Parenting 101

Before I get labeled a hypocrite — which, granted, it may be too late — I want to make one thing absolutely and completely clear: I have no issues, problems, judgements, or bad things to say about the way that phdinparenting (PHDIP) chooses to parent, raise, school, feed, diaper/potty train, and/or otherwise bring up her children. She has opinions and positions that I do not share, but I don’t have a problem with that. I know many people — even many people whom I love dearly — who don’t share my opinions and/or positions — parenting, politically, spiritually, laundry- and otherwise.

I’m hardly a radical.

I did get a bit snappish and territorial over the rather lengthy comment she left on my Down with the Mommy Wars post, leaving me in a quite ironic position, of course. I’ll put the question out there: was the length of her comment out-of-bounds? A bit long for usual blog etiquette? Or am I talking out of my ear? I did, it is true, ask her the questions, in a private email response to her original comment.

She deems her reply not suitable for her own blog. *Ahem.* So she left it here.

Phdinparenting, as she terms herself online, has a rather interesting blog. I’ve looked around a bit. She seems to have a good following of like-minded parents too. It’s also quite well-written, which coming from me as a professional writer, may (or may not) be a big compliment.

I am curious about something, though, and I’ve been mulling it over. Have I ever!

It’s the idea that parenting is a science, or that one can parent scientifically. For the record, PHDIP also talks about it being an art. Please, please, please, for her whole take on the parenting gig, go visit her site (you can get there via the comments on the Down with Mommy Wars post). I am not providing a summary of her ideas here — I’m not telling both sides of the story. I am writing about my feelings, opinions, and positions. These ruminations are in response to reading some of PHDIP’s stuff.

This, combined with that Atlantic article by Hanna Rosin, have gotten me … stewing. Thinking. Mulling. Bubbling. And then some.

I used the term squishy science in my emails with PHDIP. There is, of course, non-squishy science out there too. The “Back to Sleep” campaign and carseats are the two that immediately come to mind. The Back to Sleep campaign was started in 1992, so it’s 17 years old. Before Back to Sleep, putting infants on their backs to sleep was considered dangerous. Seventeen years ago, the science changed. Carseats for children and infants can only be some 35 to 40 years old. I was not put in a carseat as an infant or toddler; nor was DearDR. (Were you?) I guess we got lucky. In the meantime, there’s no arguing that infant mortality rates from car accidents dropped dramatically.

I’m not about to undertake a point-by-point “scientific” smackdown, though. If you have questions and want to do research, well, that’s why Google was invented. (That’s a joke, son.) (Kind of.)

My point is that I never thought about or adopted a certain philosophy about raising my children. I mean, I thought about having kids, of course, I just never thought that hard about it. And I certainly didn’t set out to raise them based on any certain something — philosophy, science, chemistry, whatever.

I guess one exception is that I do want to raise them in the Catholic faith. But that’s not, in my view, a parenting philosophy.

Oh, I read the books: What to Expect…, Your Pregnancy/Baby Week by Week, some Dr. Sears, Dr. Spock. I talked to people; I listened to people. I went to midwives; I wanted to have a natural childbirth; I wanted to (and did) breastfeed. But I never sat down and said, “Well, I’m basing my parenting decisions on XYZ.” I felt that the reading and listening I did was more a matter of information gathering to know my options — more like guidelines than any hard or fast rules. And I certainly never thought to myself, “Well, I’ll do this scientifically.” I never would have thought that was an option.

All that science out there now, it’s not really that old. Humans have been parenting for tens of thousands of years. The first edition of What to Expect… came out in 1984; the venerable Dr. Spock started publishing in 1946; Dr. Sears’ first book, The Baby Book, was published in 1993.

Once the girls got here, I followed my guts, used what my instincts told me were right. I checked sources, read more, talked to my pediatricians. Discovered what the range of normal was, if my girls fell or fall into it, constantly checked in with myself about what and how I was doing. Cried on the phone to my mom. You know, the usual.

The way my mom probably parented. Was my mom perfect? Yes of course! (Hi, mom. Look away now, please.) Seriously, depending on who you ask, she did a bang-up job or utterly screwed me up (it’s okay, mom, that’s probably dad’s fault. It depends on who’s reading this). Perfect? Probably not. For example, she didn’t buy organic; she didn’t raise me a vegetarian; she spanked me (but she spanked my brother more!). (Actually, my dad probably spanked us.)

Now-a-days, you can look at all those resources above, plus popular magazines and on-line communities and resources, and so on, and you can exclaim, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”

And we have. But I’m not 100% sure that the current onslaught of information can be considered hard science, in any sense of the word. Science itself is a squishy word — as DearDR puts it, “What does science mean as a way of knowledge? Why isn’t science the best way to approach Mozart’s 40th symphony or Starry Starry Night?” Why does science, why should science, take priority?

What do you think? Do you have a parenting philosophy? Did you decide before you had children what kind of parent(s) you were going to be? Has that changed since actually having children? How?

My philosophy, if I had to put a name to it? Fly-by-the-Seat-of-my-Pants Parenting. I’m-making-this-up-as-I-go-along-How-am-I-doing-so-far Parenting. Somedays: Really?-I’m-a-Parent? Parenting. I have a lot of those.

As always, I warmly welcome comments — say, between 300 and 500 words long. 😉