I’ve had the idea for this posting floating around in my head for a while now. After chatting with a fellow mom on the subject today, I realized it’s important for me to put these words down. To see on paper (or computer screen, really) that, no matter what, I’m parenting “right.”
I’m one of those mothers who voraciously consumes article after article on what is best for my children. Because of my empathetic personality, I am also easily swayed by such content because I can understand the point of view of these authors. Critical thinking does not come easily to me–I like to trust that what I hear or read is the truth. Therefore, when I read articles that pose conflicting views on parenting, I get stressed to the max. As my friend stated today, we (she and I) “worry that we’ll screw up our kids by doing one thing or that we’ll screw them up by not doing it.”
Since entering Toddlerhood, I’ve done my best to embrace the Attachment Parenting. The philosophy behind it is beautiful. It sounds wonderful. All of the articles I’ve read on it paint this heavenly picture of mother and child existing as equals, always enjoying each other’s company. When conflict arises, the problem is resolved with simple communication and acknowledgment of the child’s feelings. Never is there a tantruming two year old…
I call bullshit.
After many nonstop stress-filled days, concluded with hardcore self-bashing sessions, I’ve come to question the existence of an entire culture of people who are perfectly zen 100% of the time. I regularly acknowledge my child’s feelings. I give options rather than ultimatums. I say, “You may XYZ,” and seek to eliminate negatives from my directions. But still I am met by the stubborn face of a child who screams for an hour on end, regardless of embraces and acknowledged feelings. I am met by a child who insists on option C, when only option A or option B are offered. I am met by a child who smacks his baby sister, despite me instructing, “you may show her gentle.”
Parenting articles have destroyed my self-esteem as a parent. I follow their suggestions with the promise of a well-behaved child. But, at the end of the day, I still have a defiant toddler. I lose my temper. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I shut him in his room. I regularly resist the urge to spray him in the face with a squirt bottle, much like I do to the cat when he jumps on the counter…
I start to question my ability to mother.
There was one time during which I was feeling particularly resentful and ashamed of myself that I tearfully started searching the Internet for new parenting strategies (the net is truly a dangerous, never-ending pit of information). One article stated that using a behavior chart will screw my child up for some reason. But then another insisted that charts work. HOW WAS I TO DISTINGUISH WHAT STRATEGY WAS RIGHT?
But finally, I’ve been able to call BS. There isn’t an entire culture of folks who can handle a screaming (recently pinching) toddler without occasionally losing their tempers. And there isn’t one parenting strategy that creates a perfectly behaved child. It is not me who has failed, it is the strategy. I’ve come to realize that no one strategy will work for every child. No one strategy will even work for my child 100% of the time. I am slowly learning that I can embrace the beautiful principles of many parenting strategies, but with the recognition that they will not always be successful simply because my child (and, truly, I myself) is unique.
The takeaway of my rambling is that I work desperately hard to be a good parent. Therefore, I AM a good parent. My parenting strategy IS “right,” even if it conflicts with another’s point of view. YOU are a good parent, because I know you also try hard. If you come across an article toting promised success–“A Strategy to Potty Train in One Day!”–it’s flawed. It’s okay to read that article and try its suggestions, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work. You are unique. Your child is unique.
And for days where NO strategy seems to work, there’s yoga. Or wine. Or whatever melts your stress away and helps you recenter.
(Local folks, check out Jessica Moseley Yoga. Her classes have provided me with a life raft on days when I’m drowning).