A few days ago I commented on a friends post about fatherhood. I am still getting noticed about folks commenting on his post. So yesterday I get a call from someone who’s wondering how to explain to their parents that they will not be continuing the traditions that brought them into the world. My simple answer was; Nothing offends folks more than your parenting style!.
I remember having a few “pet peeves” that made folks uncomfortable when raising my oldest three daughters. I always told them, “I’m not raising someone’s wife!” They participated in dance, but I chose classical ballet. They had uniforms and dresses, but didn’t wear jeans. They ate what I cooked and were never made to “clean their plate”! I heard all kinds of advice about how that was wrong and because of my military background I was too strict. I was amazed that folks thought my parenting techniques were a statement about their parenting choices.
I didn’t really care what others were doing. I was, and am, paying attention to each child and ensuring I do as little as possible to define who they become. I trust that we are inherently good and that they will respond in kind. I recently told someone that I know exactly what I want my oldest boy to be when he grows up from his current age of 9. He’ll be happy, that’s it.
It doesn’t take long after a child is born before friends and family begin to “put in their 2 cents” about what your child should be doing. He or she turns 1 and they should be walking. 2 Years old comes around and solid foods and no bottle. Potty chairs at 30 months, listening and responding perfectly, and A,B,C’s. It’s crazy. It’s like “terrible two’s” are a parental problem, not the child’s. Everyone wants to control your child for you and advise you how to do it. It doesn’t matter that you’ve raised 6 kids and they’ve raised one, there’s is older and special so their gonna enlighten you.
If your having your first child and looking for advice, don’t. Go with your instincts. Follow development charts and look for good examples. Have a prepared response for those folks that want to interfere in the child rearing of your child. I like the statement for overbearing parents: “My parenting choices are not a statement of how you chose to raise your child. You raised me the best you knew how and I love myself, and I’m sure my child will do the same.”
Our children are ours. They won’t grow up to be what anybody thinks except themselves. They ain’t gonna be babysat by a TV with inappropriate television. They’re not going to have relationships in elementary or middle school. They’re not gonna run around worrying more about what they look like than how they act. And they will not run around with phones as an extension of their security blanket. Believe it or not these few rules will offend half your friends and family.
In the end your family is yours to protect and love. Traditions are wonderful if they don’t define the child. Culture is wonderful as long as it doesn’t oppress who your child wants to be. Family is important as long as there isn’t some vicarious nightmare that stifles who your child will become.
Just remember everyone has an opinion and the intensity is off the chart when it comes to parenting. Have an empathetic response prepared so as not to create too much friction. Most importantly though, make a statement. Those are your children, and while the sentiment behind your advice is appreciated, I’m the parent and I will do what I think is best based on what is best for my child, and there are no negotiations.