I wrote this post four years and one baby ago. While many of my thoughts on parenting have shifted over the years, my overall approach hasn't changed.
That's right. My parenting philosophy doesn't come courtesy of a child development expert or parenting guru. While I have gotten amazing advice and tips from Supernanny and Dr. Sears, the one person who has best captured how I feel about being a parent is the former Mrs. Ashton Kutcher.
(Although...fun fact! Demi Moore gave birth to her first child in Paducah, KY! So, in a way, I suppose this sort of makes sense.)
Being a parent is one of the most challenging journeys any of us undertake. The longer I'm on this journey the more I realize that the biggest roadblock most of the time is me. My insecurities - not my children's behavior - cause my worst days as a mother.
I take this job so seriously. Griffin and Amos did not ask to be born. My issues are not their issues. Just because they can't convey their emotions as well as I can doesn't mean they aren't just as capable of having them. I feel like sometimes children are treated as somehow less than. Sure, they can't read or write or wipe their own butts, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve the same care and respect we all do as human beings.
Before Griffin was born, I went to counseling. Due to trauma I experienced in high school, I often had intrusive thoughts about those I love dying in tragic ways. As soon as I got pregnant, I realized that it wasn't this baby's fault that I experienced this trauma and I needed to deal with my issues pronto instead of exercising my demons on him.
Of course, the truth is even if I hadn't gotten therapy, Griffin would have been no help in healing those old wounds. Babies make shit therapists. How many times have I watched one sad addict after another on Intervention recount how they got sober for their new baby, only to relapse months or years later?
Lucky for me, my mom had a similar philosophy. Maybe it was because her mother was so great or maybe it's because she very wisely dealt with her major issues before having me, but either way she gave me the freedom and guidance to become who I needed to be, not who she needed me to be. I say I'm lucky because I think the hardest behavior to unlearn for your children's sake is any flawed behavior of your own parents. Forget crack - try to stop nagging your children if that's all you saw growing up.
However, in some ways, I feel like the most important part is having a philosophy at all. There is a lot of instinct involved in being a mom but I think consciousness plays just as important a role. Often people speak of choosing to stay married and making a decision every day to put their marriages first. But the truth is being a good parent involves the same daily decision. The decision to be patient, be present, be kind. The decision to ignore all the voices, whether they come from television, parenting magazines, or inside my own head, telling me what kind of mother I should be and listen only to Griffin and Amos - the only two that really matter.