Dec 16: Friendship

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.

Love, Meg

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. 🙂


4 thoughts on “Dec 16: Friendship

  1. I was thinking about this when I was doing my customary “awake for two hours in the middle of the night” thing, and how I would respond, because this is very timely for me. Violet and I had a rotten afternoon yesterday which culminated into me giving her an early supper and putting her to bed an hour and a half earlier than usual. It was awful.

    I am of the strong opinion that the terrible twos are terrible no matter what you do. As long as you come out the other side and nobody’s dead or in jail, you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done! Setting aside actual cases of abuse and neglect, there’s very little you can do to affect your child’s temperment or personality. It makes me very annoyed when people point to their kids as an example of how what they did either worked or didn’t work and apply it to all kids everywhere without taking into account how all kids are different just as all parents are different, just as *gasp* all human beings are different.

    I could go on and on about this, but I really should make my own post about it 😛 Basically, what I’m saying is that if what you are doing works (most of the time, and in the long term. I’ve heard parenting a toddler described as making deposits for the future. You may not see your efforts give immediate returns, but you will eventually. I cling to this.) for you and your family then kudos for you, and it’s really nobody’s business but yours. You know your son better than anyone, and you have to be true to yourself and have a parenting style that YOU can live with and as well. But you knew that 🙂

      • THANK YOU! I can think of a couple of friends who need to be told that. Possibly repeatedly. Of course, I suppose when their turn DOES come that means I shall have to refrain from giving THEM advice. *sigh*

    • I’ve heard the same thing (about long term stuff). One book basically said “be prepared to say the same thing…over and over and over and over again. Don’t blame it on the kid…they’re not trying to piss you off, it’s just their developmental stage. Be the broken record and eventually it’ll sink in…when they’re 5 or so.” It’s so easy to forget when they are THROWING BLOCKS AT THE $%#ING TV AGAIN…but yeah…

      One friend has told us “Look, as long as you’re not abusing him or anything I don’t see how it’s any of my business WHAT you do. He seems fine to me.” I really appreciated that…I get very stressed out on bad days when other people are around (OK, I get stressed out on bad days PERIOD, but you know what I mean). It’s that whole “I have the bad kid and people are judging me” thing…UGH. On the other hand, it occurs to me that I may have opened the way for parenting comments by being obnoxiously vocal about my own approach…it’s a fine freaking line. I’m working on that (I swear). Somewhere I have a bookmarked Offbeat Mama post about suddenly realizing you’re the obnoxious preachy mom… oops.

      I really hope today was better for you!!!

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