Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Just some musings...

I know this blog is supposed to be devoted to the New Things I do (or do not do) with the LP, but I'm hoping you will indulge me and allow me to post something entirely unrelated to the LP. I don't know what to call this exactly...some thoughts I've been having? A reflection? I don't dare call this an article or an essay because that would be an insult to actual journalists and academics. Let's just call this a musing and leave it at that.

I've been thinking about parenting lately. Specifically, how freaking difficult it is. And I'm not talking about the I-never-get-enough-sleep-and-if-I-want-a-long-hot-shower-I-have-to-have-it-at-midnight, whining kind of difficult. Have you ever taken a personality test, a real one, like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and not something on the last page of "Cosmo"? There's always a section there about how comfortable you are with ambiguity in life and in your job. I don't know how someone who is extremely uncomfortable with ambiguity can parent. I know that I am definitely not comfortable with it and I struggle. When you become a parent, you suddenly enter the Land of Ambiguity. Sometimes, there is no wrong answer and there is no right answer. There is no shortage of advice and opinions out there, though.

This is where I find parenting difficult: trying to determine what the "right" approach is. I recently read an article detailing how boy children are not read to as much as girl children and the negative impact that can have on them academically. Naturally I started to question myself. I read the same amount to both the LP. Should I be reading more to LP2? But if I read more to him, would LP1 notice this and feel I was favouring him? Exactly how much should I be reading to them? While I was pondering this, I came across another article about the lack of skilled labour in the workforce. Apparently students are entering apprenticeships without even knowing the proper way to hold a hammer. This was attributed to babies being given less time to crawl on the floor and more toys that only require button-pushing as opposed to using their hands. I stopped thinking about reading and started panicking that our children will go through life unable to use a hammer and will end up living like those people in "Wall-E": morbidly obese and unable to do anything for themselves.

And these aren't even the "big" issues out there! When I was growing up, I didn't know anyone who wasn't vaccinated (of course, I did live in a small town). Childhood vaccination has become an intensely polarizing issue. Do you vaccinate your children to protect them against specific disease or do you decline vaccination to protect them against unknown side effects? Both sides of the argument make very valid points.  What if getting immunized does cause a certain disorder...one you could have prevented, had you not given into the herd mentality? How would you live with yourself? What if you didn't get your child vaccinated and he or she died from polio? How would you live with yourself?

What is the best way to toilet train? How do you introduce solid foods? What do you do when your child has a major temper tantrum? Should you use cloth or disposable diapers? How accurate are the developmental milestones and how much stock should you put in them?  How sick does the child have to be before you bring her to the doctor? Is circumcision necessary? Do you need to use sunscreen or is it just more chemicals children are absorbing? And the list goes on and on and on.

What I'm trying to say is that I'm starting to realize that you can do all the research in the world but at the end of the day, parenting requires you to make choices that don't have large, obvious arrows pointing to them, saying "THIS IS THE CORRECT CHOICE". That is the hard part about parenting. It is almost as if we live in an age of too much information and too much choice. I don't entirely agree with those faux-nostalgia e-mail forwards about how great it was to drink out of a hose and ride your bike all day long and get in fights at school. Mandatory helmet and seatbelt lives since then have, I'm sure, saved untold lives. And really? Who wants to get punched or bullied at school? I'm sure we have both lost and gained since these halcyon days of yore. Maybe, however, there is something to be said for a time when you weren't able to google everything. Maybe sometimes knowing less is actually knowing more.

I think that preying on parental guilt is also becoming an industry onto itself. All parents want the best for their children. Fear-mongering and releasing studies that show doing or not doing something will have a dramatic impact on your child's life only results in panic, doubt and a desire to fix it immediately. Does that mean I disagree with all studies? Absolutely not. I think it just means that I'm starting to realize I need to take them all with a large grain of salt...and a shot of tequila.

There may be no clear-cut "right" or "wrong" sometimes. Maybe it is just a case of "do the very best you can". Is that enough? Will it be enough? Ask me in 20 years. Until then, I have to figure out what "the very best you can" means for our Little People.

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