There are lots of blogs out there….dare I say tens of thousands…and a pretty significant number of them are related to being a parent in some way. That means you have options and, still, you chose to be here reading mine (thank you, thank you). However, because of that, I think it’s only fair that you know where I stand on things.
The first thing I want to make clear is that you should know at least some background information of anyone whose parenting advise you’re putting into practice. I mean, don’t just go trusting a random stranger, including me!
Firstly, the reason I use our initials and not our names has nothing to do with wanting to hide. In fact, you should follow us on Instagram! The reason you’re only seeing our initials is because I wanted to share real pictures of us and our lives and I’d rather not have it be so easy for a Google search to pop up with our pictures and names. You can go to my ABOUT page to learn more about my background.
Secondly, I know language. I went to school for 23 years (K-PhD), so I know how to write with proper grammar. Therefore, I am well aware that many people frown on the usage of they/them in the singular; however, I am doing it very purposefully. Not only has the dictionary recognized its usage in that way, it is also my way of not “gendering” things. You will find, as I continue to post, that gender is important to me only in that I don’t think it matters in the least bit and will argue as much at any given moment. I also know how to use language in a very grandiose way if I wanted, but I don’t. Not only do I want my blog to be accessible, but I in no way feel the need to use language to prove myself. It’s pompous.
Now, on to my views. There are several different thoughts, or philosophies, when it comes to making sure the children under your care are kept alive and functioning at the best of their capacities. I draw heavily on my experience as a developmental psychologist when considering my own personal views on this whole bit of raising children. I’m going to go over three below, but be assured (for those of you who always want more), there are probably many others that will inevitably come up in future posts.
NATURE VS NURTURE
One of the first things that comes up in any human development course is the nature vs nurture debate. This is when scientists argued (past tense!) about whether human qualities were a product of their environment or are innate from birth (environment vs genetics). The reason this is past tense is because it has been resolved: IT’S ALWAYS BOTH. I know you’re thinking of examples where it isn’t, and I’m here to tell you that there isn’t a single human thing that does not involve both nature and nurture at play. Some are more heavily nature or more heavily nurture, but both are helplessly interwoven. For example, with all the sexy science stuff going on, we like to think that brains are 100% nature. However, research and human injuries/birth abnormalities have shown us that the brain literally shapes and adapts to its environment. Your pupils, eye color, hair color, etc…all things we like to think are 100% genetic can be adapted by the environment. It’s also the case that things we think are purely nurture can also have genetic influences. It is the case that we often have genetic predispositions that impact how we interact with our environments, for example.
Thusly, a large part of my first philosophical viewpoint is that there is literally nothing, particularly behaviorally, that is genetic and can’t be influenced by the environment, and vice versa. This is important because, for me, it means that people are complex beings and trying to simplify it to something like “play Mozart for your baby and they will be smarter” is nonsense talk. It’s also the case that I don’t think some children are just the way they are and there’s nothing we can do about.
Parenting as a verb
Also, have you ever noticed that being a parent is the only relationship we’ve turned into a verb? We say it’s “parenting.” We don’t say we’re “spousing,” “siblinging,” “cousining,” but we say parenting, and not even jokingly. I think this is related to how we tend to approach this relationship. We think of it as a job: Here are the things I need to be doing in order to get it right and as long as I do them, it’ll all work out like I want. Part of this, in my opinion, is because not enough people spend time around children before they have their own. I should note that this isn’t always the case, especially in ethnic minority families, where childcare is often shared among family members. But this lack of experience can lead people to want to approach it like a job that needs to be done right to achieve a certain goal. It’s also the case that we’re inundated with other people’s opinions, especially now with the a constant source coming from social media, and live in constant fear of what others will think. Not that this wasn’t the case before, but now we see people being ripped to pieces for something as simple as giving their child a Cheeto.
Well, for better or worse (spoiler alert: it’s better), I just got done saying humans don’t work like that, so being a parent can’t be simplified in that manner. We’ve all anecdotally seen examples like this before–the parent who did everything they could do to get their kid to be a doctor and the kid grows up to be a chef–but for some reason we continue to think we can be the ones to do it. We think that we can mold our children in these drastic ways.
Instead of thinking of it like some sort of precision baking or woodwork, I approach this whole child rearing thing more along the lines of something like gardening. There are SO many unpredictable things related to gardening and all you can do is remain adaptive. You provide the plants with necessary resources and protect them as best as you can, but you don’t really have that much control over things. So, my second major philosophical viewpoint is that I really don’t think I have as much control over my child’s future as others seem to think they have. This might be a relief for some (phew, that one time I did that one thing isn’t going to ruin them for life), or it might be frustrating to others who want to have a lot of control. Either way, I’m comfortable living in a gray world, and you are welcome to join me. This is not to say I think I can do whatever without consequence–some things can actually have a huge impact, especially if it happens for extended periods–or that I don’t matter. Parents are very important, just not everything; I think people are failing to give enough credit to children themselves.
Child-centered on steroids
Speaking of giving credit to children; I believe in giving due credit…emphasis on the due. Children are inexperienced in many ways (kind of brilliant in others) and shouldn’t be trusted to lead the way in most cases. Sure, allowing them to have a voice is important, to have control over their own bodies is vital (my kid won’t be forced to hug/kiss anyone), letting them pick out their own clothes-literally not hurting anyone, but my kid won’t be in charge of my household. Not only do they not know the first thing about it, but I have zero desire to raise an entitled child who thinks the world revolves around them. I have seen so many people take child-centered parenting to the extreme. By that, I mean almost everything they do, and sometimes even say!, revolves around the child; the child is essentially making the decisions from birth. I think we’ve started to value this type of parenting as the best because it’s perceived as completely selfless and therefore, the best parent. What we know from years and years of research is that this type of parenting, despite parents’ concerns otherwise, often ends with children who do not fare well on many mental and physical outcomes. But, in case you don’t trust research (in which case you probably shouldn’t be on my blog lol), just think about dogs. Dogs don’t just let their little puppies dictate everything. Sure, they work like hell to keep them alive, but they also show them what they can and can’t do. So my third overarching philosophy is that I firmly believe in authoritative parenting practices. I am highly responsive, warm, nurturing, understanding, like to allow my kid to explore the world around him, etc., but also set age-appropriate limits, boundaries, and expectations. That means, he had a one-minute timeout for throwing a toy directly at the dogs multiple times.
The Goal of it all
Ultimately, we all have the same goal: to raise healthy, well-adjusted people (at least most of us). Since there are so many ways of getting there, I’m definitely not going to spend time stressing over making sure every little thing I do is the “right” way. I plan to just try to enjoy as much of this as possible because the reality is: this shit is hard!