Musings on parenting…almost 19 years on this job

Well we’ve made it successfully to 2011 which is more than we can say for the birds dropping out of the sky in Arkansas. What the hell is up with that? Anyhoo, I’ve had this blog post in the back of my mind for a few days but only now have I had the time to sit down and actually write it.

I just said good bye to my eldest child as he returns to the Midwest to take care of some things though it looks like he might try to fly back before the next semester starts at the end of the month. When he was last here in August he was getting ready to transition into life as a college student and I must say after having had the pleasure of being with him the past two weeks, he is a fully functional college student. He came home with lots of bags and lots of books and Mama Santa graced him with tons of literary goodies to make my philosophy major happy. The other night I was watching my baby and realizing that while in my heart he will always be my baby he is indeed a young man, recently he gave his girl friend of over a year a promise ring and wants to bring her up to the Maine abode this summer. Big time stuff for this Mama.

It’s funny because on the one hand I have a grown child; I also have a young child with the girl who is only 5. I have spent my entire adult life parenting, I learned I was pregnant with elder boy only a few months after turning 18 and he was born a mere two weeks after my 19th birthday. I have said it before and it bears repeating; when my son was born there was no internet, for my knowledge and insight I relied on family and friends and books and a lot of hands on experience. I suppose had I not had the girl child I would never have learned just how much parenting has changed.

Parenting has happened for as long as humans have procreated but now we have a generation of parents that to be honest rely more on what the experts say and less on instinct. By all means I am glad that as knowledge has become more widespread that certain behaviors have changed. Children are in safety seats, folks aren’t smoking in front of their kids and corporal punishment is deeply frowned upon in most corners of society. These are all good things. Yet as an older Mama and I mean older in that I have raised one child to adulthood, I sometimes worry that young Mamas are getting hung up on things that in the long run are just not that important.

I fear that in the information age of parenting we are becoming overloaded on doing the “right” things we read about and less inclined to trust the instincts that exist within us…going so far in instances to cut off family members who don’t follow our party line when it comes to parenting kids. I am a believer in the village method of raising kids, I was raised with a village…some of my greatest memories are of the times spent with my Grandparents on weekends. I truly believe the time I spent with them as a child directly related to how much as an adult I loved spending time with my Grandmother. My Grandma died 6 weeks after my daughter was born; she died a few days after receiving pictures of her. I am convinced she stayed around long enough to lay eyes on her so that when she left this world and was reunited with my Mom she could tell my mother all about it.

I raised my son relying on my village as well, a village that was comprised of my parents, grandma, mother in law and others…my son is very close to his paternal grandmother who I still consider my mother in law despite the fact I divorced my ex well over a decade ago. I was a young Mama and these women (and men) guided me and yes at times we clashed but really the battle over the green army men that my father insisted upon giving my son did not scar him though I admit at the time I thought they would. Yet today’s young Mamas are less inclined to have a village made up of folks with different views instead relying on voices that mirror theirs. Frankly I think this is a mistake. To be honest if you are an old reader I have said this before but it was really talking to my son a few nights ago that made me think of this. My son was sharing that despite the rather unorthodox he was raised he wouldn’t change a thing. Which is funny because Mama Guilt often eats me alive thinking of all the things I did in raising him including letting him live with his Dad. Yet all those experiences made him the young man he is…including eating less than stellar food as a kid and having to spend Saturdays from age 3 up and hauling groceries with me and cleaning the house. Turns out in college he seems to have quite a few skills that many of his peers who were raised a bit differently don’t have. Namely survival skills since as the off-spring of a woman who was working class when he was born and later became middle class I carry a lot of working class ways into my parenting. Chiefly in that while his peers have unlimited access to funds he gets a small allowance monthly and must learn to live with it. He admits at times it’s a tad awkward when he can’t just run out and do XYZ but he is a superb user of thrift shops and bargain shopping.

In the two weeks I just spent with my son the vegetarian eating philosophy studying young man; it seems all the times I had to sit him in front of the TV so I could make dinner did less harm than I thought. Kids are not only resilient but it seems they are studying us when we don’t even realize it and they absorb our depth when we are focused on other seemingly important things. In my son’s case he saw beneath the surface things that now make me cringe (sorry son for feeding you those horrible kool-aid drinks) instead he understood I was working 2-3 jobs to create a better life not only for me but for him.

If I were to talk to a young mother today who is bombarded with so many messages about what she must do, I would say turn off some of those voices and follow your own heart when it comes to your child. The occasional Happy Meal is not going to create a monster; a week with too much TV is not going to create a zombie. Too many plastic toys won’t hurt your child…worse case they disappear one day in a fit of spring cleaning. Or as I am doing with my youngest we either give em away to someone who has nothing or we save em for a yard sale. The girl child is driving me crazy asking when we are going to have that yard sale so she can earn some money.

Family members who love your child are one of the most precious gifts you can give your child. My son fondly remembers times spent with both my mother and my grandmother, women who had wicked sweet tooth’s and loved to share the goodies. One of my biggest sadness’s is that my daughter won’t ever know those moments spent with loving family members but I am thankful my son had the time and can speak fondly of Grandma S and Granny R.

As I struggle with my new role in my son’s life I realize that parenting is a journey and like all journeys you must be willing to change plans based on road conditions.  While technology allows us to know more than our parents did and in some cases create our own communities we must not allow ourselves to lose our own instincts when it comes to our kids. Above all like all journeys we must be open to going with the flow and having fun!

5 thoughts on “Musings on parenting…almost 19 years on this job”

  1. This was a lovely read. Thank you!

    “Yet today’s young Mamas are less inclined to have a village made up of folks with different views instead relying on voices that mirror theirs.”

    Yes and no. Some mamas surround themselves with these “voices” to bolster them, but they hear all the criticisms and “different views” (often aimed in venomous ways and quite pointedly at mothers) loud and clear. Our culture is so scared of children and women with children and it comes off in waves of disdain and mockery and constant criticism and too-little support.

    Despite this negative social aspects to being a mother today in America (at least in my peer group), parenting has been the greatest joy in my life. It has made me a strong and joyous person to parent, to have the responsibility and stewardship of new life, and especially to parent in such an oppositional clime.

    “However, at the end of the day, aside from the kid himself, I’m the biggest expert on him.”

    I love this!

  2. Oh my goodness this: “Yet today’s young Mamas are less inclined to have a village made up of folks with different views instead relying on voices that mirror theirs. ”

    We have a group of folks in our area that a couple of us have dubbed the mutual love society. If you disagree with them, then you are negative and unsupportive. Only complete assent is considered supportive. They get reinforcement for whatever they want to do, and never have to think hard about the choices they make, up to and including things that destroy their marriage. (“You are making strong choices for *you!*”)

    We don’t have a village right now, as our families live in CO and we are here in OR, but we are trying. We have close friends we spend holidays with, and love dearly.

    Kiddo is 4 and helps with the chores, and my goal is for her to have more life skills than I see a lot of kids having now. Thank you for sharing this post. Good thoughts for a “young” mom like me. 🙂

  3. For better or worse, we are who we are because of and in spite of our parents.

    I like to think that I’m listening to my instincts with this parenting gig. It’s nice to have “expert” information on things I’m unfamiliar with and for when I need new tools in my parenting toolbox. However, at the end of the day, aside from the kid himself, I’m the biggest expert on him.

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