Last week, Tim and I managed to garner both praise (thank you, kind K4 teachers!) and criticism for a single, small parenting decision. Now, as those of you who are parents already know, people love to give parenting advice and everyone has an opinion. In fact, in my dad's words, opinions are like...well, nevermind.
Anyway, what is interesting to me is that, as those who don't know us can tell from the picture at the top of this blog, this is not our first rodeo. In fact, we've been parenting with somewhat surprising consistency for 8 years now, so it's pretty unlikely that the criticism we draw from certain constituencies is going to change anything. But the critics somehow fail to recognize this and keep slogging on, hoping, I guess, to chip away at what they consider inept parenting.
So, what is it, you ask, that we're doing so wrong? We like being with our children.
That's it. They're young, and we want to be there for them now, today, while they still want and need us there. We're in no hurry to make sure they're independent, knowing that the solid, self-assured kind of independence develops in its own time, on its own schedule.
I know, I know. Children are needy, in an omnipresent sort of way. They're messy, and they spill things you didn't realize were spillable. They have no concept of personal space, and they can resort to violence to make a point.
But they're funny and heartbreakingly sweet and smart and sincere and intuitive. Mothering them, I realize in selfish moments, makes me who I want to be. Prior to becoming a mother, I'm confident that no one had ever complimented my patience. In fact, I'm pretty sure "patient" is right there at the very end of the list of words that could ever be used to describe my former self, falling just after "orderly." But in these recent years, especially since I've had three babies, strangers have commented on my patience, my calmness--several times over the past month even. I didn't know I had it in me. But wanting to be the best mother I can be to my children forces me to push myself, to try to be a better person, to try harder, and to love more.
The most absurd piece of parenting advice I ever received, and I am not making this up, was this: "You can't let having a baby change your life." Well.
I identify more readily with the wise words of British author and Ph.D. (in child development and psychology) Penelope Leach, who said, "If you really, really don't want having a baby to change your life, perhaps you should consider not having one." And closer to home, with the wise words of my sweet husband: "If having a baby doesn't change your life, you're doing something wrong."
All said, I just can't get too wrapped up in the advice I'm given about parenting any more. I mean, I'm too far up the stream to change courses anyway, and the reality is that I'm enjoying these days with these delightful children, and that is what matters to me. And while the ultimate judge of good parenting is, of course, the Holy One, second on mylist is my great-aunt, Ethelyn. When she complimented both my children and my parenting recently, I knew everything was going to be just fine.