Monday, March 14, 2011

On Being Authentic

I find it so hard to parent in public. 

It's not that I feel insecure with other people seeing the way I care for and talk to my children in public.  It's that my way is so different from the mainstream that I feel distress when other people talk about their parenting as if it is the only way.

On Saturday we all had to go to the dentist and I just have to explain how STRESSFUL it was for me and for Partner-Guy.  It started the minute we arrived when the receptionist and the hygienist started with comments about how we finally got our boy.

We both responded with, "We wanted a girl."  And we don't say it because we don't love and cherish little Julian--we say it because we can't stand the assumption that we would only have another child to get a BOY.

The next comment was that the receptionist's sister has a baby the same age as Julian and "Can you believe the baby is still up at 4 o'clock every morning wanting to nurse?"  I answered, "Yes, Julian still nurses 3 or 4 times every night."  I had to say it just because it is NORMAL.  Why are mainstream parents so obsessed with making their babies sleep through the night?  An 8-month-old who needs to nurse throughout the night is NORMAL and I am happy to share our version of NORMAL.

Then we got into the exam room and the assistant started to ask Anna about school so of course Anna had nothing to say in response.  I interjected that our children don't go to school.  And since it was the beginning of March Break and public school children are out of school for a week, the dentist asked, "So do you take a break this week?"

I didn't even understand what he meant at first and I had to ask "From what?"  And then I didn't even try to explain that there is no need to take a break from unschooling.  It would be like trying to take a break from breathing.  I can't explain it. 

While the dentist was cleaning my teeth he told the assistant a long story about how his 14-month-old daughter doesn't make any fuss about spending her days with her grandparents but that she is really fussy on the weekends and they'll have to 'break her of that habit' and how his wife is worried that the grandparents will wreck the schedule that his wife worked so hard to create for their daughter's sleep.

I guess it's good that his hands were in my mouth and I couldn't comment on any of that.  And I guess it's great that his daughter can spend her days with her grandparents who are probably the only people in the world who can love her as much as her own parents do.  But 'breaking' the baby of fussing to get her parents' attention on the weekend?  How can that be OK?

And when Partner-Guy made a comment about how heavy the baby is and how holding him for even the duration of my appointment was hard on his arms and how he can't believe that I can unload the dishwasher and put away laundry and vacuum all while holding the baby, the listeners expressed their disbelief that I would hold the baby that much, that he must need time on his own to learn independence.

Oh, it is so stressful for me to hear all of this.  So many people are so misguided in what they think is good for their children.  They think it's all about training and schedules and making the babies 'easy' for the parents to care for.  And yet no matter how often I tell myself that these people are good parents who love their children as much as I love mine, I can't help feeling distressed every time I hear this kind of parent-speak. 

I want to be part of a new normal.

I want nighttime nursing to be normal.  I want physical closeness to our babies to be normal.  I want responding to the needs and signals of our babies to be normal. 

I want it to be normal to want more than two kids.  I want it to be normal to not value boys more than girls.  I want it to be normal that I want to be around my kids. 

When I give a comment in response to other people's parenting norms, I am not trying to put them down or to act superior to them and their methods.  I just say what we do.  I just express what is normal for us.  I'm not looking for their approval.  I just don't want to agree with everything everyone says.  I can't just smile and nod.

Being authentic is a lot easier when I just stay home.


  1. WOW! I couldn't have said it better myself - you have described how I feel perfectly!

  2. I can completely relate! Thanks for saying it so well.