Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Parenting philosophy

This weekend down in DC for Amy's baby shower (lovely, lovely), the subject came up of what kind of parents we wanted to be. Antonella asked Amy if she's been reading any parenting books, if she'd gotten the Sears books from work, and Amy said no, and Antonella said that was probably for the best. She said she had gotten them because she had access to them, and then thought, "Wait, am I going to be rearing my child the Sears way, just because I happen to work at this company and get the books for free?" It's funny to think about. If she worked for S&S, would she be following Dr. Spock? My friends having babies now are thinking about what kind of parent they want to be. Are they going to let their kids watch TV? Eat junk food? Surf the internet? Date?

About a year and a half ago when I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and found myself starting over at age 31, I had lunch with my friend Paul and he suggested I read a book called Midlife Crisis at 30--not because I was going through a midlife crisis necessarily, but because most women have similar experiences at that age. I've been reading it on and off, and at least one thing I've gotten out of it is that no matter the situation the woman is in, they usually have a feeling that maybe they should have done things differently. So, for example, the women who focused on their careers and now find themselves without a husband or children at age 30 think maybe they should have focused on family instead, and the ones that are married with children at 30 think they should have focused on their career. The women who tried to do both think that maybe they should have focused on just one or the other. The grass is always greener.

Recently I read a passage that surprised me, and fit into the theme of all my friends and cousins having babies (my cousin Melissa and her husband Albert had a second son, Micah, and Jeff and Stacy just had their second son on Thursday, Joshua).
While all parents swear they are going to raise their kids differently than they were raised, studies show that Gen-Xers are twice as likely as Boomers to say they don't have good role models for childrearing.

Besides being extremely vague (and attributed only to an article in the Chicago Daily Herald), I found this surprising. ALL parents swear they're going to raise their kids differently? I certainly think my parents were good role models, although it's true, I would do some things differently. I think the fact that I was deprived of junk food made me like junk food too much, gave me some food issues. But I think eating such healthy food growing up (brown rice, veggies, fruit) made me really enjoy that kind of food. I didn't like brown rice as a kid, and would crave the white rice I'd get in Chinese restaurants, but now I prefer brown rice. And I LOVE tofu. Love it. And spinach. Spinach...mmm. And all fruit (in fact, just tonight while having drinks with another editor and an agent I suggested getting a fruit plate, but they shot me down). But there has to be a balance. (I find that "it's all about balance" is my mantra these days.) It's finding the right balance that's the tough part. If a kid gets a taste of junk food, is that all they'll want to eat? Then again, I won't have to seriously think about this for a while.

We played an ice breaker game at Amy's shower where we each had the name of a famous mother on our backs, and had to ask others yes or no questions to figure out who our mother was. One of Amy's cousins got a Panda mother, I think Mei Xiang. When I was telling Sachin about this later, he said, "Did you hear about the mother panda who accidentally killed one of her babies?"

BEIJING - Staff at a zoo in southwest China are in mourning after a sleep-deprived panda dropped her two-day-old baby and crushed it to death, local media reported on Friday.

So sad! So we started talking about how the problem of pandas and elephants and some other wild animals rearing children in captivity is that they lack the community to teach them how to raise their kids, that it doesn't all come naturally or instinctively. And for humans, it's the same. Even though everyone tells you how to raise your kids, or what you should do, there are so many books out there and it gets confusing, the truth is that you take the information you want to, and form your own parenting style. But the knowlege of your parents or other people with kids is invaluable.

Not to keep talking about running, but, well, yeah, I'm gonna keep talking about running. I haven't really been doing any of my own research on how to run a marathon, but I've found people's advice to be great. I don't follow all of it, but I'm able to cull the advice I think is best for me, and it makes me feel like I'm not running blind, despite my laziness.

Anyway, back to parenting, I'm curious to hear from you parents out there. How did you go about deciding your parenting philosophy? Are you finding yourself raising your kids the same way you were raised? (I'm wondering how many parents read my blog...I guess I'll find out!)


Anonymous said...

You know, I think it's something that evolves. You start reading everything you get your hands on, taking a bit from here and a bit from here, and you may even embrace a particular author for a while (as I did with Dr. Sears) but in the end you realize that no one wrote a book about your particular kid, and that book is the only one that's really going to be of significant help. You can write it yourself--but by then it's too late. But by then, your kid is well-grown, for better or worse.

You might look up PARENTS WHO THINK TOO MUCH by Anne Cassidy. Interesting.

For another interesting perspective, ask Donna Jo Napoli how she raised her kids.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'd like to add that I eventually dumped Dr. Sears. :)

alvinaling said...

Ha--I love that title, PARENTS WHO THINK TOO MUCH.

And now I'm also curious about Donna Jo Napoli...but wouldn't know how to go about asking her how she raised her kids.

Anonymous said...

She talks about it in her presentations.

Basically, she expected them to be very independent. From the time each turned five, he/she was expected to make dinner one night a week. If it was a container of yogurt and an apple, that's what the family ate. If they wanted to do extracurricular activities (Brownies, piano lessons, etc.) they had to get their on their own.

topangamaria said...

I have teaching credentials in elementary education and was a nanny for celebrity kids and all sorts of experience taking care of other people's kids, so I thought parenthood would be a piece of cake but there's something about the child being your own and the 24/7 aspect of the 'job' that makes it quite the challenge.
Mine is now a high school senior, just got her driving license so you would think my job is done, but she still needs me which is okay.
One of the smartest things I did was be in a playgroup from when she was in diapers through elementary school. It was one of the most important events helping her development, especially being an only. But there's no one right path to it. Each child is an individual. It's quite the adventure.

topangamaria said...

I think I must've heard the same Donna Jo Napoli talk...
One of her memorable moments was when she said, "You can eat off my floors..." which for most people means her floors are so clean...
then she qualified it with...
"for a month at least they're so dirty."

Disco Mermaids said...

Hi again,

I always find your blog topics so interesting and RELEVANT to my life...which is why I comment so often.

I agree with the "Midlife Crisis at 30" theme. Having many girlfriends from childhood, all in different stages of life (some with 5 kids, some single, some divorced, some married with no children, etc), we constantly discuss the "grass is always greener" issue. Everyone feels like she missed out on something. Funny, because we're all happy.

Regarding parenting, it seems my parents' generation had very little in terms of advice, books, playgroups, etc. Now it seems parents my age have too much information out there. I have friends who are paralyzed with fear that if they don't follow the correct method/theory, they'll screw up their kids. As a result, they become overprotective, and ultimately fail to instill a lot of independence in their kids.

Then there's the other end of the spectrum...Donna Jo Napoli, for instance.

As a former early childhood researcher, elementary teacher and social worker, I've seen ALL types of parenting. My conclusion is that regardless of parenting style, a kid's going to be who he's going to be by about age 12. And most turn out fine no matter what you do! Just my humble opinion.