Friday, October 16, 2015

On Parenting Philosophies

"I would rather love my daughter than be 'right'."

This is something my mom said years and years ago, in response to someone else.

If you want to know who my mother is and was to us, that sentence says it all. It's also, essentially, my parenting philosophy and my guiding star for who I want to be to my children, too.

Of course, in a lot of ways my parents got lucky. The worst thing we did, as children, was slam some doors and date significant others they didn't exactly approve of. We weren't after-school-special characters, unless you count the Goody-Two Shoes Best Friend. But we went to college with the skills we needed to take care of ourselves, and built our homes with the respect for each other we knew from them.

Once, reading about something on teen pregnancies online, about a girl who was kicked out of her parents' house and ended up on the street, I turned to my mother and asked, "What would you have done if I ended up pregnant in high school?"

She sort of sighed and answered, "I don't know, Katie. Probably yelled at you and then we'd have figured it out together."

That's my other parenting philosophy.

I know my Audra Grace is so little, that the ways in which she'll stretch my heart thin and make me afraid for her are things I can't even fully imagine yet. Right now we spend so much time trying to teach her to speak. Soon enough we'll be desperately wishing for peace and quiet after the third time she tells us the story about the goose she saw at the park today, and soon enough after that she'll be a teenager and we'll working hard to get her to speak to us again.

I think that I will be afraid for her, because I already am. This isn't a nice or an easy world to grow up in. I feel uncertain, with neighbors we don't know very well and city traffic that doesn't compare with my childhood experience. Despite the fact that she is statistically safer than she has ever been, the news makes it hard to believe. We are raising our children with what is probably the worst invention of the modern age - 24-hour news on every form of media there is. We hear about every single terrible thing, live right as it happens, in the thick of the rumors and false information and the sense that no matter how far away it is, it's happening right here. It feels like she is in danger, all the time. It feels like that even when she is so little that all I have to do is pick her up and carry her.

I know that one day I will be expected to teach her how to be an adult. This is sort of a terrifying thought for me, as I mostly feel terribly un-adult myself. How can I possibly be responsible for teaching someone about responsibility when I'd rather read books than do dishes? When sometimes I eat leftover pizza just because it's there, even when I know I could make a salad instead?

I know that she'll make me angrier than I ever thought I could be at her. That she'll snap back or slam doors or lay there like a lump when we desperately need to leave to get somewhere on time. She'll make friends I don't like or ignore texts and phone calls (although God help her if she does that).


If I do this right, she will also come to me for advice on what to do, how to either fix mistakes or learn from them so that she doesn't make them again. I can't fix them for her, but I can help her navigate the consequences, good and bad.

So, there you are.

My parenting philosophies, straight from my mother:

I will love you more than I love being right.

I will love you unconditionally.

At least a few times, I'll probably yell at you.

Then we'll figure it out together.

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