Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is it criticism, or is it passion?

Do you ever stop to wonder? Sometimes I think we as moms feel like our every move is criticized; I think especially if you are a new mom or are trying out something new, it's easy to feel like the world is against you and your choices as a parent. In some cases I believe that's true : who doesn't have that aunt, or mother-in-law, or mother, or annoying older sister, who insists that everything they know about raising kids is the "right way" to do things and everything you think, say, or feel is automatically wrong? Most of us have felt those kinds of comments and know how crazy many of them are (for example, you weren't buckled into a car seat as an infant because they didn't have car seats back then, and your mother likes to point out how you kids all managed to survive childhood).

But what about other modern-age moms that you meet around town or on message boards? I read a lot about moms who feel attacked, and criticized, and there are certain topics that become almost taboo online. Unless you're in a specific forum you aren't really free to discuss breastfeeding, or co-sleeping, or vaccination choices, or delaying solids, or in some cases even cloth diapering or homeschooling. You risk letting it be known that you aren't a "mainstream" parent, and even worse, you feel like you're hurting the feelings of those who you are "against." But what if what you're hearing isn't meant to be criticism, but is simply passion and the voice of hard-earned experience?

I won't make it any secret that we are pretty far out of mainstream when it comes to parenting our children. We fall into the attachment parenting label pretty neatly; all of my kids have been breastfed past a year (or two), I babywear, we co-sleep, we don't let a baby cry it out, we make every attempt to discipline gently, we do try to teach respect by being respectful. On the "crunchy" front we have chosen not to vaccinate, and we recently started cloth diapering. We also delay solids and homeschool.

I have learned a LOT in the almost ten years I've been a mom. I started out young and fumbling, with a poor example in my own mom and doing the best I could to follow my baby's cues. At that time I was terrified to co-sleep and never even gave a passing thought to the safety of vaccines. Baby number two came along with a horrible case of five-months-nonstop screaming, and we survived only by keeping her in bed with us. Baby number three came along 10 weeks premature and we had to adapt to an entirely new set of rules. Because she would aspirate reflux and stop breathing, babywearing upright in a sling became essential. We were already familiar with the personal benefits of co-sleeping and breastfeeding, and so were even more committed to what had worked so well for us. When number four arrived, a refluxy, colicky, screamy thing with an immature digestive system who wanted (wants) nothing but to be with mommy 24/7, we were able to adapt pretty smoothly. Had he been our first, we would have been WRECKS.

I hope that if you ever feel as though your parenting choices are being picked on, or even attacked, that you'll consider that at least some of us moms are just trying to help. We're not judging, or demanding changes, or criticizing what you do. We've just been through enough in our ever-changing, ever-developing parenting experiences that we see others who are struggling or who seem lost, and we want to try to make it better. We're passionate about the discoveries that we have made through much trial and error along the way, and we have so many, "if I had only knowns" circulating in our brains that we want to share.

But that doesn't mean I'll ever be pleased to hear my mother say, "Back when you kids were little..." ;D

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