Have you ever embraced a parenting strategy, or approach to raising your child that seemed to be such a great idea, you couldn’t imagine why everyone didn’t join you as soon as they saw it in action, heard you sing it’s praises, or read the book themselves? In the first five years of my mamahood I have felt rather adamant about a few such discoveries including; sling wearing, sleep training, “Magic 1-2-3“, formula is best, nursing is best, co-sleeping, organic produce, water filters, providing children with choices, the best way to raise a racist child is to not talk about race, reading to children all the time.. and have I alienated everyone yet?
In five short years I have certainly had a lot to say about a lot of things and judged a lot of people I adore, and many I’ve never even met (at playgrounds and in grocery stores), who obviously haven’t seen the light yet! If they only had the chance to be as good a parent as me! Then the world would clearly be a better place. Sigh, maybe they’ll arrive there on their own someday…
When I look over that list of things above, I want to shrink into a box the size of one of the keys on my keyboard and whisper; “Sometimes things don’t always turn out as I had thought they would…” Take for example sleep training. If you haven’t heard about it I’ll let someone else grab the podium. If you have and feel strongly about it I’m with you. But, I also have to say, here I am back at square one with two kids who don’t go to sleep much before nine most nights. Back with one who needs not only a song, a back rub, and every stuffed animal ever created tucked in around him just so. But who even after all that requires nine out of ten times to get out of bed and insist we start the entire process all over again because he just “loves me so much he needs me to be with him RIGHT NOW!!!” in order to fall asleep. Want to see me jump a little higher?
I know what I need to do. I know where I’ve been inconsistent. I know that the computer needs to turn off around 5:00pm, if I have a hope of a sane night time routine. And yet I still find myself bickering with two over tired kids about how they should just be in bed now, because it’s too late to argue with their over tired mother. If only all the folks Ive been judging for years could see me now. It isn’t pretty, and it’s my fault. At least now I tell my kids; “Your mom goofed. It is way too late for all of us to be up.” The next day, I promise to do better, to start all over again. Where did I put that sleep book?
But recently, I’ve been thinking that there is a much larger premise I have assumed was the right choice for Sam, (my five and half year old, adopted transracially and domestically at birth) that I am not so certain is the case anymore. And, it is one of the largest parenting organizing principles I’ve been operating under since before he came into my life. It is the belief that incorporating his birth story into our lives with frequency and normalcy is the key to his successful identity formation in the long-term.
Could it be that I have taken the open in open adoption too far too fast? Or is it that I have successfully laid all the groundwork he needs to feel secure in his relationship with his first mom and now he needs my permission to just let a good thing be? Permission to let the mom he is living with be his just one mom for a while? We (meaning circles of mothers) are often counseling one another that you have to follow your mother’s intuition, that you know what’s best. But, when such a decision feels like it may have very far reaching implications, it can be a very hard, and sometimes lonely one to make. What is the best strategy then?
How I arrived here, and what I hope to do about it, will be explored in the coming days (I will reassure you that in my case I am working with a family therapist who specializes in adoption to arrive at the most thoughtful approach to this question) on my personal blog. Until then, I’d love to hear about any parenting podium pendulums you’ve found yourself swinging on, and what you did or didn’t do about it. When is the best parenting strategy ever actually the ability to notice that it may not be the right one for your kid after all? Even when it isn’t what you used to think, or the world, or at least that annoying woman in the grocery store seems to be telling you otherwise?