5.08.2014

please don't label my parenting

When I was in high school, there was this girl -- let's call her Sarah -- who ran with the same crowd and, in turn, who I saw everywhere. She was never outwardly nice to me, but one day an instant message (showing my age here, people) popped up from Sarah that said, "You're not emo. You have long hair. Stop being a poser." It was the first of many times Sarah decided my hair rendered me absolutely unable to listen to the kind of music I listened to. Concerts? Oh, forget about it. There was one particular Piebald show when the girl actually tugged on my hair -- the hair she really hated, for some reason -- before walking past me. We won't even get into the time she took a photo of me from the back, wrote "poser" over my head and used it as a show flier for her boyfriend's band. I was never hurt by her actions, just confused. Even as the least intuitive teenager on this planet, I couldn't understand what my having long hair (which I loved) had anything at all to do with the kind of music I listened to (which I also loved). Whenever I was in the same place at the same time as Sarah, I would just deal with some remark about my hair and how, because of it, I was "not emo." (Whatever that even means, since I was never the genre of music that I enjoyed listening to in the first place -- nor was anyone else.)

Having a certain uniform to suit your social circle didn't start and end with Sarah vs. My Hair, obviously. High school stereotypes aren't exactly a new fad, though they've long since been a problem. Much to my dismay, however, the labels and expected uniforms didn't end with high school. Adulthood -- motherhood, specifically -- has made it so much worse. I almost miss someone tugging on my hair when, instead, someone comes up to me and asks "what kind of parenting do you do?"

I'm admittedly pretty crunchy. I'm annoying (so my teenage sister says) about non-GMOs and whole food, organic diets for Ethan. I'm used to the eyerolls when I don't let Ethan drink juice or check to ensure those super cute plates from the Target dollar spot are BPA and toxin free. I drive my mother insane when I won't let her bathe Ethan in any product that I cannot recognize each ingredient in -- and approve said ingredient, of course -- and I won't let a diaper that isn't 7th Generation touch my kid's butt (Baby #2 will be cloth diapered just to one up my lunacy game). Because of the things that people know of me in regards to the aforementioned bits, I often get lumped into the hippie mom category. The hippie mom category usually spawns into the attachment parenting category. And from what I found during my brief time among people who are card-carrying attachment parents is -- they're a lot like Sarah. Only instead of commenting on my hair, they comment on the fact that, as much as I enjoyed babywearing, sometimes Ethan really loved riding in his stroller instead (and, dude, 40 pounds of toddler is heavy). Or the fact that Ethan drank formula during his first year of life (and that Baby #2 will be formula fed from the start, too). Or the fact that, at a birthday party, I will let Ethan have a slice of birthday cake and I think the memories he makes with my sister going for ice-cream on the occasional Thursday are important and okay. Or the fact that Ethan never wanted to co-sleep -- he enjoys his crib. And, as any sleep deprived parent knows, you do what lets your kid get a good night of sleep. The hippie moms didn't want me. The "hello, my name is such-and-such and I am an attachment parent" crowd didn't want me. My hair was too long, metaphorically speaking.

And then there are the parents who roll their eyes at me and say that they are "mainstream parents" and I cannot sit with them at the lunch table because I don't believe in spanking or time out, because I like to wear my toddler in a baby carrier sometimes, because I like to feed him organic foods whenever possible and don't believe in teething tablets or juice or television. "There's no room for you organic moms here," they'll say and once again I'm left out in left field. Just me and my long hair. Again.

You'll see it all of the time on the internet: attachment parenting versus traditional parenting versus corporal parenting versus gentle parenting versus child-led parenting versus by-the-book parenting versus Dr. So-And-So's Holy Book Of Parenting and so on. And so on. And so on ad nauseum. And each little group is broken into some bizarre checklist and if you miss a point, if you dare miss a point, you're going to get booted out of the clique. It's all or nothing in parenting. These parenting labels don't come easy. You'll be left wandering the courtyard looking for that random group of people who don't belong to a clique, either. They're hard to find.

I don't want to belong to a clique. I don't want to be labeled. The kind of parent I am is the kind of parent who parents the way that I see fit. The kind of parenting I practice is the kind of parenting that I believe is best for my own children and my own family. No, I'm not going to let my baby cry. No, I'm not going to put him down when he wants to be held. Yes, I am going to lay here stroking his hair until he falls asleep. No, I am not concerned at how attached he is to me because he's just a baby. But please don't call me any type of parent other than "Ethan's mom." That's all I am, Ethan's mom. Raising Ethan the way I believe in, the way I see fit, the best way that I know how -- even if that means sitting alone under a tree with my cloth diapers and bottle of formula like a rare zoo animal on display for everyone to gawk at. I don't want to live my life by someone else's principles, especially someone who doesn't know my baby how I know my baby. I know my baby. I'm not going to adhere to a checklist at this point in my life, just as I refused to when I was a teenager.

Sadly, much like high school cliques, I don't think the "what kind of parenting do you do?" question is going to disappear anytime soon. I mean, why do we have to label our parenting styles, anyway? Can't we all just be parents? It would be lovely if that question could simply dissipate and all of humankind could appreciate the fact that mothers and children could coexist even if their thoughts on parenting were different. Even if they don't conform, or don't want to conform, to a certain label or title or status or group.

Even if they like their long hair.

3 comments:

  1. theplacesyouwillgoMay 9, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    I agree. The labeling has to stop. We are all trying to raise our kids the best way we know how. I don't do things the way you do, but I don't think that makes me a better parent or you a better parent. Our kids are different. What works for mine may not work for yours. Heck, even between my two kids the same things don't work for them. I think as long as kids are healthy, happy, and thriving then parents are succeeding. We should worry more about the parents who are putting their kids in dangerous situations or worse.

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  2. Lindsay @ youaretheroots.comMay 9, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    Exactly! I have plenty of friends who parent differently than I do -- maybe they do time out, or spank their kids, or let them play with toy guns and all of the other things I don't do. It doesn't mean our kids can't be friends or we can't, as parents, be friends. It's so weird to me how these grown women are so intent on only socializing with people who do exactly what they do without straying at all from this invisible checklist!


    And you're so right about the parents who put their kids in dangerous situations. Each time I hear someone say they pity a child who was fed formula, I just get confused. Maybe we should pity the children who have literally no food to eat and are sleeping on cold floors unsure of where their next meal might even come from...maybe these are the children we should focus on helping.

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  3. Lisa Grella MendozaMay 20, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    I love this post! I feel you are a great mom and I would love to " sit at your table". I feel this way a lot of the time but not about my parenting skills because most moms won't even speak to me or give me a chance due to my tattoos. The fact that you started talking to me right away that day at my gym made me feel so good- like " yes! Someone sees me as brixtyns mom, not some girl with tattoos". It was very comforting. Unfortunately I've learned that " high school" never really ends- there are always cliquey moms and every now and then there is a really nice open minded one that will talk to me... Like you! ;-)

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