Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Different Strokes for Parenting Folks

I should be posting Otto's 8 month letter. Unfortunately I've scarcely had time this week to make it to work on time while maintaining an acceptable level of personal hygiene, so a sweet letter with pictures, etc. will have to wait.

What I am writing about is related to recent posts on AskMoxie.org regarding adult child/parent relationships and their effects on parenting your own children. The amazing Moxie (seriously- this site is the BEST) discusses the common goal of Parenting Your Own Kids Better Than You Were Parented.

This, of course, got me to thinking. For the vast majority of my childhood, I truly feel that my parents did everything right. And I am certainly convinced that they were doing their best. And the results are, frankly, astounding given the way my father was parented.

I realized, however, while thinking about this that while I'd often thought "oh, I'll do such and such just like Mom" or "OMG I COULD NEVER DO THAT TO MY KID," I'd never really sat down and listed things. So, I decided to write about the things I think they got totally right and the things that I'd do differently. I'll start with the "differently" category. There are fewer of them.


* Regarding "SEX"
My parents sucked at the talking about sex thing. As in, I never actually got "the talk." I had to figure everything out for myself with bits gleaned from movies, books, my friends, and that stupid book the school nurse gives you when you get your period. Needless to say, I really had no idea and I thank jeebus I had such a smart boyfriend in H.S. or I totally would have ended up pregnant at 16 or with an STD. Really. (Side note: Abstinence only sex-ed DOES NOT WORK. I'm just sayin'.)

My folks, my mom especially, were incredibly prudish about all sorts of things- there were code names for everything: we called pee "little," poop was "big," and if I needed tampons I had to tell my mom to get "supplies" because HEAVEN FORBID one of my brothers hear the word "tampon" spoken aloud.

Now, I am all for propriety when the situation calls for it, don't get me wrong. When I nurse in public, I totally cover up (most of the time) and I refer to the john as the "loo" because it sounds vaguely British. (You're welcome). But COME ON. As a mom, I want to be open, honest, and call things by their right fucking names. From the beginning. A penis is a penis. Poop is poop. And a period is a period. PERIOD.

And I want Otto to know a) what sex is b) that it is IMPORTANT and SPECIAL and all that business and c) how to be SMART about it. My son will know the risks. He will know what a condom is. And hopefully, he will feel comfortable talking to me or his dad about these things at least in some way.

*Regarding "RELIGION"

Now, this is a contentious topic. And one that is deeply, deeply tied to culture, family, and personal belief. I am in no way commenting on your family or your choices. This is all about me.

For me, PERSONALLY, I completely resented my religious upbringing. It never felt right to me and while I realize that my parents were doing what they thought was right, I actually feel sort of traumatized by my experience of being forced to attend religious services as a child and young adult, after I had made my feelings known. I am, what I jokingly refer to as a "recovering Catholic" and I have very few fond memories of my time with the church. I know my parents thought they were giving us a moral compass and all that, but honestly, I learned more about how to live a good life from their mindful day-to-day examples than I ever did from sitting in an uncomfortable pew for an hour trying to annoy my brother by making faces at him when my mom wasn't looking and listening to pompous dogma from a pulpit. (Now, THAT's a sentence.)

And so I will never make Otto go to church. I WILL teach him about right and wrong, the golden rule, and hopefully demonstrate for him the virtues of kindness, patience, and love for one's fellow man. If he ever wants to attend a church, I will certainly not prevent it. (Hopefully, I will have raised him to be an intelligent, questioning individual who will not easily fall prey to cultish groups. )


And really, those are the two big things I can think of that I want to do differently than my parents did. There are some smaller, nit-picky things:

*I hope never to use corporal punishment. I don't think spanking teaches kids anything. (Not that we were spanked often- I could count all the times on one hand.)

* I hope to encourage Otto to develop his interests AND demonstrate TRUST in him to do things well. (The example I'm thinking of is when I was learning how to drive: both parents could not hid their doubt that I would be any good at it, so I had a "I am a bad driver " complex for years. In other things, however, they definately encouraged me- in music, school, etc.)

* I hope to teach Otto how to appreciate food. We basically had the same few things for dinner growing up, and a lot of it was canned, fried, or very middle america '1950's food' (casseroles, etc.) I hope to give Otto an appreciation for the things I had never EVER tried until I was an adult: fresh green beans (I know!), sushi, thai food, ...you get the idea.

That's all for now. In a future post, I plan on listing big ways that I want to be JUST LIKE my folks.

How about you guys? What will you do differently from your parents?

1 comment:

acaseofu said...

I try to do absolutly everything differently. :-) My parents sucked. I like em and all, but parenting is not their forte.