Friday, December 22, 2006

catch 22

one of the things that no one tells you about parenting (and this is not 1 out of 3, its' like 1 out of 3 million) is how much you will piss other people off, simply by doing what you think is right for your kids.

it goes without saying that you will- of course- piss off your own children. At some point (in our case, we are seeing signs of it at 3 1/2 years old) they will stop being adoring and loving and groupie-like and start rolling eyes and yelling at you to "stop singing that stupid song!" and declare that you are the most unfair person in the world and on and on. Most of us have been there; no need to illustrate.

No, what i'm talking about is how much you will piss off and offend and cross paths with all of the other people in your life:
-the teachers who think you are too nosy and bossy or not involved enough;
-the neighbors who resent all of your kids' gear that clutters up your yard and defaces the neighborhood;
-your childless friends who don't get why you do certain things and why you can't be like you used to be BK (before kids);
-your friends *with* kids who don't get why you do certain things;
-the grandparents for either not giving them enough time, or asking for too much, or limiting any number of things... or not;
-the doctors and other professionals for not following their advice and doing something different;-
-random strangers who you cut off while driving because you were breaking up a sibling argument in the backseat didn't see them; the people behind you in the express lane because you actually do have 14 items and 2 whiney children in tow who are keeping you from unloading your groceries at lightspeed;
-and on...
and on...
and on...

Most parents get a taste of this during pregnancy. Inevitably at some point in the classes i teach, a mom or dad will bring up something that grandparents disagree with, or that the experienced sister or brother or friend is giving them a hard time about. It can be both things that are seemingly less important, such as the decision to cloth diaper or to use disposables- typically the opposite of what the other does- or as important as the decision to delay or skip immunizations, or go to private or public school, or whatever. What i tell them is, basically, Welcome to Parenting- it only escalates from here.

More often than not, the conflicts are a surprise. Some things parents know going into the game, and others are as taken by surprise as they were when they planned their wedding: how did something so exciting and memorable as planning a wedding suddenly make me want to disown my family and elope? similar for expecting a child. It's a gradient, of course. Some people experience minimal strife, and for others it leads to an eventual family divorce. I have read about various dramas on my mommy boards, some of them completely whack, but others really just sad because everyone loves the children, but no one can agree.

I am not sure what the answers are, if there are any. I suppose in some cultures and societies this issue is virtually non-existant; everyone does it the same way. I can only imagine the additional stress for those families whose children grow up first generation in this country and buck not only something that is seemingly basic, but traditions that are cultural roots.

And as a parent, i am more inclined to say- defer to the parent- but you know, parents are flawed also. And when i say this- defer to the parent- i'm talking about competent, caring parents, not child-abusing, manipulative alcoholics. It's a muddy river, no fine line about it. In the end i have to think, what is most important? Is my insistance on x,y, and z more important than the good intentions of another person? Is that person's insistence on fulfilling their own do-gooding more important than my carefully considered boundaries? The importance shifts, i guess, like the currents of that muddy river. Things that are paramount when a child is 8 months are less important 2 years later... and virtually laughable 6 years later. Time changes everything, so the saying goes.

So to my new parents i say, Welcome to Parenting! and let it be. Better they don't knwn the full extent of the discussions and battles and hand-wriging that is to come. Better that we all- parents included- take a deep breath and let it go, and stick by whatever remains, that which is most important.


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