Growing up my mom told me I had to eat my vegetables. Not because there were starving children in China, but because she knew they were good for me. Through a lot of gagging and copious amounts of ketchup, I ate those vegetables. When I was lucky enough to eat with my grandmother, instead of serving me a random helping of steamed weeds that I wouldn’t want to eat anyway, she gave me applesauce. In her words, “Applesauce is a vegetable.”
It was probably good I choked down my vegetables because my mom always knew what is best for me. Yet, who was I to argue with my grandmother, who also always knew what was best for me too?
Today, parenting has all sorts of people who know what’s best for our kids. Parents are inundated with experts, studies, Tiger Moms, helicopter parents, and free-range parents all making sure to let us know how we should be raising our kids. Dr. Phil, celebrities, countless articles and books all talk about the disservice or harm we are doing our kids by telling them ‘No’ or praising them too much, or letting them eat gluten, or public school vs home schooling, or watching too much TV, or by not teaching them Spanish before they are out of diapers.
I have listened to so called experts. I have skimmed through books. I have read magazine articles about the “rights and wrongs” of parenting, usually while I’m sitting the pediatrician’s office yelling at my kids to behave (which would most likely be deemed wrong). With all of this scientific evidence and information parents have to glean from, I have come to a conclusion. It is best to avoid all of them like how I used to avoid the dinner table when it was Brussels Sprout night. I have decided (actually I decided while my kids were still in the womb) that I would decide what is best for them in their lives.
See I don’t parent in a controlled room with a two way mirror and video recorder. It’s not always possible to consult with my children about their feelings on having meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner. I don’t have time to finish the chapter on disciplining kids as they are painting the driver’s side door of my car with latex paint. I don’t care how bad Gluten might be for them (can’t be worse than lead paint).
I swear in front (not at) of my kids. They heard me say ‘son of a bitch’, ‘shit’, and ‘bastard’ more times than they can count (especially when I’m fixing something in the house). I even try to get them to repeat some of the lesser words too (nothing’s funnier than hearing a 6 year old yell ‘Goddammit’ when she stubs her toe). When it is warranted, I yell, not express our emotions in a calm manner. If the mood strikes me, I’ll feed them soft pretzels and a Slushees for dinner. I’m sure they watch too much TV but sometimes Daddy needs a quick nap on the sofa and iCarly is a cheap babysitter and better than the dog. When they want something that I don’t want them to have, I don’t negotiate, I tell them ‘No’. I have built up their self-esteem by telling them just how wonderful and beautiful kids they are. I’ve encouraged their excitement about getting a trophy even when their season was winless. I have let them build obstacle courses in the living room, let them stay up to see the ball drop in New York for New Year’s, and I have given up my side of the bed for them.
You can read all the books you want. Listen to every expert or celebrity who weighs in on parenting but you’ll reach the same conclusion, according to their scientific studies, you’re doing it wrong (So buy their book!). But parenting isn’t a science. Parenting is an art. Science is defined by specific criteria, rules, and results. Science is rigid. Cold. Art is defined by your gut. By what feels right or what feels wrong. Art is fluid and alive. What looks good to me may not look so good to you but that doesn’t make it any less of a piece of art.
So right or wrong, I’ll continue to parent my way. The best way. And with all due respect to Mary Ainsworth, Dr. Spock, Dr. Phil, Gwenyth Paltrow, and anyone else telling parents how we need to be raising our children, they can keep their books and studies and can have their organic gluten-free vegetables from Whole Foods because I hate vegetables and I’m waiting for somebody to pass the applesauce.