There are a few ideas floating around about parenting. Well, more than a few. There are a zillion, actually. And all of them are right for some parent somewhere.
There are mothers who breast-feed until their children are in kindergarten, women who parent while working high-demand jobs, and parents whose kids who come home from college and never leave, just to name a few. These three articles demonstrate a vast difference in theories and beliefs about how to raise children.
What struck me most is the difference in confidence levels. The younger parents – both attachment parents and full-time working parents – are completely sure that they know what is right, while the mother of the boomerang adult-child expresses concerns about whether her son and his contemporaries were raised in the most positive manner. Unfortunately much of parenting is learned in retrospect – you think you know what’s best, but until your child is grown, how can you be sure? All the experts in the world can’t teach you about your individual child.
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As far as I can tell, these are the three dilemmas:
Those parents who practice attachment parenting and are breastfeeding and co-sleeping with their children until they are 5 or 6 believe that they are doing the right thing – but maybe they aren’t. Maybe there’s a reason our more developed country doesn’t continue to nurse our children into early childhood, as mothers in most third world and developing countries do. Maybe socialization, self-soothing and maturity are hampered by the availability of mom 24/7. I don’t know – it’s just a thought.
Those parents who continue to work at highly demanding and high-powered jobs, keeping their careers on the fast track, may believe that leaving their children with a succession of nannies, neighbors, friends, family members and so on is ok. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe it doesn’t foster a real connection between the mother and child. It could be that being cell phone-available all the time can interfere with your relationship with your kids. Maybe when those kids grow up they are so independent that their parents feel a sense of disconnect far greater than they would like. I don’t know – it’s just an idea.
Those parents – and this would be me – who have rooted and shouted and supported their kids throughout their childhood, only to have them grow up and return home, expecting the same sort of unbridled enthusiasm for everything they do, encouragement for every thought they have – maybe they need to step back and let their children stumble a bit. Maybe their children need to discover that it takes more than just an “attaboy” and a trophy for participating to succeed in life. This I’m pretty sure about.
Maybe the boomerang parents can teach the attachment parents a thing or two about the pitfalls of constant and unwavering availability and praise. Perhaps the working moms can be a good example of how to stay an individual while nurturing their children’s development, something the attachment parents may have a hard time doing and the boomerang parents, for better or worse, have already learned is important to everyone’s well-being. Perhaps the attachment parents can teach us all something about patience, the nuances of communicating with our little children, and for women, the basic loveliness of being a mother.
We should be learning from each other, from what we read, what we hear, and what we know in our hearts – but most of all, we should be learning from our children. They are ready to show us what will work if we just pay attention.