Friday, December 3, 2010

Parenting Philosophies

I was a hard to raise child- just ask my parents. Yes, I was the oldest, so they did not have experience under their belts to realize that my phases were pretty normal, but I gave my parents a run for their money, to be sure.

I experienced the world in a different way, and I knew that I was different (and so did everyone else). Kids treated me differently, bullied me, or thought I was "weird" and shunned me. Parents assumed that I was a "bad influence", even before I rebelled in any way and was trying really hard to fit in. I've always stuck out like a sore thumb, and now I've made my peace with that. I know why I was different (several reasons, not just one!) and that people were afraid of strange little me in my small town.

This makes me very sensitive to how I raise Rowan and the choices that I make that affect him. I want him to feel included in family decisions- I will take the time to explain things to him and listen to him when he has questions or concerns. I remember very distinctly remembering that my voice did not matter as child- I was "just a kid" and therefore my opinion did not count. I will avoid that with Rowan.

He is a member of this family and his opinions matter. I want him to learn to be articulate and form ideas and be able to express them well. That starts at home.

I will also avoid another thing that caused me anguish a kid- deciding what activities he gets to do for him. I clearly remember that the things that I wanted to do (more girl scout camp, playing the drums) were not as important as what my parents wanted me to do (softball, playing guitar and piano and flute). I knew that I was disappointing them in some way when I did not want to do what they wanted me to do. Their agenda for me did not allow full exploration of my interests and set me up for being a constant disappointment to them. Of course, I have preferences for my son (I'm not really into sports, and would love a creative child- either musically or visually), but I have decided to let his interests be the thing that guide us to his activities. This is his life, not mine.

I also remember my grandmother (who lived with us during my childhood and was often my caretaker while my parents were at work) was not a very patient person. If we interrupted her "stories" on television or were too loud or boisterous, we were exiled outside or whipped. My grandma believed in having us pick out our own "switch" from the pussy willow tree behind the garage. She would then whip our legs with the switch we brought to her until they were red and welt-y. We learned very quickly that her threats were not idle and avoided her whenever we could.

I do not believe in using violence to discipline a child, but more than that- I do not want to be someone that my son fears. I want him to feel like he can come to me for advice, for solace, for help, and with questions. I want him to approach me to play while he is at an age that he would like that. Playing with my son is a delight- and if that means setting aside adult work for a little while, so be it.

I will not let my adult agenda determine my son's childhood.

The pictures on the left have always struck me- they are a comic I saw years ago, and cut out and mounted on cardboard and have been on my fridge ever since. My son will not experience the robbing of his childhood like the poor boy on the left.


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