table talk tuesday

Table Talk Tuesday:I Refuse to Recycle the Garbage

There's a lot about my 4 year old, Brennan that I admire. There's also a lot that annoys me sometimes (like his incessant chatter and compulsive need to ask me the same question 5-6x in a row) but there's so much more about him that I admire and respect...envy even.

He has this joy to him that's unlike anything I've ever seen, even from a kid. He just gets in these spaces where he is so in awe of life, so enthralled by his environment, so intrigued by what's going on around him that he exudes this energy that's static with little electrodes of joy. Bliss. Wonderment. And this joy makes him inquisitive, bold, fearless even, which catches me off guard sometimes because he's naturally shy like his mama.

Until he gets to know you that is. Then its game on and he loves to have your full attention-just like his mama. The introverted facet of his personality is just an observational tool he uses to feel out the people and environment around him. While he can be content playing by himself, being the social and playful butterfly is where he's most comfortable. It's in this zone where all the rich dimensions of his personality and vivid imagination truly get to be on display-Again, just like his mama. In fact, I think that's what amazes me the most about him-in him I see myself, which I'm sure is something all parents experience at some point.

I see the child I was-but only at school, with my step moms, or when I went to visit my mother in the summer. I see who I was in my mind, because that's the only place I was allowed to live and grow, especially creatively-my mind. My father kept me muted. Silenced. He controlled everything from what I ate, to how I wore my hair, to what I wore to school. I wasn't allowed to ask questions. My learning about life came from interactions at school, observing people quietly at restaurants or in stores, or watching my father go through five marriages. It came from the books I read to escape, from listening to songs on my radio when he wasn't home.  It came from listening to artists like Prince when he was home. It came from spending lots of time sitting alone outside, just staring out at the world around me.

So now that I'm a parent, and I see all these aspects of his personality & thought patterns that remind me of myself, I have to make a conscious choice every day, (sometimes several times a day) to not suppress who he is or what he expresses. Boundaries? Yes. Discipline? Yes. But a silent, muted, expressionless, inanimate child is not what I want him to be....or even the type of parent I want to be. I want his wildly vivid imagination to thrive & be an environment for his creativity & love of music to grow. I want him to be able to talk, tell me how he feels, even if he says it in a way I don't understand, or it's a fictional story about how him and a friend from school slayed a yellow dragon & then ate chocolate cake. I'm not going to lie. It's not easy. Especially because what was modeled for me was garbage.

That may sound harsh, but look. I know that there is no instructional manual for parenting. I get that for the most part, as parents, we're just doing the best we can with what we have. But as with everything, there are exceptions, and my dad was an exception. Everything he taught me about parenting was garbage. His "children should be seen & not heard" approach to parenting me, forcing me to walk around with my head down, never allowing me to make eye contact with him or anyone else? Garbage. Pure garbage that impacts me now, even at 28.

So my point, is that when I look at my son, I see him for the individual he is, but I also see the little girl who wasn't allowed to live, to express, to be herself, make her own choices. So I refuse to recycle the garbage that was modeled for me, that was dumped into my life. I will work on tossing it out, untangling myself from it, and turning it into powerful lessons to help myself & others, but I. WILL. NOT. RECYCLE or dump it on my children.

It's not easy. When he wants to wear things that don't match, I have to reign in the urge to force him to wear something else. He's only 4 and for crying out loud he has better fashion sense than I do. Oh-and did I mention I never wear socks that match? :)

When he is talking 500 mph and asking me a slew of questions I don't feel like answering, I suppress the words that want to shut him up and have been trying instead to just listen to him.

Be engaged with him. Give him what I wasn't given. Attention. Nurturing. Love. Creative expression. An environment that fosters that fearless joy & inquisitiveness he has.

Yea, I'll say it. I admire the hell outta my son. His view of life motivates me to keep going.

Is there something about your kids that you admire? Something from your childhood you refuse to recycle? Feel free to share!

Table Talk Tuesday: Why Do Parents Hate Other Parents?

This morning while coloring with Brennan, I caught a segment on the TODAY show that discussed co-sleeping & some new study that says it's a-okay to do so. Personally, I don't have an issue with it. I've done it, the first time with Brennan because our living arrangements the first 2 years of his life necessitated us sharing the same sleeping space & the second time with Alex because it just made breastfeeding easier. (Shout out to Breastfeeding Week!) With Brennan it was harder to get him to sleep on his own once our living situation changed when he turned 3. It was hard for both of us-we were both used to the comfort. With Alex, though, even though he stayed in the bed with me as an infant, he's preferred his crib since he was about 4mos old. And honestly, so have I- the kid is a constant mover & kicks like Chuck Norris.

So like I said, personally, I have no issue with it. But just because I've done it doesn't mean I'm a proponent or advocate of it either. I'm also not an advocate of baby wearing, breastfeeding, eating au natural or organic, attachment parenting, or anything else. Nor am I against any of them. My parenting style is kind of a mash-up of what I find helpful. I have a moby wrap and a fly stroller. Bottle or Breast? I do both depending on what my circumstances call for or what my body is able to do. Do we eat organic? Sure if I can find it at Wal-mart on sale (sorry, sometimes paying $5-6 for milk that disappears as soon as it goes in my fridge is just a budget buster)...other times I'm fine with regular brands. I prefer to try and cook as much as possible, but I also have a lot of days where Chic-fil-A, Wendy's, Chipotle, & the Golden Arches save my sanity & worn out self.

What I do advocate for and believe in, though, is the idea that every parent, every family doing what works best for them and not judging them for it, regardless of their choices. And that's what bothered me about the TODAY show segment-advocates from both sides (one a doctor & the other a parenting "expert") agreed with the Matt that the stigma surrounding the decision to co-sleep here in the US keeps parents "in the closet" about their choice to do so. The doctor said that the decision to co-sleep is viewed by some as being a "weak parent or not having control over your own kids".

Excuse me, WHAT?! To me that's utterly ridiculous! WHY do we attach such ridiculous & harmful stigmas to things that don't call for it?  That's what upset me and has been upsetting me pretty much since I became a parent & what I consider "weak": Parents on opposing sides of parenting issues judging each other.

It's ridiculous really because like life, parenting is not a one size fits all situation. Maybe it's the idealist in me, but on this front, I'm pretty much middle of the road on the stuff that seems to make parents pull out the knives on each other. I don't get the obsession we have, especially in the age of social media, with tar & feathering each other.  My motto: make sure you're educated & informed, evaluate your life & circumstances, & then get to the business of doing what works best for you & your family. Whether you go the traditional route or implement an approach that's unconventional, that's not what should matter. What should matter in the parenting community is whether or not we're getting the encouragement, support & advice we need to be the best parents our kiddos need us to be.THAT'S what's important. Not worrying about if a Mama is tweeting too much instead of spending her time being elbow deep in play-doh, bottle or breastfeeding, baby wearing or using a stroller, dads who stay at home,or about parents who choose to circumcise their boys.

I get it. We all have opinions, and we're entitled to having them. But having the right to our own opinions doesn't always give us the right to voice those opinions, much less judge others because their parenting style doesn't fit into the boxes we've constructed for our own lives & children.

So can we put away the pitchforks & torches? Can we stop bullying each other & putting one another on trial? Can we ditch the condemnation & use our voices instead to empower & build each other up?  Let's face it: Parenting is not for the faint of heart, especially in this day & age and kids will often make you want to lose your.....sanity. Wouldn't it feel better to know that instead of making the currents we find ourselves in rockier, we had a community of supportive parents in our boat, picking up an oar, & helping us row?

I know I would. And I could care less whether you do it while breastfeeding your baby, letting him cry it out, or feeding her just-pulled-out of the ground carrots. I just need you to help me keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

I've read some other posts this week by Mamas on this subject: Lauren Hale over at My Postpartum Voice, & a couple shared by James & Jax on her Facebook page by Mooshinindy & Our Crazy Corner of the World.

How do you deal with Parental Judgement? Do you get it more from strangers, people online, or family members? What say you? SOUND OFF!