Parenting consistency is overratedUpdated 3.25.2015
I’ve hesitated here to write too much about parenting, because well I’m still in the middle of my parenting. So many parent bloggers write as though they have the answer or have found the one true way… I’ve never felt that arrogant. What I’ve done as worked (so far) for me and mine, but might not work for you and yours. Caveat Emptor.
This New York Times Magazine article was the inspiration for these thoughts. I’ve parented one through the teens years and one to adulthood, but with a couple more teen years to go. Neither has followed the standard track through childhood. The first because she is a gifted dancer the second because he needed more time to develop than the school system as it’s evolved after "No Child Left Untested" would give him.
But in neither case did I face anything like the anger the author writes of. I am not a single mother. I cannot over emphasize how important this fact is. Not because I’m some submissive demi-adult, but because I am not and never have been alone in this process. While I think single parents can be successful, I think parenting is easier when there are two people involved.
The woman writing this piece (and many of the parents whose stories she relates) are single parents. I think the single parent dynamic is so different, I’m not even sure it belongs in the same category AND YET, she relates stories from her own past (with an intact home?) that make me wonder.
It’s the physical aspect of the account that caused me to begin this response though, before I'd even finished the article— note that I did read the entire thing. Because with the discussion of parental physical force I think she did hit on something important. And it’s an aspect that dodged— because I had to do so.
I am a very small human. I don’t quite reach a height of 5’ even as I stretch my neck. I have a small frame and am not that heavy and never really was, as anyone who's spent any amount of time reading here will have learned. The point is that as a small human I recognized from the get go that physically restraining my children to bend them to my will was at best an extremely short term solution. And as I pointed out to a much taller mother who was physical with her children, eventually they would be big enough to hit back. That wasn’t a battle that I could expect to win.
Pick your battles is a common piece of advice given from older parents to younger ones. And as advice goes, it’s a pretty good one. Physically overpowering my kids was a battler I chose to avoid. And that meant that I have always needed to get them to follow my commands in alternate ways. At times, from an observer’s perspective, this has probably bordered on negotiation— which is not good parenting. But I would rather negotiate than hit. And I am not displeased with the results.
Did we have arguments? Of course we did. But at no time did either child “text abuse to me,” nor would such actions be tolerated if they had. But I also couldn’t parent both children the same. I have one compliant child and one oppositional one. Applying the same standards to both would be a recipe for disaster, as well as disrespectful to the individual that each is. My shorthand for this reality when talking to other parents is “consistency is overrated.”
There are routines in my home and in my kids lives growing up of course, but always, ALWAYS there a flexibility to deal with what was, not what was expected to be. One thing I said to my kids as they've grown is that there are many paths in life. Almost any destination or goal can be reached via more than one route. Parenting is no different.