Yesterday’s Reverb 10 prompt asks: How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?
…this is SO not what they meant when they created that prompt, but it really feels like the most important shift…
About 3 weeks ago an old-and-dear friend spent some time with me and Xander. And this friend made some comments about my parenting that were…how do I put this nicely? Well-meant but ill-considered? Purposely or not, they called into question my parenting choices and implied a questioning of my ability to parent effectively (really, I find that ANY advice to a parent from a non-parent-who-is-not-a-nurse-or-childcare-worker smacks of that, but I may be oversensitive on the subject). It hurt my feelings. A lot. And it also triggered a pattern in me…a pattern of keeping my head down, shutting up, and trying desperately to please the critic. This wasn’t particularly useful, as I was also trying to effectively parent an in-need-of-a-time-IN toddler at the same time. I couldn’t do EITHER thing well. It was very uncomfortable.
But here’s the thing: after about a week of stewing about…what did I call it? the well-meant but ill-considered advice that I’ve received from a number of people since Xander was born, a shift happened. I was meditating one night before bed and unconsciously stewing about the incident instead of focusing on my breath…when all of a sudden a voice in my mind said “So what?” and I actually laughed out loud. I get all worked up tying myself in knots because so-and-so doesn’t agree with my parenting choices…but WHY? *I* agree with my choices. My husband agrees with my choices. Anyone who views Xander from the outside always comments on what a great kid he is. SO…WHATEVER. Who really gives a you-know-what?
As I’ve said before, I am very prone to sweeping “realizations” that don’t stick when they’re faced with a real test (OK, I may not have mentioned that second part), but this has actually stuck. Last week my mom tried to have that wonderful and inevitable “So, the weaning is going well?” conversation and I actually said “Meh, not really. But I’m not stressed about it. The kid won’t be nursing when he’s 16.” AND I MEANT IT. REALLY!
If you know me, and if you know me-and-my-mom, you will know what a tremendous, colossal, and mindblowingly HUGE development this is. Before this friend-incident, if I had managed to say anything like that comment at ALL it would have been with a secret squirm of shame because maybe I *should* have been weaning and having it going well and blah blah blah insert your Mommy-guilt here. But now? Not so much.
It’s called offbeat parenting for a reason. It’s not mainstream. Mainstreamers (parents or non-parents) may think I’m crazy. But I’ve done my research and I know WHY I make the choices I make. I’m not the only one making these choices. And I’m not even trying to convert anyone who thinks my way is weird. And another thing, ALL toddlers have bad days, regardless of how they’re parented, just like all parents have bad days. And if mainstream methods are so effective, why is this age STILL called the Terrible Twos? Hmmmm? Yeah, I thought so.
So thank you to my well-meaning and much-loved friend. You don’t know what you caused with your comments. But if you ever see this and figure out it’s you…I hope you know how much I appreciate both the concern that caused your remarks and the totally-opposite-but-much-more-healing outcome of the incident. Thank you. I mean it.
PS: Really, a second shift happened simultaneously –I recognized my pattern and where it came from. And now I can take steps to consciously work on it in 2011. So the next time I’m in a situation like that I’ll be able to lovingly and respectfully
tell the person to eff-off thank the person for their concern and tell them “but it makes me upset when you criticize my parenting and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t do it any more. I know you mean well, but you’re not going to change my mind.” Yup…that’ll be nice. 🙂