Unless you’ve been living in mass isolation, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the different types of parenting theories being discussed, outlined, and debated ten-fold these days. Maybe you’ve even taken a quiz. Are you an attachment parent, helicopter parent, or are you raising free-range kids? Maybe you have been called permissive because you let your kids take a mental health day off from school when they weren’t necessarily sick, or possibly you even let your kid eat all her Halloween candy in one night! (You couldn’t be a tiger mom because you live in America, right?)
Here’s my problem, I have at one time or another done all these things.
I firmly believe that having a close, loving bond with your child is a part of good parenting. No, I don’t regularly give my kids’ answers to their homework, but I have been known to rattle off some quick answers when they were sick and catching up on an inordinate amount of homework for any 5-year-old. Like Gwyneth Paltrow, I even let my kids take a day off from school when they’re not sick. One time, we took a day off just to see a movie. Gasp.
I actually fall on the side of taking mental health days. Since my kids began school, I have let them take off one day each year for absolutely no reason. It’s up to them when they take it, but they only get one day. In addition, there have been times when they haven’t slept well, had an extremely busy day, or just were going through an emotional situation, and I let them stay home. Is that really horrifying? My kids are honor students and if their grades were suffering, I would probably rethink my stance but I don’t think missing a day or two, a couple times a year, will have any long lasting impact.
Permissive? Perhaps, but I could also be an attachment parent.
No, you will not catch me harassing college boards when the time comes, but I certainly fall into quirky safety concerns that some might consider extreme. I’m crazed about cars and crossing streets, but if my kids are not bundled from head-to-toe at all times, it doesn’t bother me. I teach them to wash their hands when they get in from school, but I don’t make them carry Purell in their lunchboxes.
I have a friend who was so anxious over accidental poisoning that when she read on the toothpaste label that ingestion could be fatal (“WARNING: Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately.”), she stored her toothpaste on the top shelf in her bathroom so her daughter would never be in danger of reaching it and sucking down a few tubes. This caused some marital friction since her less than tall husband was required to jump on a stepladder in order to brush his teeth in the morning. Is that attachment parenting or a sign of a phobia?
First of all, I have to say if Dr. Sears never coined the term, I would be raising my kids through “attachment parenting”. What other way is there? Detachment parenting? Absurd idea, although it seems somebody, somewhere might endorse it. When my children cry, feel hurt or sick, or are going through a tough time, now or at age 20 or 30, I will be there for them. No questions asked and I certainly won’t do it because an expert advised me to do it. Is this not a normal mother’s reaction?
I fully believe in and advise my kids to be independent and trust their instincts, so while I haven’t yet let an eight-year-old ride the subways alone, I have let an eight-year-old walk our dog alone and go to the store a few blocks away. I do believe that we are crushing our children’s creativity by always having them scheduled and supervised. Kids need to do nothing sometimes so they can dream, write, draw, hang out with other kids and make up pretend games. We don’t need to always have scheduled play dates and structured activities and the last thing creative kids need is to be hovered over. Where is the fun of childhood?
I find the labels that parenting styles have fallen under as both dividing and useless. Being called an attachment parent is being used as a derogatory remark. Being called permissive is akin to be called uncaring, and try calling someone a helicopter parent without it being perceived as rude.
I refuse to be labeled under any one style. The truth is that depending on the day or the given circumstance, I might just be a helicopter parent or a permissive parent. I will more than likely be an attachment parent. I do expect my children to do well in school and maintain their grades, but I’ll probably never be called a tiger mom.
And you know what? Nobody cares. No one cares what style we each have as mothers except ourselves. If the tiger mom has taught us anything, it’s showed us that we have an inert, almost insane reaction when someone questions our mothering judgment and style. You know why? Because being a mom is the most important job we’ll ever have and we want to get it right.
The use of labels is also very high school to me, as in back then, we were a jock, cheerleader, nerd, rocker, or artsy type, or some other word that labeled the kind of people we were and what we believed in. Isn’t it time we rise up over peer pressure and not only stop trying to fit into any one label, but more importantly stop labeling other moms?
Labels are divisive — just look at the immediate division when you discuss if someone is a Republican or a Democrat, an atheist or a Christian, pro-life or pro-choice, and the preconceived thoughts that those words conjure up. Poet Maya Angelou says, “Words are things, I’m convinced” and I agree.
We all want to raise happy, healthy, and engaged children no matter what kind of parenting style we are said to have. The debate over putting a name on our choices and decisions is senseless. The real goal of education and feminism even (as one engaged reader recently pointed out) is the right to make choices, which in turn means the right to make choices unapologetically and without repercussions from people who don’t necessarily agree with your particular view.
I’m a parent. It is a job that I take seriously and one that I try to improve at steadily. When I know better, I do better, but I often make mistakes and I change my stance on certain subjects from time to time. I will not be labeled because a new book that just hit the stands is gathering buzz, and I won’t be labeled just because someone says what type of parent I am. I’m a parent to three lovely children and there’s no other thing I’d rather be.
I’m a parent. Period.
And so are you.
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