The Before and The After: Learning about parenting

Welcome to the June 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting:
Parenting in Theory vs. in Reality

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants are sharing how their ideas and methods of parenting have changed.

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How have your perspectives changed since you have become a parent? Or, if you are currently child-less, how do your experiences compare to mine? In this post, I’m exploring the feelings that I had regarding children and their parents before I became a member of club parenthood.

The Before

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Before I was a parent, I worked in close contact with small children for years. As a dance teacher, both in a studio environment and in an elementary school, I drew some interesting conclusions about children and their parents that now, I feel completely differently about. Thinking back on the days before I was a parent, there are some interesting perspectives that I had then. Now, I have a much more truthful and compassionate understanding of these characteristics of a parent/child relationship, having birthed, loved, cared for, and advocated on behalf of two little ones for almost 5 years.

The Doting Parent

When I was a teen, and into my early twenties before I had Abbey, I worked as a dance teacher for the “littles” – 3 and 4 year old little girls would come into their very first ballet/tap/jazz class, and it was me who welcomed them. Some of these little girls were passionate about movement and very fond of class. . . others were not so happy to be there, and closed up completely. I even had one little girl that walked into the studio, and in the middle of our first standing exercise, I looked over and found that she was standing in a pool of urine, tears streaming down her face.

For every very unique little girl or boy in one of my dance classes, there was an equally unique parent that brought them to class or met them at home at the end of the school day. One type of parent that I slightly adored and also really wanted to punt as far away from class as I could was the doting parent. The mom that hovered and watched and jumped in as soon as anything wasn’t quite right with her child. Also the type of mom or dad that answered many questions and requests with a “yes, sweetheart” and gave big bear hugs and “good job!”s for every single thing their little one did. Right or wrong.

The Dramatic Parent

Second most annoying to the doting parent was the dramatic parent. This parent was perfectly demonstrated by the mother that decided that the morning of the elementary school’s Christmas Pageant, ten minutes before her child’s class went on stage to do the song and dance routine that we had been working on, was the best time to have a “parent teacher conference” with me, in which she not only screamed at and belittled me in front of 10-15 students, but also blocked the doorway and physically kept me from leaving the room to escape her verbal battery.

I have to wonder how the child of that parent felt as he watched his mother yell at me on the morning of his Christmas Pageant. Drama adds nothing to a parental relationship but struggle and hurt, and now, as a mother, I try to keep Abbey and Joe’s world as drama free as I can. At least, as much as I can, I limit the drama that I create.

The Whiney Child

8588136594_8cf11cdf62_nWhen I was a young adult, before I became a mother, I witnessed many children throw frenzied fits or whine incessantly at their parents and guardians. And, without the experience of actually being a parent myself, I was amazed at how these children could be that way. Why can’t their parent stop them? I wondered. When I have children, I’ll be able to calm them down when they’re upset, I thought. And every once in a while, that thought that I am most ashamed of would pop up in my adolescent and unexperienced mind: Wow, what a bratty kid. Seriously, get a handle on that child!

. . . and . . . The After:

Obviously, my thoughts as a young adult regarding children and their parents and guardians are laughable to me now. Having been a parent for five years now, I am well aware of the emotional connection that causes a parent to “dote” on his or her child – and I am always culpable in issuing “good work!” acclamations to Abbey and Joe, using positive reinforcement to guide their behavior and strengthen their self esteem. I have been known on occasion to get a little dramatic regarding my children: like when Abbey’s first preschool teacher told me after three days of knowing Abbey that she had an anger and violence problem. “A monkey could have handled that situation better” I told her angrily, and I withdrew Abbey from that school that very instant.

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I totally get the emotional roller coaster that is parenthood. Even though my mother, a child development expert and Montessorian, trained me in adolescence and still guides me today in respecting the needs of different age levels of children, I still had these experiences before becoming a parent that came off as great annoyances, and I find parenting incredibly challenging and mystifying now that I am a parent. Even though I was taught to act rationally and guide my expectations in a reasonable manner, there are frequent episodes of drama in my parenting journey, and always opportunities for tantrums, whining, and total break-down.

What I have learned since becoming a parent, among at least a thousand other things, is that judgment helps no one, and that compassion is incredible. Treating others with respect, even just in thought, is a vital step in being a truly helpful and productive person, not to mention a helpful and productive guide for my children. Parenting has made me much more adaptable and flexible than I was prior.

I have learned that while we are all imperfect, we all have inside ourselves an incredible potential to be loving, calm-tempered, and productive – and those are the qualities that I try to cling to in my journey as a person and a parent.

What are your experiences regarding differences between parents and non-parents? Tell me in the comments!

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • My little gastronomes — “I’ll never cook a separate meal for my children,” Maud at Awfully Chipper vowed before she had children; but things didn’t turn out quite as she’d imagined.
  • Know Better, Do Better. Except When I Don’t. — Jennifer from True Confessions of a Real Mommy was able to settle in her parenting choices before her children arrived, but that doesn’t mean she always lives up to them.
  • Judgments Made Before Motherhood — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks back on her views of parents she came in contact with before she became a mother and how much her worldview of parenting has changed!
  • A Bend in The Road — Lyndsay at ourfeministplayschool writes about how her visions of homeschooling her son during the elementary school years have changed drastically in the last year – because HE wants to go to school.
  • I Wish Children Came with Instruction Manuals — While Dionna at Code Name: Mama loves reading about parenting, she’s not found any one book that counts as an instruction manual. Every child is different, every family is different, every dynamic is different. No single parenting method or style is the be-all end-all. Still, wouldn’t it be nice if parenting were like troubleshooting?
  • The Mistakes I’ve Made — Kate at Here Now Brown Cow laments the choices she made with her first child and explains how ditching her preconceived ideas on parenting is helping her to grow a happy family.
  • I Only Expected to Love… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life went into parenting expecting to not have all the answers. It turns out, she was right!
  • They See Me Wearin’, They Hatin’ — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different contemplates putting her babywearing aspirations into practice, and discussed how she deals with “babywearing haters.”
  • Parenting Human BeingsErika Gebhardt lists her parenting “mistakes,” and the one concept that has revolutionized her parenting.
  • Doing it right: what I knew before I had kids… — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud, guest posting at Natural Parents Network realises that the number one game in town, when it comes to parenting, is judgement about doing it right. But “doing it right” looks different to everybody.
  • A synopsis of our reality as first time parents — Amanda at My Life in a Nut Shell summarizes the struggles she went through to get pregnant, and how her daughter’s high needs paved the way for her and her husband to become natural parents.
  • Theory to Reality? — Jorje compares her original pre-kid ideas (some from her own childhood) to her personal parenting realities on MommaJorje.com.
  • The Princess Paradigm — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen had planned to raise her daughter in a sparkly, princess-free home, but in turn has found herself embracing the glitz.
  • Healthy Eating With Kids: Ideal vs. Real — Christy at Eco Journey In The Burbs had definite ideas about what healthy eating was going to look like in her family before she had kids. Little did she realize that her kids would have something to say about it.
  • How to deal with unwanted parenting advice — Tat at Mum in Search thought that dealing with unwanted parenting advice would be a breeze. It turned out to be one of her biggest challenges as a new mum.
  • How I trained my 43 month old in 89 days! — Becky at Old New Legacy used to mock sticker charts, until they became her best friend in the process of potty training.
  • My Double Life: Scheduling with Twins — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot was banging her head against the wall trying to keep up with the plan she made during pregnancy, until she let her babies lead the way.
  • Parenting in the land of compromise — As a holistic health geek trying to take care of her health issues naturally, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama regrets that her needs sometimes get in the way of her children’s needs.
  • Practice Makes Good, Not Perfect — Rachael at The Variegated Life comes to see that through practice, she just might already be the parent she wants to be.
  • 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering: How to Free Yourself and Your Family — Sheila Pai at A Living Family shares in theory (blog) and reality (video) how she frees herself from 3 Dangerous Myths about Parenting and Partnering that can damage the connection, peace and love she seeks to nurture in her relationships with family and others.
  • 5 Things I Thought MY Children Would Never Do — Luschka at Diary of a First Child largely laughs at herself and her previous misconceptions about things her children would or wouldn’t do, or be allowed to do.
  • Policing politeness — Lauren at Hobo Mama rethinks a conviction she had about modeling vs. teaching her children about courtesy.
  • The Before and The After: Learning about Parenting — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work reminisces about the perspective she held as a young adult working with children (and parents) . . . before she became a mother.
  • Parenting Beliefs: Becoming the Parent You Want to Be — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children discusses how we can make a mindful decision to become the parent we want to be. Decisions we make affect who we will become.
  • The Great Breastfeeding Debacle — In Lisa at The Squishable Baby’s mind, breastfeeding would be easy.
  • What my daughter taught me about being a parentMrs Green asks, “Is it ever ok to lock your child in their bedroom?”
  • Sensory Box Fail! — Megan at The Boho Mama discovers that thoughtful sensory activities can sometimes lead to pasta in your bra and beans up your nose.
  • Montessori and My Children – Theory vs. Reality — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiences with Montessori parenting and describes the results she sees in her now-adult children.
  • I Like The Mother I Am Now More Than The Mother I Intended To Be — Darcel at The Mahogany Way thought she would just give her kids the look and they would immediately fall in line.
  • How I Ended Up Like My Tiger Mom With Peaceful Parenting — Theek at The Laotian Commotion somehow ended up like her Tiger Mom, even though she purposely tried for the complete opposite as a peaceful parent.

Comments

  1. Amen to that. I think, as we read through the posts from this carnival, we’re going to find an underlying theme of non-judgement and compassion – that was what struck me most about my own post when I sat to write it.
    Before I was a parent I was horribly judmental and knew I was going to be this perfect parent with a perfect kid – no tantrums and whining for ME – HA! I love how life has this ironic way of helping us grow and evolve by sending us exactly what we need in any given moment ;)
    Thanks for sharing such as great story x

  2. “judgment helps no one, and that compassion is incredible” — love this!

    When you were describing the parents you had felt judgmental toward, I was ducking my head sheepishly at all my memories of being each of those parents! It really is incredible how much our perspective changes once we actually have the guidance of little ones in our daily lives. Thanks for sharing such a compassionate post!

  3. I think so much of this is that, as a society, we have segregated by age. It doesn’t give most of us an accurate view of humanity at different stages. We disassociate with others at different points in their lives, and it fosters a greater lack of understanding for people as a whole.

  4. I was a preschool teacher, and I have had many judgmental moments myself about parenting before becoming a parent. Now I just want to give the parents of those kids big hugs. Every parent needs one :)
    ~Dionna @ CodeNameMama.com

  5. lisarenee25 says:

    Yep, you don’t know anything about anyone until you walk a mile in their shoes.

    I love this post. It illustrates so clearly that judgement doesn’t pay. You never know what is going on behind closed doors. It’s just best to treat everyone equally and live your life.

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

    • Absolutely. Thinking about my experiences pre and post becoming a mother. . . it’s amazing what a transformation I have undergone in my perspective on others and how I view people. Mothering is an incredibly transformative experience!

  6. “judgement helps no one”. Very very very true! It is so easy to judge others doing it differently, but now that I’m a parent I’m realising I knew nothing before kids. Everything changes, so who am I to judge based on my beliefs today! Lovely post, glad I found your blog through the carnival!

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