Parenting Advice and Where to Stick It

Our almost 4yo started her first day of camp today at the local Waldorf school. She has never been to any kind of camp/school/day-care before, and has only been left with a babysitter a handful of times. This is a big deal for our family.

Not because I’m worried about her– she is incredibly gregarious and was so excited that at 7:45 this morning she was laying on the kitchen floor, dressed for camp, with her backpack on, just waiting until I said it was late enough to get her lunchbox out of the fridge. She explained carefully to the 1.5yo that Papa would drop her off on his way to work and not pick her up until after lunch. Her eyes are wide open with excitement, and my only fear is that she will be heartbroken when the two weeks are over.

No, it’s a big deal because she’s growing up and this is the beginning of her very own solo adventures in the world. Because it means a shift for our family, a whole new era. Of course, it’s only two weeks, but this is the first tiny budding.

This whole school situation is such a perfect example of what I have come to think of as partnership parenting. I didn’t want to send her to school. I advocate being home with your kiddos, if you can and want to. I can, and want to. But she is so hungry for other kids, and in fact the whole school experience– the teacher figure, the cohesive group activities.

She wants it, and so I am doing my best to reconsider my ideas. In my fantasy parenting model, we are both partners, she leads her own life with great consideration for our family, and I lead my own, with great consideration for her. Freedom, not license.

In practice it looks like this: I am trying to find a way for her to freely pursue her desire for a school-like experience, while considering the fact that our family doesn’t have much money to spare.

This is not the way I imagined it. I thought I would be the Great Decider, and she would raft in my wake. Then again, I assumed she would be happy rafting in my wake. I had no idea how early and how extremely they become themselves. Full grown-up persons, in little pudgy bodies.

We always think so black and white. I try to see gray, but it’s hard, it truly is. You have to work at it. I have always thought whether a parent stayed home with their kid was a flexible notion, but before I had thought flexible to the parent. Did the parent want to be home? Did they have a job they were passionate about and didn’t want to give up? Was there childcare available that they felt good about and could afford?

As is continually happening since I had kids, I am realizing the enormous hole in my thinking where the kid’s very own disposition and desires should be.

Before I had kids, I knew there was a range of what was healthy and good. But I had no idea how vast that range was. The epic eye-opening started with pregnancy and kept emphasizing itself throughout the birth, and then every day since. I thought a woman might gain 20-50 pounds with her pregnancy, when in fact I know women who gained as little as 12 pounds and as much as 80, both perfectly healthy pregnancies. I thought labor lasted 6-24 hours. I didn’t know it could take three motherfucking days, as mine did (apparently quite normal for a first). I thought some babies cried more than others. But in truth some babies don’t cry at all, and I heard of one that cried 18 hours a day for the first three months and turned out to be, again, perfectly healthy.

Just as there is this fantastically huge range of pregnancies and babies, there is an exponential range to families considered as a whole. My mind boggles at the possibly infinite variations. That’s why I think parenting advice just isn’t that useful, and judgment is downright blaspheme. I always figure, the best we can do for each other is to pool ideas, to share our own experience in as much detail as possible. Then the other mama can compare notes and see what jives, what feels right for her own family, without fear or shame.

I like to think that’s my patent expression here at Apron Stringz. A resounding, ‘To each their own!’ It’s the honest way I feel, though I am as pulled as anyone by the inherent judgment of our human culture. In writing, I find it especially hard to keep the high-horse voice out. It’s the standard way to write, the formula. Conflict, resolution. Here’s a problem, here’s what to do about it. And consequently we are so convinced by what we read, as if the fact of print means someone didn’t just pull it out of their ass.

Please understand that no matter what I say, no matter what I commit to text, I am just pulling it out of my ass. Sometimes I might really hit the nail on the head for you. And that’s great, my words are true, for you. On the other side of the world some mama stares at her computer screen and shakes her head, ‘what a load of shit.’ And that’s the truth, for her.

To each their own.

So, my girl is off to camp. She has impressed upon the world and our family her very own vision for life, her very own agenda. I can only stand back in awe. What will she do with that beautiful, headstrong will? Where will her adventures lead her? She is at the beginning of her journey. I feel so grateful to be here, to pack her lunch and send her off with a kiss.


6 thoughts on “Parenting Advice and Where to Stick It

  1. This post begs for a picture of the adventurous new school girl!!! Such bravery from everyone!

    I think this is absolutely the FIRST time I’ve heard a parent talk about following the lead of his/her kid — you’re totally right that we focus on the parent choosing to stay at home, not what the kid might need/want; or focusing on the education the parent wishes they had, not what works best for the kid. Very insightful.

    But most of all, I like your commitment to “each their own.” I have started my own personal growth campaign to be less judgmental and it’s hard to recognize it, let alone put the kibosh on it. It’s a form of negativity. It’s easy. It creeps into your life… Ugh. So, thanks for posting that because it encourages me to keep working on it.

  2. Good post. My 4.5 year old wants to go to school too. We’re going with homeschooling this year, despite that because we can’t get him into the school(s) we want yet – he misses the cut off birth date wise and it’s a total fiasco to get him enrolled out of district AND early to boot. But there has been a lot of discussion about letting him go to school, even if we want to home school. I can see the benefits. We’re going to be flexible I think… the great thing in our state is that we can try something and and then change our minds, multiple times, so we can find what works for us – for each of our kids actually. :)

  3. Oh, she is going to have such fun, and yes, perhaps when the 2 weeks is up, you might be negotiating a new deal in your family that sees a more of her time spent at ‘school’, even if it isn’t something you thought you’d be doing! My 5 3/4 yr old has always been a social thing, (mostly) loved playgroup/ daycare/ preschool & now school for the chance to be around peers and have fun and socialise and learn… and maybe to get away from me a bit too!

    As for parenting advice, my advice to new parents is that you’re probably going to get ‘unsolicited’ advice BUT don’t just dismiss it straight up (like I probably did), because there are often some gems worth listening to… and you can ignore the rest! (Yes, ironic that my unsolicited advice is about unsolicited advice!)

    (Another great post CJ, considering you pulled it out of your ass!!)

  4. Oh Girl, if there’s anywhere I fall down the most, it’s in the waiting for my kids to make their own decisions. I am frikkin’ atrocious, impatient to the point of rudeness of it. So thank you, for reminding me that no matter how this here fam damily looks to the outside ‘world’, it’s how we each feel on the inside of these doors and windows that counts.
    And wow – she’s off to school!!! That is sooo exciting. It’s a whole new world, and you will just love it, just as much as she will.

  5. This hit the nail on the head for me completely. I am so tired of all the “helpful” suggestions about raising my daughter, they just don’t fit our lifestyle. I think I’ll add “to each their own” to my list of mantras so I remember too, that my way isn’t for everyone else.

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