Before I was a parent, I was the expert on parenting styles, and I had determined I was going to be an authoritative parent. I would have rules and limits, but I would follow them through with patience and pure love. I would never be the authoritarian who dramatically responded with, "I told you so, that's why!" I would not yell. I would allow my child to question me, and be a part of the experience. I was going to be really cool. Impart wisdom yet set boundaries. My children would be raised in a democracy of bliss. Now that I have two children and my empire of awesomeness is slowly crumbling to the ground, I have decided that a "parenting style" is not so black and white. And honestly, children are much more complex than I had ever imagined, even though, before I had children, I worked with them. Here are a few thoughts on why I have to remind myself that it's OK to change it up a little when it comes to my mom style. Some days, certain things just don't work. Period. And here's why:
1. Because what works for you may not work for them.
Of course children are going to test their limits; that's what they are programmed to do. But sometimes the parent we want to be does not match the child we have. For example, my son is very literal. I used to tickle him and say, "You are so silly." And he would respond, "I'm not silly, I'm Chase." Chase is his name. He is so serious, remembers everything we say, and is extremely sensitive. The parent I imagined I'd be does not completely work with Chase. The limits need to be extremely clear, and the more options I give him, the more difficult things become. He also has difficulty with sensory processing. Time and time again, I would take him to crowded places and wonder why we returned home feeling as though we'd just survived a tornado. Crowded places have to be handled in a certain way and for a certain time. I used to have the philosophy that I would just stick with it, that the exposure was good for him. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes I was just torturing us both, and I realized it was OK to leave. I don't think it's always true that a parenting philosophy completely works for every child. For me, I treat them all like a buffet -- you can choose a little from each one that you like; just don't overdo it.
2. Because they can be quite the pain in the a**.
Recently a friend of mine watched my son. She told me afterwards that my son didn't like her. The reasoning was that he seemed very upset because she cut up his chicken nuggets at dinner. My friend does not have children yet, and it felt as though I was watching the old me. So clueless. So innocent. I had to explain to her that had she not cut the nuggets, he would have insisted she do so before he could eat them. There was another time when I had to get assistance from the teenage girl at the bouncy house to get my son out of the building. He was running from me, laughing like an insane person, those eyes -- I'll never forget the way his eyes were bulging out like a lunatic. My son has inspired, "Because I said so, that's why!" And much worse at certain low points. Some days I think I gave birth to "Drop Dead Fred." He can be an incredible pain in the a**, and I have suddenly found strength in my newfound parenting style. You see, I have become quite the pain in his a**. No more negotiating with preschoolers. The truth is that all kids have their moments, as do adults. There are times when I have lost it. I have found that not playing into the drama of the situation has saved us on many occasions. When my son is sick, his behavior is worse. When he's tired, his behavior is worse. And when I'm sick and tired my behavior is worse, so I always try and remind myself that if I just keep my cool, I have won half the battle.
3. Because the mom I imagined I'd be never really existed.
There are so many times I've caught myself saying, "I never thought it would be this hard." That's it, that's the key to letting go of the fact that I'm not the perfect mom. This is really hard, and before I had children I didn't realize that. You can't realize the enormity of what's about to happen. Often, it begins as a desire to hold that new life in your arms, the possibility of everything wrapped in a perfect package, cute and sweeter than anything you've ever known. And then that child is yours. Looks like you, looks up to you; there literally is no way to describe its beauty. Or the moment you meet him or her for the first time and your heart explodes inside your body, rendering it impossible for you to be the same person you were moments ago. The mom I imagined I'd be never existed, because I never really knew what I was getting myself into, and there's no way I could have truly prepared myself to deal with being a parent. I have come to the conclusion that unless each individual baby comes out with a manual, then basically there's just no way of knowing the best method for them until you embark on life's greatest adventure: figuring it out together.