let your kids ever eat nuggets they’ll never know they like them! Like somehow decision making as a parent is that easy. Cosleep or your child won’t know you’ll always be there for them! And the reverse argument? Let them cry it out or your baby will never learn how to soothe themselves. I disagree with both of these statements. Sometimes I can cosleep AND teach my child how to soothe themself. DID YOU KNOW IT WAS POSSIBLE? Or sometimes I can let my child cry for me, ignore them, and somehow still manage to raise them trusting I’ll be there when they need me. Since when did we, as parents, start believing everything was so black and white? Do people think that the ONLY factor in whether or not your child (a) Trusts you’ll be there for them or (b) Can soothe themselves when they’re upset – that the ONLY factor relating to those stances for your child is HOW THEY SLEEP? There’s so much more to it.
If you want to cosleep but worry your child won’t be able to soothe themselves? Then I’m sure you’ll find other ways to teach them down the road. And maybe they’ll still never learn. But they also might not have learned if you let them Cry It Out either. Because we can only do so much. Make the best decision you can in THAT moment, taking everything you know and everything you hope for and do the best you can. But it is NOT a science. There is no guarantee that anything will produce a respectable well-rounded loving and kind and successful adult. If there WAS a guarantee? Parenting experts would not exist to remind us all of the different ways we may or may not be screwing up our child.
For example: This fantastic article discussing the value of being affectionate towards children was referenced a few times by people who used it as support for why you shouldn’t do things like ignore tantrums or spank your kids. And while I thought the studies in the article were fascinating, I didn’t like using those studies to say things like, “This is why we can’t spank our kids! They’ll grow up being aggressive to me!” Because I have (a) Ignored tantrums and (b) Spanked before. And you know what? I also kiss my kids ninety million times a day. I carry my kids whenever they ask, even if they’re four. I give backrubs and headrubs to ease them to sleep. I hug. A LOT. I pat shoulders and backs. Just because a parent chooses to spank (which I stopped doing a decade ago because it just didn’t work for me) or to ignore tantrums, doesn’t mean they are not affectionate. Or not using touch to soothe. And sometimes, it just means for that one tantrum they made the decision: Ok. My kid is pitching a fit for no good reason and I’m not apt to deal with it right now. So I’m ignoring them. But the next day? The same parent may hug and soothe that child.
My Dad, on the rare occasion, yelled and threw things across the room. But afterwards? He apologized and offered his love. Yes…I would have preferred he not lose his temper. But what stood with me? Was the LOVE he showed afterwards.
Maybe this is why I don’t read strictly Parenting Advice type blogs or magazines. Even ones that try to be well-rounded. Because whenever someone is trying to make a point as to WHY they don’t do something, a correlation is always drawn to something else. For example: I don’t let my child watch TV because I like to encourage more creative activities and I want my kid to enjoy the outdoors.. And while I stand by a No TV stance in some areas and have written about it in regards to MY child, I do still let my kids watch TV. Some days a lot…some days none at all. Because some days we do crafts and go to the park! And the next day we may enjoy a Dora marathon. The two are NOT mutually exclusive.
It’s not the stances that bother me, we all take stances with our kids. It’s the platform that usually gets me riled up. I Don’t Do This ______ Because I Don’t Want This Bad Trait ______ In My Child. If it were that easy, 90% of parents would not do _______. And it makes those of us who do things differently get defensive because suddenly, because I let my child eat McDonald’s nuggets sometimes, I feel like I’m condoning a lifetime of poor fitness and obesity. I prefer to say it this way: I Don’t Do This _______ Because Right Now It Seems Like A Good Decision For This Child. We could all nurse, cosleep, never spank, and keep our kids from TV until they’re 15 but we still may have little sociopaths on our hands. I just feel like the second we present ourselves like, “I do this because the opposing stance IS AN AWFUL STANCE THAT WILL RUIN YOUR CHILDREN!” – then we are dividing ourselves up on teams as parents. It’s not like that. We are all on the SAME team: trying to do what is best for our children.
What is my point? I don’t know. I just am constantly feeling the need to defend myself in the comments sections of blog entries that make correlations between A and B that I don’t think are that black and white. I am always doing something in the gray area and whenever someone writes about They Do This Because ________ – I end up feeling like I need to pipe up and say, “Hey! I let my kids watch TV and play outside!” or on the other end “I don’t let my kids watch iCarly but I’m not sheltering them because sometimes we also watch CSI together!” (What? Okay. So that only happened once. I’m sorry.) Or my favorite, “My kid eats overly processed foods AND fresh vegetables!” (Obviously we’re talking about my boys, my daughter never eats anything. Cake or vegetables.)
But I know these entries are always meant well so I don’t want to be all defensive in the comments. There’s no need for me to pipe up and get upset saying “Just because my kid gets an allowance doesn’t mean they won’t be good with money!” because as a blogger? I always get stressed about those and I don’t want to stress anyone out. But it is an issue I think about often and since I have my own blog? I thought I’d write about it here:
I AM A GRAY AREA PARENT AND OFTEN DON’T HAVE ANY CLUE IF THE DECISIONS I’M MAKING WILL TURN MY CHILD INTO A AN OBESE, COUCH POTATO ABUSIVE SOCIOPATH, BUT I AM TRYING TO AVOID THAT OUTCOME TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITIES.
Maybe Gray Area Parenting will turn my kids into unstable adults. If it does? I’m sure this entry will be linked to in years to come as proof as to why you should PICK A STANCE AND STICK WITH IT! Until then? I’m going to just keep making the best decision I have in the moment and believe that nothing I do in that moment will destroy my child as long as I always show them love and kindness surrounding as many moments as possible. I have faith in that. Because on paper? My Dad wasn’t the best in the world. But surrounding his not-so-great moments? He showed me as much love as possible. And that, in the end, is what truly mattered.