Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Philosophy becomes real

I cannot count how many people have asked me “what is your philosophy of parenting?” They want to know if I subscribe to one camp or the other, a quick way to find out if I am parenting “the right way” or if I need to be corrected. Many people are firmly entrenched in one philosophy, and I sometimes fear that they will cling to their position even when it isn’t quite the right fit anymore.

I came into parenting stating that my philosophy of parenting is that it's made up of:
25% my personality and style,
25% my husband's personality and style,
25% our baby's personality and style, and
25% our family culture and values.
Mix that all together, and then figure out what works. If that means we do things sometimes from the attachment parenting philosophy, and sometimes we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum, so be it. We’ll just do what works for us and not worry if it fits into one particular camp or the other.

So before Owen was born, Brendan and I discussed how we wanted to do things. Where would Owen sleep, how would we feed him, what would we do when he cries, what boundaries would we set, etc. etc. I really thought we had a good plan, and good communication about how parenting would work in our house.

And then Owen was born.

Remember that 25% that I said he would contribute? Yeah, well, that 25% didn’t fit with the 75% we'd already planned out. And I had to turn my philosophy of parenting into a reality and adjust our plans to adapt to Owen's personality and style.

At first, I wanted to hang on to my position and my plan. “Come on, kid,” I thought, “this isn’t how this is supposed to work! You're supposed to do it this way, not that way!” Then I realized that I was doing exactly what I saw other parents do – I was clinging to my ideas of how I wanted to raise my son, even when it clearly wasn't going to work for him.

We didn't completely abandon the values and ideas we'd worked out before he was born, we just modified what it looked like to make that happen. It was rough at first, as we all got to know each other in our new roles in the family. We're still learning, but it's definitely getting easier to anticipate how to love and care for Owen in a way that fits.

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