when i embarked upon the journey of motherhood, i had a long mental list of the things that i had to do, wanted to do, should do, and would never do. still facing the things i felt were damaging in my own childhood (they were few, but lasting - how my weight was handled, corporal punishment) i tried to decide how i wanted to raise my child.
i loved the "traditional" roles my parents had - my mother was a sahm, my father an engineer. i loved the fact that we ate all of our meals together, i loved the fact that we had land to run/play/dream on. i hated that we were spanked, i hated that i never went to sleep-overs because my mother was too protective/paranoid. i appreciated that we had many activities to fill our lives and summers were about berry picking, running so hard your lungs hurt, laughter, and spending time with extended family. i hated that some of my mothers friends were assholes when she wasnt around and made me feel worthless or stupid. i was the "fat kid" in my family, but also the "brilliant" one and both were a curse, because both came with unrealistic expectations. i have cried for years about the non-existance of baby pictures of myself, especially since there seems to be an unlimited supply of photo albums and 8 x 10s of my siblings. i remember the time my mother had me hemmed up against the fridge because i did something that angered her and i screamed that she didnt understand me. i remember my father slapping me in the face (the only time he has ever hit me in my life) when i was 15 because i back talked to him. it was insulting and no one had any business ever slapping me. so i slapped him right back. no one has ever put their hands in my face since. i remember not being trusted as a teen because my sister was sneaky. i was always upfront and honest to the point where i made others uncomfortable. i could go on and on...
i weighed all of these things in my childhood, and looked at the other parents i knew. i learned from my former best friend that some people werent meant to be parents - from her relationship with her daughters, i realized how much one could kill the spirit of one child while simutaneously creating a spoiled, willful "monster" out of another. she showed me something that i would never, ever be.
from my sister, i learned how violence perpetuates itself in families, and actually took my niece from her home one night when she was awaiting a whoopin' from her father. some call it discipline, some call it "innocent spanking" or whatever, i call it what i see it as - beating up someone smaller than you because you dont agree with what they did. isnt that grounds for jail time in adults? aggravated assault? dont we complain about bullies who do that? how in the hell do you teach a child that hitting is wrong and they need to express thier anger/frustration in another way... and then turn around and do the same thing to them? violence begets violence in my mind, and i pity the person who thinks its okay to spank my child in my absence.
i learned about passive parenting and its downfalls. i have seen a mother i know try to "talk it out" with her 2 year old, asking about feelings and hearts and flowers and rainbown and watched the child completely ignore that and run buck wild.
i learned about the dangers of safety pens and how dangerous simple items like green peas can be when there are things like nostrils around.
i have seen dental caries/baby bottle decay in a friends 2 year old.
i have seen little girls in clothing that would make a stripper blush.
i have seen kids with completely sedentary lives.
i have seen children with the stress level of a ceo because of their maxed out schedules.
i have seen children crying out for attention.
i have seen the effects of too much/too little: pressure, love, discipline, affection, money and conformity.
i have seen adults, who, as kids, were sexually abused.... and one who suspects she was.
from all of that, i vowed to be the cool mom who listened to muppet and let her make mistakes. i would teach her about sex and never be too busy for her. i would always have healthy snacks in the house and plan amazing summer trips. i would respect her and allow her to make choices... while enforcing the reprocussions of them.
but more specifially... there were big decisions i needed to make aobut her infancy. and those were: i wuld let her establish her own schedules in regards to eating and sleeping. i wuld offer her healthy food, but wouldnt force her to eat. i woulod cloth diaper and breastfeed till she or i dictated otherwise. i would never, ever put all those damn ponytails/pigtails in her hair - that you see so many little black girls with - that puts unnecessary tension on fragile hair (nor would she wear a bazillion beads or bows). i would not rush her milestones, and i would let her be a free spirit. she would not be spanked, ever. i would use the purest products i could find for her skin, i would be gentle with her. i would read to her, and sing to her, and hold her close to my heart. i was this neo-hippy, activist, feminist, culturally aware chick. motherhood, for me, was both planned and intentionally un-planned.
experience is a funny thing. she hates the floor because we never put her on it (practically no walking room in here, and questionable carpets) and hasnt taken her first step yet, although she stands, climbs, dances, etc. it seems she has the ability, but something hasnt clicked. she hates most veggies. i wonder whether or not i have diserviced her by not setting any schedules for her. how much does routine factor into a childs well being? we co-sleep, a happy situation that just evolved for us. she laughs when i tell her "no" and "stop." but shes a great kid... and she is only 13 months.
but i find myself second guessing myself. and it bothers me.