Christie from Childhood101 asked me
“Do you parent the way you thought you would before you had children?”
I’ve been pondering variations on this question for a little while now. You see, I got an invitation to attend my 20 year high school reunion the other day (oh I am so old!), and it made me wonder….
If I my answer to the obligatory high school reunion question “so what do you do now?” was – “I am a stay at home mum to our four kids, living in the country, gardening, cooking from scratch and parenting with a definite crunchy flair…” Would people be surprised?
Would my old high school friends have expected me to turn out like this?? Did I expect me to turn out like this? Is this what I thought my life would be like? Am I the sort of parent I thought I would be?
Yes and No.
I don’t doubt my high school friends all expected that I would get married and have kids. I think I’ve always been the maternal, baby sitting, kid loving, type. No surprises there, I thought I’d get married and have kids too! I didn’t, however, think I’d have this many kids, nor did I ever think I’d feel so strongly about staying at home with my children, or about how I parent them. And only in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine living anywhere but in the city. Gardening and cooking from scratch? These things are important? and satisfying? Are you kidding me??
When I was studying and first working in child care I took a very traditional ‘behaviourist’ type view about children and parenting. Back then, if you had asked me what I thought of parents who ‘let their child sleep in their bed’ I would have told you that they needed to set some limits and not let their child ‘rule the home’. If you had asked me how to deal with a child’s behaviour I would have been all about the praise and rewards with a few star charts thrown in for good measure.
Ah the assumptions I made, the judgements, the ‘us v’s them’ mentality of parents/adults and children….
Over the years I learnt a LOT while teaching preschool and studying… my views about children changed a lot, and, along with them, my views about what sort of parent I would be.
I admit, I was still shocked when I saw a mother openly breastfeed her toddler, making loads of assumptions about why on earth someone would do that. But, not long after that I learnt of the phrase ‘attachment parenting’ and not long after that I was pregnant and then it all seemed to make sense and feel right.
These days I not only ‘let’ my children sleep in my bed, I encourage it and believe it is a safe and appropriate place for babies and children to sleep. And now I am the one breastfeeding my toddlers and doing so with an understanding of all the reasons it is important and appropriate.
Having grown up with a Mum who was always there for us when we were little (she didn’t go back to work till I, the youngest, started school) and parents who were always interested and responsive I think I took it for granted that I would do the same. So making the leap from there to a more alternate, hippy-la-la, parenting philosophy probably isn’t so unusual. The unusual thing for me is doing something different to the ‘norm’.
Back in high school I was a wallflower and I liked it that way. I just wanted to quietly fit in, have a few friends do ok at school and pretty much do what everyone else was doing. I am not a rebel in any sense of the word and standing out or being different is definitely not my thing. So to take an openly different view on something as big as parenting is in the life of a 30 something year old…. back then, I would never have believed that would be me.
I still like to fit in and so I admit I do pursue some of my ‘different’ parenting ideals in a more quiet way. I don’t advertise to the world that we co-sleep or breastfeed past 12 months or any of the other ‘odd’ things we do, but I don’t hide it either. I will stand up and be counted on issues that I think are important and I while I won’t begin an argument on parenting styles I am not afraid to explain my position either. But mostly I won’t compromise what I feel is important for my children, not for other people, and not even for my desire to ‘fit in’ and be a wall flower.
Did I expect to be this parent? In some ways yes, in some ways no. All in all, I am not surprised I parent the way I do, I am just surprised I have found the confidence and motivation to be a little different.