Parenting is Hard Enoughby Carissa Andrews - June 4th, 2014
Attachment parenting, Helicopter mom, Free-Range kids, Tiger mums. Meh. I’ve never been a fan of labels. Especially not ones that pigeonhole people into believing they fit into some magical one-size-fits-all scenario. It’s like high-school all over again. I didn’t conform to those rules then and I doubt I’ll ever adhere to others that take their place.
Throughout my career as a parent (because oh yeah, it’s work!), I’ve found myself to be many things, not just one. I’ve gone through stages where one could consider me an attachment mother; I co-slept and breastfed both of my children. I had body slings and Baby Bjorn’s to keep them close to me. I also ensured there were covers on electrical switches and gates on my stairway. I did my best to prevent injury when I saw the likelihood occurring. Does that make me a helicopter mom, too? Then again, as they have aged, I oscillate between giving very specific rules to follow and expecting them to comply without constant reminders or hovering. And you bet your bottom dollar I can go all Supernanny on their behinds if they get out of line. Yet, my kids are free to choose their activities each day. My 8 year-old son plays Minecraft, watches YouTube, and builds the most amazing Lego devices you’ve ever seen. He rides bike in the driveway and climbs trees in the backyard. He lets me know when he’d like to have friends over or get away from his sister by going to their house. My daughter reads books, plays with her stuffed animals, and does art projects until the cows come home. She chases after her brother, builds forts with him, and tries to mimic his Lego engineering in her own style. She’s social and energetic and has an imagination that’s unrivaled by any other 5 year-old I’ve met. And they do this all of their own free will. I don’t micromanage their time, nor expect them to try new things they may have no interest in. We don’t travel to a million after school events that require us to eat our supper in the van because we don’t remember what our house looks like. Instead, I follow their lead and give them the boost they need to make smart decisions on their own. *gasp* Does that mean they are free-range kids?
I understand why we label – we want to feel in control; like we have a good grasp of our surroundings. Yet let me ask you, is a monarch butterfly any less beautiful simply by giving it a name? Does the moniker of butterfly or the class of monarch help you to understand its essence? I think not.
Our society seems to want to put far too much emphasis on labels in order to deem a sense of order. Democrat, Republican, pro-choice, anti-religion, homophobic… whatever. I have yet to meet a Democrat who is 100% in agreement of the platform. I’ve met Republicans who are pro-choice and completely open to gay rights. Does this mean they don’t fit the norms? Can they even claim right to their labels? Or are we simply labeling something that doesn’t really exist in order to make ourselves feel better? Somehow, I think it may be the later.
Trust me, no one remembers if I was a goth-chick, artsy, track-runner jock, writer, book nerd, band groupie, cheerleader or Hermione wannabe back in high school. Instead, they remember the way I helped when I could, got good grades, hung out with just about every clique on campus and had friends across all ages. And it’s just the way I like it.
Don’t get me wrong, I have found the idea of the “hip new parenting labels" interesting. If nothing else, it gives a glimmer of insight into how our parenting style may or may not affect our children. Kinda like reading your horoscope and determining if the vague description adds value to your day. But in the end, it’s your kids who will be the ultimate judge of your technique. If they feel loved, appreciated, accomplished, and trusted… then you know you’re doing your job right. Nothing else matters.
Carissa Andrews is an passionate author and freelancer from Minnesotan with a focus in creative writing.