I wrote a post last summer similarly titled to this one. But when my daughter saw it and asked me to read it to her, she wanted me to take it down. So I did.
Well, a while later she told me I could publish it again. I asked her if she was sure - yes, yes, YES (and don't ask me again!) She has asked me a couple of times if I wrote it again (note to self - next time save the draft!)
Anyway, the title has changed and the content will be different too, but I'll share the same story that started it. One day in the car on the way home from her friend's house Marisol told me that the kids were using bad words. "Oh?" I said nonchalantly. (This is how I keep those communication lines open - always act NONCHALANT! Nothing, I mean NOTHING, is a BIG DEAL ever!) "Like what?" I'm thinking she's going to throw out some curse words here. I know she knows a couple.
"One told another to Shut Up. And they were calling each other stupid."
Phew! Big sigh of relief. So glad I was nonchalant.
I agreed with her that those words are not nice at all. I'm sure there was more conversation, but honestly it's been months now and I don't really remember the rest.
But it got me thinking about how "sheltered" Marisol might seem to some people if she thinks that those are BAD WORDS. And yet... she's not sheltered. She watches way more mature television programs than most kids her age (I'm not allowed to disclose which ones, I know that for a fact! She doesn't want people to know.) And honestly, I know most people would judge Mike and I harshly for "letting" her watch some of the things she does. But I know that she learns a lot from them all - because an adult is always watching with her and there are lots of great conversations that stem from them.
Marisol also moved to her own bed the past summer. She has coslept with me since I finally admitted that the crib experiment was a failure (she was about 6 months old). Now we have plans to make our "guest" bedroom into her own room soon (friends think it's funny that we can have a "guest" bedroom in a two bedroom house with 2 kids - guess soon enough we won't!) But you know what? Tonight she needed to cuddle with me to fall asleep so she's in the big bed. Our two attempts at sleepovers (one here and one at her friend's - Gerry and I went too!) left her not wanting to do that again any time soon. (Thank the Lordy, 'cause I don't want to either!)
Sheltered? I guess so. Marisol has not been forced to separate from me hardly at all before she was ready (the big exception - when I went to St. Louis for the Hypnobabie's Instructor training - 5 nights apart, the only time we were ever separated at night.) She now goes to CCD (church class) on Mondays for an hour and 15 minutes, dance class for an hour and a half on Tuesday nights, and Gymnastics for an hour and a half on Wednesday afternoons. Gerry and I often drive somewhere else and she is completely fine with that.
When there are really horrible events going on in the world, I have done my best so far to keep her from finding out (especially school shootings). Sheltered? Absolutely. Marisol is extremely sensitive and news like that would definitely overwhelm her. How can I put something like that on her when I can hardly handle it myself? And yet... she has already donated part of her allowance to charity one time and regularly wants to donate her clothes and toys to kids that don't have as much. Because she knows there are kids that have a lot less than she does. I expect that her awareness of the world will continue to grow as she does and I will be there to help her learn strategies about how to deal with so much information in these modern times - much of it sad, distressing, and depressing. (I was just reminded by one of my favorite mentors that *I* have a choice about "filtering" what I let in. We all have choices and I expect we will have many discussions about this in our life-long relationship.)
There are two tangents that my brain wants to take me on here. One is about parenting and labels. I saw an article this week that was titled, "Why Helicopter Moms Might Get The Last Laugh". Another page that I follow posted it and commented that they thought the title was misleading. I agree. Helicopter parenting is NOT the same thing as being a hands-on, involved, supportive parent. This seems to happen all the time - people equate being highly involved (ie attachment parenting) with being smothering, controlling, and hindering your child's development. This couldn't be further from the truth. The opposite also happens with unschooling - people sometimes equate it with "doing nothing" even though experienced unschoolers will always tell you that in order for unschooling to thrive parents need to be highly involved.
So I got thinking about labels again (and we had a decent discussion on the Facebook page here). It seems that they are often more detrimental than helpful. They cause confusion and misunderstandings and sometimes people don't even have any idea what you're talking about!
The other problem I have with all of this judgment about what's the "right" amount of support between kids and parents is that we always seem to be focusing on what the parents are doing. Are they hovering? Doing too much for their kids? Doing too little? Allowing things that are unsafe? etc. This mentality ignores the fact that what we are talking about is a RELATIONSHIP between two individuals. (Why are we so obsessed with the parents and yet so few of us speak up for the children?) This individuality is the biggest problem with labels. We all know that parents and kids are unique and need different things - and yet we continue to thrust ideas upon parents and children about what is acceptable - and it is a very narrow range of behaviors that most people seem to tolerate (although everyone's definition is different!)
What if we left it up to them? The parents AND the children I mean. Let them talk about what is comfortable and feels good for THEIR relationship. What if we could actually respect and internalize that this means just about any scenario you imagine (kid climbing at the playground, sleepovers, going to church, eating at a restaurant - you know all of those controversial kid activities) is going to look DIFFERENT for every family.
I propose a new type of parenting. It's called "Permission Parenting". (Yes I like this because of the irony of sounding deceptively similar to "permissive parenting". I also know some people probably think I am a "permissive" parent. Luckily, I am secure in the knowledge that I am not.)
Parents - give yourself permission to... (and if you can't do it yet, *I* do!)
That's it. Three simple steps to implement Permission Parenting. Remember, it's not about what you do - it's about your relationship with your child(ren). (If these steps fail you can always fall back on CTFD.)
For myself the label "attachment parenting" was helpful because it was the first time I felt like I did have permission to follow my instincts and it was the group of people who supported that - they weren't telling me I was doing it wrong. In fact they went even further and told me I was doing things right! This to me is the heart of attachment parenting, connection parenting, peaceful parenting - whatever you want to call it - the relationship is the first consideration. Because connected people always act better - that's the truth.
But we don't need to identify with any labels in order to be good parents. We only have to connect with our kids in the best way we can in each moment. Again, not always easy, but simple.
Turn towards your children. They not only have all the answers to your parenting dilemmas - They ARE. The Answer.
(Ok, so looks like I'm not getting to that second tangent... I guess this post is a To Be Continued... in the mean time, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment, I'm dying to know!)
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.