Parenting Styles Do Not Define the Parent

 

Toddler in Garden

 

As a stay at home parent, I try to balance my kids having time at home and time with family and friends. To broaden our social circle, I joined a parenting group after my daughter’s birth.  While the group was mostly positive, I had some unforgettable negative experiences. I felt out-of-sync when it came to relating to the other parents. No one was familiar with RIE or Reggio Emilia, which were the two philosophies that were guiding our parenting decisions.  In my daughter’s second year, I considered starting a parenting group based on my parenting practices and values rather than continuing on in the community based one I belonged to.

 

After researching and contacting a holistic parenting group (which seemed fantastic), I decided against it.

 

The more I got to know the other group members, the more I could relate to them as parents. I learned that the parents I admired most were the ones that based their parenting decisions on how they impacted their children. It wasn’t the conversations about baby-led weaning or cloth diapering – things that I continue to highly value -  that I ended up needing. Rather, it was the good-natured, child-focused parents that reminded me of the kind of parent that I want to be. They are my greatest supporters – even if only by example.

 

 

I have met some wonderful moms and dads whose love for their children is blinding. From the father who plays ring-around-the-rosie with his two year-old daughter for the eighth time despite the scorching heat, to the mother who chooses not to attend a good friend’s party because her son would be overstimulated by the chaos that is essentially a bounce house discotheque, they have helped me see the kind of parent I want to be.

 

I expected to need other adults in our life – especially other parents – so that I could have someone to bounce ideas off of and help me work through parenting struggles. What I didn’t expect was the impact other adults have had on my daughters’ greater sense of belonging.

 

 

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I have come to rely on the other adults in our lives to be part of my children’s understanding of this world.

 

I rely on other parents – especially those in my parenting group – to share who they are and what they know with my daughters. The parents who garden, for example, are passionate and knowledgeable about their craft. They have shared their expertise and their veggies. They have found a way for those of us less capable to still share in these experiences.

 

I think that it is the other parents in my children’s lives that have contributed to developing a healthy sense of trust in others. Parents who have taken the time to get down at eye level with my daughter to read her a book, or demonstrated how to finger knit, have contributed to her burgeoning sense of confidence. Based on her experiences, Greysen expects adults to be responsive to what she has to say. I credit those adults with instilling her with the confidence to order her own food when we are out, or ask questions to museum docents, business owners, and other adults we interact with in the world at large.

 

My daughters are as eager to see the other adults at playgroups as they are to see their peers.  Greysen, in fact, asks for them by name. Whether these adults eat organically or co-sleep is irrelevant in my daughter’s eyes. It is the generosity of their time, their respect for children’s ideas, and the gentleness of their hearts that draw my children in.

 

And so, I have surround myself with other parents. All types of parents. I’ve learned not to exclude myself from relationships based on parenting choices, but rather to look at their capacity to give of themselves by sharing their passions and spirit with my children. That is the world of adults I want my children to know.

 

2 Comments

  1. Laura says:

    Thank you for this post; I think I will be thinking about it for a long time. I also belong to a parents group that I feel that I do not fit in with in terms of parenting style (and other ways). I’ll have to give some thought to the way they interact with my daughter and see if there is value there that I’m missing. My first thought is that they don’t treat her as a person as I would like… I tend to think that they underestimate their kids, but your post will help me watch with fresh eyes. Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Marisa says:

      Thanks Laura! The differences I felt between me and other parents felt so much more pronounced during my eldest daughter’s infancy. This was when our children played or where held and others interacted with them less. Now, as a 3 and 2 year old, my children approach others on their own and the responses are sometimes not what I expect them to be based on some of the parenting decisions I have seen. I think it is great that you are willing to give it some time. – Marisa

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