On Parenting Theories, or, I Have More Kids Than Theories

Recently, it seems, all the entertaining stuff has been happening in my inbox (*cymbals*) rather than on this blog. There is so much going on with the wedding planning and the Greek tragedies arising out of what was supposed to be a simple affair. Pretty much only the kids and my ex made up the guest list, and now my ex can’t make it. Kids? Not happy. SO! Instead I’ll entertain you with what’s in my inbox (*cymbals*).

Today, someone asked me to write up a quick opinion piece on parenting, and to wrap it up with my general stance on religion and politics. (No, I’m not going to tell you what it’s for, I’m not going to jinx it. Because silence on my part is such an effective jinx preventative.)

Anyway. Enjoy.

On Parenting Theories

I’m laughing because I am both way too opinionated and not opinionated enough for some parental philosophies, because some require absolutes and I don’t deal in black and white. I’m a peddler of grey. However, I’ll give you a couple examples, one for young kids that leads to the another for older kids.

When I had my first baby shower, I received at least three copies of On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo. He’s followed them up with books on becoming toddlerwise, childwise, and who knows what else, I would not be surprised to see On Becoming Bridewise on the virtual shelf of your local online bookseller. His teachings about sleep- and child-training make me want to kick puppies, and then cuddle them, and then kick them again, because this is EXACTLY what he his recommendations for “training” an infant amounts to.

Sleep training, in my opinion—after starting out as an intellectual without children who researched parenting to death at the start and now concedes to pragmatism as a veteran with six kids in the house—is wrong. Not against-the-law wrong, but wrong in its assumptions and focus. The idea that one should get a baby onto a strict and unyielding routine from birth is outrageous. It is assuming that if you don’t show this infant who’s boss and how things are going to be around here from the get-go, THEY WILL STEAMROLL YOU INTO AN EARLY GRAVE. Children can be healthy, happy, secure, well-rested and adjusted to a routine when allowed to participate in establishing how and when they will be fed and rested. Babies don’t wear watches, people, we cannot expect them to have courtesies around scheduling for the grownups.

Sleep- and food- and behavior-training all rolls up into what makes or breaks a child in society and the world at large. That’s a big statement but I’ll break it down for you: children will learn from you how to get what they want and need. If you force your will on them and make them adhere to policies and timetables without regard to their abilities and readiness, they will grow up to be authoritarian in turn. If you have half and ear and most of a heart, you can help your children along a developmental path that works for both of you. No matter the method of parenting, a child will grow up. All paths lead to adulthood, so make sure you know what kind of grownup you want to create: an asshole or a respectful, respected leader. (No, I won’t say asshole in polite company. See? I can be trained if it’s done reasonably.) Authoritative and respectful parenting will give you someone with whom you can live and of whom you can be proud, or at least trust not to embarrass you later on.

Ezzo will help you raise the guy leading the hazing program at his fraternity—a guy who may be upstanding and socially acceptable on paper, so long as he doesn’t get caught. I’ll raise a child who may act out and have trouble reining in his inner Jerry Lewis, but hopefully he’ll also be the guy who prevents the hazing in the first place. Not because he is afraid of getting caught, but because he knows it has no place in society. Unless, of course, it’s on the path to someday spending 30 years as a high-level auditor and then becoming the kind of boss that runs me out of town because I have loyal and effective yet quirky and unconventional staff who don’t behave according to and have aspirations fitting to his inner caste system.

That last example is by no means a reference to any person living or dead, and imperfections in these opinions are naturally occurring and part of the appeal of this writer. Each statement is unique and slight flaws in the reasoning are natural and only add to my overall character.

As for religious and political bent: I was raised a Roman Catholic in a blue-collar, Irish neighborhood in Chicago. And I mean, IN Chicago. We were poor and it was a dicey neighborhood, and every stereotype about the Irish, the Catholics, and Chicagoans is dead-on. The result is that since I moved away, I’ve rarely stepped voluntarily into a church, but when I became a parent, I compromised and baptized the kids Episcopalian. Which we now regret since my eldest is trying to get into a Jesuit college prep and being catholic would have been a major point in his favor. But I can’t produce a catholic baptism certificate or a letter from my pastor. So that’s it in a nutshell: organized religion is strident, oppressive, and narrow minded but I would not give up the experience for anything.

Politics: I was raised by liberals who were raised by conservatives. I am socially very liberal, on the fence between fiscal conservatism and fiscal liberalism, and conservative in a very few areas. I am not at liberty to disclose those, as my parents will disown me. It’s bad enough that I keep bringing home republican or moderate boyfriends.

Both politically and religiously, I’m pragmatic. I don’t vote party lines because someone in every party is an ass. I’ll support people and legislation that makes sense. And I want a kitten, and a unicorn, and a puppy that farts rainbows.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

2 replies
  1. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    This is probably my second favorite post ever (next to ‘thank you for remembering me, universe).  Also a peddler of gray, I was raised by a flaming liberal and a card-carrying conservative (the liberal is so liberal she is Canadian. Just saying.) and came to the Catholic Church as an adult raised by genial atheists.  But Ezzo parenting is not gray for me.  Just how you raise ass holes.  Otherwise, I’m pretty gray as far as parenting goes.  I heart you, Mindy.  Please get hired to speak at a conference or something in Kansas so I can take you out for a drink.


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