Breastfeeding vs formula
Babywise vs attachment parenting
stay-at-home mom vs working mom
homeschool vs school
And with each side, depending on where I was, once I accepted my stance on the issue, I grew in pride and judgement for the other side....or sometimes, jealousy.
I always poo-poo'd my mom who would say, "When I raised kids, I just parented how I thought best. I didn't care what everyone else was doing."
"Well, we've evolved mom," I would say. And studies have been done...and books have been written...and...
Years later, I can honestly say that I am a little jealous of my mom's attitude (even if it may be tainted with thirty-some years of growing kids, sending them off, and helping with grandchildren). Because, in this over-socialized, over-opinionated, black-and-white media-driven culture, I realize that too often I let what some "stranger-psychologist" or "philosophy" says is best to shape my efforts in parenting.
So, to bring it down to real-life, here is my latest struggle:
Even thinking that makes me cringe.
...I just didn't think...
I just hoped it wouldn't be an issue for our kids...
Yeah, well, my rose-colored glasses were thrown to the ground when my son asked me if he could, "ask her out?" a month ago.
At least he asked me first, right?
My brain was flooded with all the mom blogs I have read, the parenting books I have scoured, and even the mom-speaking conferences, workshops, and MOPS meetings I went to. And I recall terms like, "courtship"and "dating contracts". But then, I looked back at my own summer before 8th grade and how I would have been ecstatic to "be asked out". In my mind, it would have meant that a boy had noticed me. And let's face it, thirteen year olds want to be noticed. Yeah, I was a little boy crazy, but I was a pretty level-headed kid with big dreams for my future career, and great desire for academic success. And I liked boys.
Now, I am not saying that we should allow our kids to think wanting that attention is important and a need to be filled, I am just saying...I know what it's like. And sometimes, as a parent, I forget to tap into my own experience and remember that.
But regardless, as a mom of an almost thirteen year old, I froze at this topic. I felt like I might be a disappointment in the parenting community if I chose wrongly (not that I should really care about others' opinions...but, um, it's a major flaw of mine). I might be labeled as "too strict" if I went one way, or "too lax" if I went the other.
Mostly, I was scared to death that whatever move I made, would be detrimental to my son.
And, really, I think it boils down to all the hype out there forced upon us as parents. The biggest obstacle as a parent today is black and white thinking.
I mean, as parents, we are easy targets. We want the best for our kids...and we want to keep them from the mistakes we felt our parents' made. So if someone has had success and coined it to share with us, then by all means! Parenting for dummies...yep, sign me up!
Only this way, not that way
This is the best way
That is the proven way
But is life really that clearly drawn?
Once I allowed a conversation to grow organically between my son and me...I realized I couldn't just apply what I had read, or easily label my next parenting approach. I had to look at the whole picture, and gauge my son as an individual who was allowing me to be a part of this stepping stone in growing up (Praise the Lord).
A few years ago, I might have thought I needed to say "no" to this. To put my foot down and say, "YOU are NOT growing up so fast. You are too young for a girlfriend."
But now? After we've talked, and he's shown me his heart (and his oh-so-sweet-innocence shining through), and I know what kind of kid he is...does the above approach take him into account at all? Or is it a control thing for me?
I know there are great ideas out there like "courtship" and "dating contracts", and my advice to my son has borrowed ideas from both of those concepts...as well as others. It's not black and white at all. It's all different shades...and so it should be. He is my purposefully-created child, who only fits his own mold.
If I tried to form my son into the latest parenting idea because it suits ME, then I know I would risk losing his trust in me as his uniquely-assigned parent. And when I lose that trust, my opinion won't count at all when it might be needed for more important topics down the road!
My kids can tell when I am being authentic. I don't know how many times they have caught me demonstrating the complete opposite of an opinion I tried to claim as my own. It's not me but my insecurity trying to take over. I have to remind myself daily to step around the obstacle of this way or that. I need to critically think for myself and know that I am guided by something or someOne greater than an expert or a philosophy.
I will never say that my way is best for another parent, but I will say, as far as I can tell, at this moment in time, my permission to allow him to "date" a girl (and there is a very unique definition for that in the Dicken household) is just fine for my son. It might only be for a short while until we need to adjust it all. But that's the great thing about raising a child, they are pretty good at mixing up the black and white, and keeping us parents hopping down those stepping stones!
What has been your latest parenting stepping stone? Or, how do you deal with pre-teen dating?