I am embarking today on a course of reading that I’ve been planning for some time. It’s on parenting, but instead of reading the popular manuals of the day I’m reading books about those books. It’s a curiousity of mine that has been growing since I got pregnant with my first. First I found that parenting manuals stressed me out too much. How was I ever going to accomplish this? Who let me have kids??? My dislike has grown as I encounter more and more mothers who not only swear by them for themselves but aggressively try to convert others. “What’s that you say? You don’t want to use my Method? DEATH TO THE INFIDELS!!!” It’s not that I don’t look for advice, or read up on a particular point about which I know I need more information, but overall I hate the books. How did anyone raise children before a bunch of experts wrote books to tell us how? So I’m reading up to find out how we got to this place. But before I get all my ideas mixed up with the ideas of Peter N. Stearns, author of Anxious Parents, I thought I’d try and verbalize what my parenting approach IS if it isn’t attachment parenting or baby-wise parenting or whatever. I’ve come up with a couple descriptions. But as you’ll see I think they can all be lumped under one name.
Case by case parenting: I believe each moment as a parent is distinct. This is not the same as believing each is deeply important. In fact I believe that to be one of the grave dangers of method parenting. Some decisions are really not that meaningful and some things that might be important in the long term are not when taken as a single instance. (Yes too much tv is a Bad thing. Too much tv for a week is not a Good thing. But it’s not going to be an Anything in the grand scheme.) What I mean by distinct is that each decision in each moment should be faced as its own entity rather than fitting into that decision you made 9 months ago to follow all the rules set out in such and such a system. Some days I cuddle Gina in bed all night because she is fussy or even because I just feel like being near her nice fluffy soft hair. Other times she is allowed to (cue Jaws theme) “Cry-It-Out” because she clearly will not let either of us sleep and we need to break a cycle. I don’t let anybody’s big picture get in the way of This Moment.
Know Your Child/Know Yourself parenting: I cannot count three with Gus. I cannot spank Gus. I cannot shame Gus. I can’t even bribe Gus. He does not care. Those things worked with JD. Tough beans Mama they ain’t workin now. Finally I have found that a nose stuck in a corner will, after 15-20 minutes, get me the result I need. Know your child. I cannot walk endlessly in circles holding a bawling infant until they finally calm down. Sure I can if they’re seriously in pain or ill, then I can walk through fire for them. Otherwise I may wish desperately to have that kind of patience but I don’t have it. I am working on it. Maybe Baby #7 will get that. But Babies 1 through 6 are better off being snuggled for a bit and then left alone than having Mommy lose all semblance of self control and burst into furious tears that they “WILL NOT BE QUIET!!!” Know Yourself.
Instinctive parenting: I don’t really like kids. Other than mine. Mine are splendid. Until I had them though I did not really enjoy newborns and I loathed babysitting. My kids I like. My kids throw up on me and I can hug them as they do. Something inside me is hardwired to take care of these kids. Why would I short circuit that by trying to figure out how to do it from a book? Without reading a single book I have stumbled into doing things I now discover are recommended by them. I don’t do those things because of a psychological understanding of the Needs of the Child but because I have found them to work. Who cares why so long as they really do?
So what is the name of my parenting style? Yup. Unique and Unrepeatable. Each moment is, each child is, and my relationship to them is. Pretty sure this is what every mother knows. And if some UandU moms really find having a method as a guide works for them well I guess my theory must admit that for some it may. That’s fantastic. But if any mother is beating herself up because she can’t form herself to the image of motherhood in some book other than Luke’s Gospel she should take said book and toss it unceremoniously along with anybody that gives her a hard time about it.