Recently I was on an online parenting forum and someone asked me what type of parent I was. The only answer I could muster up was a clueless “huh”? Did I miss something? Are they passing out parental grades and assignments these days? I swear I am always out of the loop! I was thinking, what did she mean by “type”? I always just thought of myself as mom, not a title associated with it. If we get to choose I really want to be “Your Madame Queen Mother” , that has a nice ring to it. Then the women went on to explain, because she could see I really was not understanding what she was saying, “You know, are you a crunchy mom, or into attachment parenting, or are you more of an authoritarian parent?” Since this was an online forum and I had already made myself look dumb enough for the one day, I decided to google it. I had heard these titles before on other parenting forums and sites, but I never paid much attention to them. Just like I always skipped over the posts that used too many acronyms I didn’t understand. I just chalked it up to people that were really into forum writing. You know those people, there’s one on every forum. They like to comment on everything, and think it’s their mission in life to save everyone’s child from the horrors of junk food and pop and watching TV before five years old. See, that’s not me. I am the mom that sees a rash on my daughter and pops into a parenting forum to see if it’s a flesh eating disease or just something she got from the grass. Oh and I like to look and comment on pictures of cute kids and babies, especially from my beloved group of mixed Indian kids. That is the extent of my online forum life. No titles or crazy acronyms for this woman.
Well I typed in a few words into google and discovered a plethora of information on the topics. Web MD defined Attachment Parenting as a parental philosophy that “focuses on the nurturing connection that parents can develop with their children. That nurturing connection is viewed as the ideal way to raise secure, independent, and empathetic children.” Well that sounded good, I guess I would not mind being put into this grouping. I went on to BabyCenter’s community online page and joined an attachment parenting group, they have a group for everything on that site. I started looking through the posts and I truly got a feel for what the title truly meant, at least in the online community. What I saw was, STRESSS! I am not critiquing “ attachment parenting” I am more critical of the idea of having to fit into a tittle or group. As I read through the posts I saw two things that made me very uncomfortable 1). Instead of there being one obsessive parent on the forum concerned about everything from Disney princesses to kids not allowed any sugar. On this forum there seemed to be hundreds and many of them were bullies. 2). Many of the parents on the forum did not seem very happy. It seemed like the philosophy they had adopted was not being applied very organically. It was like they were following the direction from some book but the pieces were not fitting together very well and they were trying to force them in any way.
I was read this one women’s post who was seeking advice. She told the story of how one day she was on her way to an important medical appointment with a pediatric cardiologist for her baby daughter. She had a 6 month old and three year old son. She was carrying the baby and the toddler was walking next to her. The toddler then decided he was not going to walk anymore and wanted to be held. She could not hold both children at the same time. She tried talking to the child and using calm compassionate language. The child then decided to scream and cry on the floor. She knew for the sake of her baby that she needed to get to the appointment, so she half carried and half dragged the toddler to the appointment. The Dr. discovered that her baby had a heart valve defect and was admitted right away because it was life threatening. If she had missed the appointment who knows what would have happened. Well she posted the question on the forum “ What could I have done differently with my son because I feel this was not a proper “attached parenting” method of dealing with his outburst”. Some of the replies that she got were crazy and downright insulting. There were several women that said she had abused her son by dragging him to the appointment. One woman even said that if she had seen this event in person she would have called the police. The original poster asked what they would have done in the situation when the baby needed the medical attention. One women answered that she would have calmly sat with the toddler and soothed him until he was calm again, even if it meant missing the appointment and having to reschedule. Everyone passed judgment on this women. No one saw the fact that she got the baby to the Dr. and saved her life and in end the toddler was perfectly fine. They just all focused on the fact that she was not a “crunchy enough mom”. The women never argued her case either , she took the criticism and admitted failure at maintaining her parental composure. This is what I don’t like about titles and groups like these. The need to fit into the lines perfectly. I know so many mothers with “ mommy guilt” because they define themselves by what others think is correct and good. They never live up to all those standards and see themselves as failing. I wish parenting was that simple; that I could follow a manual and my kid would be put together properly. In reality every child is different, every parent is different, every situation is different, and none of that comes with a manual. A parents job requires improvising, being innovative, and flexible.
The reality is that yes I do agree with many of the philosophies of attachment parenting. I believe in communicating with my child and trying to use reason before force. I believe in showering my child with love and attention. But, I do not believe that my child and I are equals. I believe in discipline and proper behavior. I believe in consequences. Though my child is the most important thing in my life, I will not do her the injustice of allowing her to think that she is the most important thing in this world, and that everyone should bend at her will. I do say NO. I WOULD drag my child if need be to a Drs. Appointment, because that is how the world works. We have to do things that we do not want to sometimes. Learning that at a young age will help them adjust to the real world. For example, we have a rule in our house that when people greet you, you must reply with either a hello or if we are in the Punjabi community a Sat Sri Akal. We attend a Sikh temple (Gurdwara) most weekends. It is customary to put your hands together and say Sat Sri Akal when you see someone. It is both a religious statement meaning “God is the ultimate truth” and a greeting. My three year old daughter, Nasreen ,decided to stop doing this one day. Adults came up to her and said Sat Sri Akal and she looked the other way and pretended to not hear them, it was incredible rude of her. I took her aside and talked to her and said “Nasreen why are you not responding, are you shy or nervous”. She said “no, I just don’t want to”. To I explained to her that she and I will have to go sit in the car while daddy prays and then has Langar ( shared meal). She got upset and started to cry, and I said” well if you can’t be nice you can’t be around other people”. She quickly responded “Ok I will say Sat Sri Akal”. We went back in to the Gurdwara and she said Sat Sri Akal to everyone that passed. She learned through that lesson that in order to get what she wants, to socialize and eat yummy Punjabi food, she must be polite.
Ever since I was a kid I never liked the idea of groups or titles, they make me uncomfortable. Similar to the feeling I get from a sweater that is too tight and itchy, I just want to get out of it. In college I studied political science, and here’s a shocker I don’t have a political party! I vote on issues and candidates. I do not fit completely into either parties and I will not conform myself to meet their standards. I will never call myself Democrat of Republican nor will I call myself an attachment parent for the same reason. There are some aspects of my parenting that is quite democratic while there are other times I am quite authoritarian. It fits my child, my situation, and my family. For example my daughter knows better than to flip out in public because mommy is a busy woman and there will be consequences at home. She will lose the TV, her tablet and everything she holds dear. While in the privacy of our home I am more patient and allow her to have her terrible moments and tantrums. As a result of my sternness my daughter is very well behaved in public, which allows me to be able to shop, go to the Drs., sit through hour long religious services. I feel safe and confident taking her to many events. She knows better than to run from me or let go of my hand crossing a street. While at home she is very relaxed and happy. We do lots of fun activities and she is a little clown. This is what worked for my family. I could not follow a book or listen to other people, I had to decide this on my own. I had to have my daughter’s best interest at heat and use common sense with parenting her.
Ultimately I avoid judging other parents. No one really knows what the “right” way of parenting. I honestly believe that each child is born with a personality! All we can do as parents is adapt our parenting to help nurture and direct that little person. My daughter is a little petite thing, but her personality is huge. She is a spit fire that never gives up. She is fearless and will go toe to toe with me and never back down. I can say no until I am blue in the face and she will keep saying yes. She was born that way. As an infant her need to be fed was forceful and heard around the neighborhood. She used to “ yell “ at me and her daddy when she was days old when she felt ignored. I am glad that she is forceful and driven and determined. It is qualities that are great in an adult. I would never want to suppress them; I honestly don’t think I could. These qualities make for determined people that work hard toward their goals. On the other hand these qualities are also found in people that get in trouble with the law. My goal as her mother is to direct her energy and personality toward a positive path. I had no role in shaping her personality, she was born with that. All I can do is help her direct it.
My cardinal rule of parenting is to always make sure that my daughter is loved, and knows without a doubt that she is loved no matter what happens in life. I honestly think that as a parent we can get everything else wrong but as long as our kids know that we love them unconditionally than everything else can be fixed and repaired. When a child doubts their parent’s love, it can destroy that child’s feeling of self-worth. It leads to self-destructive behavior, low self-esteem, and a life-time of emotional pain and heart ache. My child did not come with a manual that I can read and follow. When she was born my heart changed forever, and that became my guide. When I need parental advice I listen to my heart for the answers not books, forums, or other parents. So when someone asks me the question of what “type” of parent I am, my response will always be the “loving type”.