Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Parenting the F*** It way

I feel better this morning. Lighter, happier, more optimistic. And I really think it is because I dared to write honestly, if briefly, about the struggles I have with my internal, critical and perfectionist, dialogue.

What I am learning to say is "F*** IT" and I am reading a marvellous book, F*** it: The ultimate spiritual way, by John C Parkin, which is helping.
Part Barefoot Doctor, part common sense, part punk rock, it contains possibly the best parenting 'advice' I have read in a long time. Also, it is the closest to my own views on parenting, which is very reassuring.

What Parkin outlines in the section on parenting is the fear parents have of their children, which reflexively you may argue against, but it is worth being open-minded about what he has to say, and it made a lot of sense to me:

"And the whole of society will support a disciplinarian approach to parenting. This is because everyone has this fear in them of what children might do."

"So it's time (for you at least) to say F*** It to this fear. And this is why:
The less you try to control your kids, the more they will take care of themselves.
The less you discipline them, the better (generally)they'll behave....
When you get out of the way of children they pass through things very quickly:
A child left alone will soon stop shouting and be quiet again.
A child left alone will soon stop stropping and be happy again.
A child left alone will soon stop racing around the restaurant and come and eat again...
And when I say 'alone' here, I do-of course-mean left without you trying to control them rather than literally 'alone'....

If you take this course of less effort and intervention you will invariably get some shit from other people. You'll get some looks in restaurants and in shops. And it's up to you where you decide that 'it's just their shit' and where they have a point (i.e. it must be darn disurbing here in the Savoy to have children leaping from table to table dressed as Spider-man.)

And if you're thinking, 'Yeah, sure, sounds great in theory, but I'm sure it's a nightmare in practice,' listen to this: in the end, as parents, we don't 'know', we only sense. And our sense as parents all along has been to let our children be."

This is not a full quote, just a flavour of what Parkin is saying, so if you are interested in this I would recommend reading the whole section, which is only a few pages long. My faltering self confidence means that I do struggle with allowing Sam his freedom in restaurants etc because I worry too much about other people thinking I am a bad parent. This is something I have written about here in the past but I know really that I am a good parent.

So I say F*** IT to the dirty looks from now on. Sam is not malicious, going out to cause harm with intent. Just exuberant and needing some management! It's a horrible office-speak-ism but I suppose this all boils down to something that could be called 'Light-touch' parenting.

I have many other parenting books but a couple which have been particularly uselful at times and which I may write about in another post:

Buddhism for Mothers: A calm approach to caring for yourself and your children, by Sarah Napthali

Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, by Myla and John Kabat-Zinn

I read twenty parenting books when I was pregnant, probably because I am a bibliophile and I am sure because I had just lost my mum and don't have any close, older female family wisdom to draw on. To be realistic though, if Mum was still around I am sure we would clash daily over how I am bringing Sam up- even though- contrary to what some people might think, I am far from radical. My main aim is to be supportive and loving.

There are two things I have done so far as a parent which others seem to have found controversial: I never left him to cry as a baby; I breastfed him til he was two.
I actually had friends ask me if I thought breastfeeding him that long would psychologically damage him! Check out what the World Health Organisation has to say on the length of time they recommend to breastfeed a child. I have no axe to grind or judgement to make about either of these very personal decisions- it worked for me and Sam and he stopped of his own accord a few days after his second birthday, just as I had decided I felt it was time to change our bedtime routine, which was the only time I still fed him.

These two issues are two of the biggest taboos I have ever encountered. Forget sex and drugs- if you want to be subversive these days just try and have an open conversation about extended breast feeding!

In fact wherever I have left Sam to make a decision he has done it himself at the right time for him and I have had no problems. The only time I took advice from someone who allegedly knew better was when Sam's nursery insisted he be potty trained in time for his move to pre-school. This has been a nightmare, simply because he was not ready. We are moving through it very slowly and I have now taken any pressue off him and am leaving things up to him wherever I can.

I hope that I am always respectful of other people's parenting choices. I try very hard not to push my views on other parents. We all do things differently and each child is unique and we know as mothers, as parents, what is right for them, and for us as a family.

Love, Love, Love
...and F*** IT!

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