Let me start off with a nerd analogy. In an 8-bit grayscale image there can be 256 shades of grey. A 16-bit grayscale image can have as many as 65,536 shades of grey. Then there’s 18-bit, 24-bit and… you get the picture. Point is, there’s a hell of a lot of shades of grey that you probably aren’t seeing. And even what we do see stretch a lot further than black, white and middle grey.
So how come when people talk or write about parenting and parenting styles we’re mostly presented with the typical black, white and the occasional failed attempt of 50% grey? The “mainstream” parent thinks the “attachment” parent never lets their kid cry ever, for anything, and the “attachment” parent thinks the “mainstream” parent leaves their kid to cry all the time. One claims the other is a masochistic hippy, the other a sadistic bully.
Let me just say… Bullshit.
Can we please take back the shades of grey?
Labels are thrown around like piles of shit, some of it sticks, but mostly it just stinks. I’m not particularly into label parenting. You know, attachment, peaceful, mainstream. I call what we do Parenting Anakin. It pretty much involves doing whatever we think is best, whatever works for us and whatever we’re comfortable with. Which to me seems like the most sensible way of going about it. And I’m fairly sure that pretty much every parent is doing just that, or at least I hope they are. Sure, I admit, we probably fall into some mix camp of attachment, peaceful, gentle, la-di-da with a few toes in mainstream. But I’m so bloody tired of the wars. The “My way is better than your way. Your way is F***ed” war. Or perhaps the even worse “I’m so cool that I’ll pretend I’m not really saying anything about it only to throw out some degrading misinformed label with my next breath.”
Am I innocent in all this? Probably not. But I don’t pretend to know how people should best parent their kids. I’m passionate about parenting my own and figuring out how to best to do that. And yes, it involves things like no-cry methods, positive discipline, co-sleeping, “extended breastfeeding”, modelling behaviour and so on. Because that’s the way we like it and that’s what works for us. I read parenting books if I feel like it, I research if I want to know more about a subject and I try my best to inform myself of my options, but most importantly, I go with my instincts. But does it have to have a label? Does it have to be called natural parenting? What does unnatural parenting involve? Are there any unnatural parenting people out there? If natural parenting are all “these” things, isn’t it just terribly offensive to all those who don’t parent “that” way?
When I started researching positive discipline because I don’t believe in yelling and punishments, I was surprised to find it under the label natural parenting. I don’t think yelling is unnatural. I don’t think it’s good, but that has nothing to do with whether or not it’s natural. If we are to believe what all the names with PhD after them claim, we parent much like we were parented ourselves. I don’t know if I parent like my mother. In some ways I probably do, but in others I think our preferred methods differ a great deal.
So fine, we (as in the larger world of parents) don’t agree on a lot of things, and I applaud and welcome different opinions. But let’s not throw dirt. Sure, when someone calls people like me masochistic hippies I feel somewhat offended, not for being called a name, but for the major misconception that lies behind it and the attitude that brings it forth. These people don’t know me or how I do things. There are so many shades and degrees of this or that way of parenting. And the ball keeps rolling.
So this person thinks co-sleeping is ridiculous and that person doesn’t. There’s no reason we can’t be friends as long as we keep our parenting to our own playpen and leave the dirt throwing to the toddlers. Opinions can be shared without name calling. I don’t agree with people on a whole number of things, but that doesn’t mean we’re not friends or that we have to be uncivil to each other.
A few days ago I was reading comments on a debate around extended breastfeeding. And let me tell you it was similar to mud wrestling, just a lot less bikinis and not even remotely friendly. I have a major issue with the label “extended breastfeeding”. Who came up with that? Extended from what? Because it seems that from a year onwards that’s what people call it. Despite WHO recommending breastfeeding until the age of 2 and onwards. Isn’t it still just breastfeeding? Comments like “It’s gross and disgusting” seems so unnecessary. What do you care if I still breastfeed my son? I don’t care that this or that person formula feeds or breastfed for however many months. As long as you feed and love your kids, we can be friends.
I’ve been wondering what it is about the western world’s need to distance ourselves from our kids. Why has it become the norm and what is it with this “if you stray from this path you will feel our pointy fingers” attitude? Seriously? But back to breastfeeding. The common answer to the question when should one stop breastfeeding is “When the child is old enough to ask for it”. Uhm, ok. This makes me wonder if the people saying that actually have kids because mine figured out how to ask for it as soon he figured out how to say anything. And the people who say a toddler nursing is gross? Just look away. What I don’t understand is why it’s anyone’s business?
I’ll give points for creativity though. The new way to express badly disguised opinions about our choice to continue breastfeeding is to ask my son “So when are you going to stop hanging off your mother’s breast?” As if he’s going to turn around and say ‘Well, I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think that considering my age, physical and emotional needs as well as the recommendations from the WHO I’ll stop sometime after my second birthday.” Seriously? We’ll stop when we’re good and ready, thanks. Don’t worry, you probably won’t ever see him feed.
Can we please just take back the shades of grey? Can the name calling stop? Can we step out of the labels? Parenting is all about love, there’s no room for war, not in the home and not in the bigger community.
Love, Always. xx Dida