Sometimes diversity is thrust upon you and sometimes you choose it. Parenting falls in that latter category, I think. I could argue my two children are raised so differently because of forces beyond my control, but mostly it’s been a choice, as I’ve been exposed to a wide world of parenting options, from traditional to just plain wacky.
I’ve been a parent nearly 16 years now; the oldest is approaching driving age. But in the two years since my little girl entered the world, I’ve learned a lot about parenting. Counting the six or seven months of research I did before birth, well, I guess I have an informal master’s degree in parenting diversity.
As a (theoretically) mature woman, I considered my options as far as the birth process went. Drugs vs. no drugs, hospital vs. birthing center vs. home birth, an assisted or an unassisted childbirth, doula or no doula, breastfeed or not, paper or plastic. Frankly, it got dizzying after a while.
Back when I had my eldest fresh out of the ’80s, there was not nearly as much Internet to surf and learn about the endless “best” ways to birth and raise a child. In the primitive times when my son was born (before wireless home networking and hi-def TV), you simply listened to the advice of the wise elders of your tribe, whatever the color, religious persuasion, and socioeconomic level your particular tribe might have been. Not that our moms, grandmas, mothers-in-law, and so on were necessarily wise about kids. They got their info from their elders, and so on all the way back to a very confused Eve.
Now, though, it seems like every mother and even a few fathers want to share their every discovery, detail, fear, question, and opinion about childbirth and parenting on the Web.
So, my son was scheduled to sleep and eat and aggressively potty trained by two (the more progressive mothers I consider buddies now may disown me now that they know that). However, he’s actually glad I raised him the way I did, which included TV and junky snacks in-between the healthier meals, as he watches his sister get rationed TV time and health-food-store chips. (Admittedly, I have given in and let her have drive-thru fries, for example, because she expects drive-thru when mommy gets her drive-thru mocha at Starbucks and, well, fries are her vice.)
Parenting this second time around has been a journey through a very diverse land where every piece of your child’s life is pondered and fretted over and people go to discussion boards to ask advice about strange rashes and terrifying forms of multicolor projectile vomiting rather than, say, calling a doctor. I see people who in an attempt to shield their children from the evils of the corporate world instead become just as controlling as their mothers, just in a different way. I’ve seen people who let their children run wild and make all but the most life-threatening choices themselves. And I’ve seen every shade in between. I used to scoff at peanut allergies because sometimes it seems like every mommy I know claims her child has one — until a mommy friend of mine had her son end up in the hospital to save his life because his school didn’t take his allergy seriously and he was exposed to peanuts other children were eating.
I don’t know if I have a third child in my future. But if I do, I just wonder how differently he or she will be raised. Of course, I can always just ask the other several million sorta-kinda-maybe wise women in my Web tribe and they can tell me.
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Shay Stewart-Bouley: firstname.lastname@example.org