I was cruising Twitter the other day, probably as a way of procrastinating on laundry, and I saw a tweet that said something to the effect of “circumcision should be banned.” I blinked at it for a few seconds that responded in the only way I could; I unfollowed the tweeter.
Now, I don’t have strong feelings on circumcision and I don’t particularly care to debate people who do. I DO, however, have strong feelings on totalitarian views on parenting and I’ve gotta say, I don’t like them. I’m always left in shock when I read something from someone who believes in only one way of doing things when it comes to raising children and is willing to condemn others for believing something different. Like when Gisele Bundchen said there should be a law requiring all moms to breastfeed. No. No, there shouldn’t and Gisele saying that was obnoxious and hurtful to moms who don’t breastfeed.
Being a parent, especially the first time, is so crazy and unsettling and amazing and joyous and terrifying and confusing and hilarious and overwhelming. It’s like you’ve entered and alternate universe where the ground is nothing but constantly shifting sand and you are perpetually a little off-balance. You’re always trying to figure out something about your baby and just as you think you’ve nailed, something changes. A tooth. A fever. He learns to roll over. She starts crawling. And there you are starting over again with a new set of given circumstances. It’s endless change.
That sense of endless change is what makes “parenting philosophies” and their attendant books, websites, and support groups so appealing. An author who purports to have answers to all your questions about parenting and whose methods sit comfortably with your gut emotions about how to do it right can easily become your guru. And that’s fine. Moms, since time began, find more experienced people to consult about how to raise a baby. It can be Dr. Sears, it can be your grandmother, it can be someone you saw on Oprah. It’s fine to need and ask for advice. What’s not fine is when someone becomes so dogmatic in their adherence to their particular parenting philosophy that they start looking down on people who do it differently.
My personal belief is that there are as many ways to raise children as there are children. This belief was strengthened when I had my second child and I realized that everything I thought I knew how to do had to be adjusted to accommodate how different my daughter is from my son. I’m not doing it better or worse the second time around: I’m just doing it differently because it’s a different child coming into a different family. What worked for C doesn’t necessarily work for N and that’s ok. Just like what works here in the Kuschmider house might not work in your house and that’s ok too. We all have our own particular methods and means to raising happy, healthy kids and, as long as we’re not abusing or neglecting them, it’s probably all going to be just fine.
Parenting is hard and complicated. We all have something valuable to bring to the conversation about raising children, even if what we bring is wildly different than what the person beside us brings. The important thing is to listen and be supportive when someone else talks, not to judge and condemn them for doing it differently. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes than same village to support the child’s parents. I, for one, prefer to try to be the support instead of being the one to judge.
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