14 May 2012

Yeah, I'm mom enough, and you probably are too

The current cover story in Time that is currently stirring up such controversy is just another salvo in the Mommy Wars, and hardly worth dissecting. Yes, it's an awkward pose to actually breast feed in (tho I've experienced toddler nursing that was equally awkward in terms of position). Yes, the child looks older than three. Yes, it's entirely her call whether to continue breast feeding to this point (or at least it should be).

Here's the thing: the whole idea that there is One.Right.Way to raise our children is becoming increasingly annoying to me. Binary-ism makes for good controversy, which in turn sells magazines, TV shows, whatever, but it's a crappy way to live one's life.

When it comes to raising my own kids, I really only have two goals: first, to raise the girls and Jack such that they have the best chance possible to be healthy adults — physically, mentally, emotionally — and second, to do this without driving myself or Chris completely batty. And when I see another parent, my basic assumption is that they are doing the same thing.

Whether they're breast feeding or bottle feeding their child.

Nursing Nora, then twenty months,
at the Michigan Renaissance Festival.

Whether their child sleeps in the bed with them, in the room with them, or in another room.

Whether they have one or two or six or a dozen kids.

Whether they're raising the child in a faith tradition or as an atheist.

Whether they carry the child in a sling or a car seat or a stroller.

Whether they're straight or gay or something else.

Whether they're married or single or divorced.

Whether both parents work outside the home, or one does, or neither parent is currently employed.

Whether the child is into sports or music or reading or science or...

Whether the choices they've made are similar to mine or quite different.

Obviously and sadly, there are parents who are abusive to their children. But even when I read stories of such, I try really hard not judge. I pray for both the kids and the parents, because I suspect (I hope) that the parents never intended to abuse their child. I'm not giving them a pass on what's been done. I'm just not in their shoes, I don't know how things got to that point. I just wish they hadn't and pray for healing for all involved.

At the end of the day, we don't really know what will enable us to raise a child to a healthy, happy adult. It's probably not the same for every child. This is one of those things about parenting that truly sucks: all we can do as parents is try to set the stage well for our child or children. What kind of people they become is, in the end, up to them — just as it has been up to each of us. I sometimes think it's that lack of control in the eventual outcome that drives so many parents to look for definitive answers on how to raise their child.

Anyway, consider this my answer to Time's front cover question. Yeah, I'm mom enough, whatever their editors or readers or whomever may think of my parenting choices. And guess what? If you're doing your best, then chances are you are too.

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