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.
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.