When I first started on this journey of being a mother I thought that I had it all figured out. My kids would be smart, polite, disciplined, creative, healthy, and natural leaders. I poured over all the latest parenting books and articles, assuming that this was how it was done, that if I followed the advice of the pediatrician, teachers, and experts, all would go perfectly. I truly believed that everyone had my children’s best interests at heart and that since I was new to this whole parenting thing, I didn’t really know what I was doing.
Now that I am a mother to three little girls, I can look back and see that in listening to all the media and experts I ignored my own instincts about so many things. I spanked my oldest two girls when they were “naughty” despite feeling awful for it afterwards every single time. I made them cry, alone in their big empty rooms at night, because I was told that this was the only way to get them to sleep. I made my oldest daughter go to school everyday, even though she told me that she hated it and that she felt dumb when she was there. I knew- knew!- that this was not the right choice for her, but I was too scared to try homeschooling because of ignorance and because it was not the normal thing to do. There were other things too, like vaccines, strict schedules, limitations on everything, and an overall authoritarian outlook on how to raise my girls “right”. None of it felt right, but I pressed on to the tune of, “They will adapt, this is the only way, you will regret it if you don’t.”
I can’t really pinpoint the single item that really got me thinking about the way I was going about things. It could have been my former OB/GYN who tried to convince me that trying for a VBA2C (vaginal birth after 2 c0sections) was a death sentence for me and the little girl growing inside me. Thanks to her I started questioning experts, especially those in the traditional medical field whose motives weren’t really all that pure. It could have been having a very good friend, who seemed really out there and kooky at first but has a lovely way of phrasing things that get me thinking and questioning the ass-backwards way that society in the US goes about doing things. (No Child Left Behind anyone?) Then again, having a teacher make your child stand because she fell off her chair and attempt to squash all creative spirit and opinion was definitely a contributing factor when it comes to how we school….. I guess all of these experiences have contributed to the change in our lifestyle.
I believe that many people encounter these same situations though, but do not know that they can do something about it, or are too scared/complacent to fight back. I have heard many of my fellow parents tell me about that awful teacher their child had or about having to go put in ear plugs because they couldn’t bear to hear their child dry at night and they were told to let them cry it out. When pregnant I was told horror stories of doctors forcing women to get sectioned, have Pitocin, and other interventions that they knew they didn’t want- but because an “expert” told them they had to have them, there was no room to question. I am one of those personalities that when told that something can’t be done, I do it if I have done the research and feel like the other party is in the wrong.
Of course, I am still learning this whole bright shiny new world of gentle parenting. There are days when I forget myself and I yell, I go off into “ghetto mom-land” and threaten. But I am just as quick these days to apologize. And not one of those, “I’m sorry but you shouldn’t….” half way apologies. I remind myself that the girls work is to play and that they know when they are hungry or tired, to give them more room to just be while being there when they need me. It is a work in progress, probably the most important I will ever do. And I can confidently tell others about my choices because I am comfortable with our decisions, from homeschooling to discipline. We have learned that having happy children is a lot more important than blind obedience, that politeness and kindness is best learned from example, and that if you really want to know someone’s motives- see where their funding comes from. Our journey is one that is not a permanent state but a continuing evolution of ideals, choices, and priorities. I wish you well on your own journey!