Monday, January 24, 2011

I was ____ and I'm fine!

One of the things I admire most about my mother is her ability to be painfully, boldly honest with herself about her own actions and mistakes.  It takes a deep level of courage, humility and flexibility to review your life's decisions, and not only admit to the mistakes that caused harm, but those that might have.  We were discussing parenting - her parenting of us, my parenting of my son, and how wanting to do things differently or even better doesn't make anyone who didn't follow those paths wrong.

Me and My Daddy, 1978

When I was a baby, my parents would visit their best friends on Fridays and play cards until late in the night.  I would fall asleep, and rather than wake me up by putting me in my carseat (what passed for a carseat in the mid-70s anyway), my mother would hold me in her arms in the front seat of the car for the 5 mile drive home.

I'm fine. 

My mother wanted to breastfeed me, but her doctor told me that I wasn't getting enough milk.  She switched to formula when I was 2 weeks old.  She always regretted the decision, but she didn't feel confident enough to argue with her doctor.

I'm fine.

 My parents were raised "by the rod" and followed suit with us, until I was about 10 and my mom's research led them in a different direction for discipline.  As a result, I was spanked more times than I can count, and the wooden spoon in the drawer doesn't remind me of baked goods.

I'm fine.

I wasn't a great sleeper as a baby, and my parents were told by their parents and doctors that the only way I'd ever sleep was if they left me to cry it out, which they did for a week straight.  It was such a miserable experience that they didn't repeat it with my brothers.

I'm fine.

My parents smoked until I was 8.  In the house.  Mom didn't smoke while she was pregnant, but a lot of her friends did.  I was around cigarette smoke constantly; I loved when my father would let me light his cigarette for him with his shiny Zippo.  My grandparents, aunts and uncles all smoked.

I'm fine.

1980's fashions never go out of style.

 Well, am I "fine"?  I'm a responsible citizen, a good parent, a kind person.  I pay my taxes, don't commit crimes, and try to be a respectable human being.  I have a high IQ, make over 100K a year, and sing professionally in my spare time.  I also have an auto-immune disease, occasional anxiety issues, and insomnia.  Are these a result of being formula-fed, crying it out, being physically punished and exposed to second-hand smoke?  Maybe, probably not - who can say for sure?  What if my parents had gotten in a car accident while I was in my mom's lap?

None of the examples above make my parents bad parents.  Quite the opposite - my parents are loving, caring and wonderful people who did the very best they could with the information they had at hand.  I have a close relationship with them; I am honored and lucky to have them.  If I could have chosen my own parents, I would not have chosen differently.  They are remarkable parents, and their willingness to admit to mistakes is one of the things that makes them so incredible.

The whole gang, Summer 2010

It bothers me when I hear people say, "I was _____ and I'm fine" as an excuse not try to for better with their kids.  When you know better, you do better.  Before you say, "I'm circumcised and I'm fine" or "I had peanut butter when I was 2 months old and I'm fine" or "My mom left me in the car while she went into the store and I'm fine", consider what might have happened.

I'm not a perfect parent.  I'll never be perfect.  There are already things I plan to do differently if I am blessed with another child (home birth and breastfeeding, to start the list!)

I can try to be the very best parent I can be, using as much evidence as I can to make parenting decisions, unhindered by the successes of the past.  Despite my un-carseated history, I made it to adulthood....but you'd better bet my little guy is staying in his (rear-facing) carseat!


  1. you did a great job writing this. very well put without sounding "judgy" which is super hard with this subject.
    For the record "I'm fine" as well. Let us all desire to do better now that we know better.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. My mom thinks I am attacking her every time I make a choice differently from her. While some of the things she chose weren't good for me, she did the best with what she knew, and I don't resent her for that. But following her example when I DO know better would be foolish.

    She isn't very good at admitting her mistakes, unfortunately, and hopefully I can keep that in mind when I come face to face with my own.

  3. Well said! I agree, which is why I zip it as a grandma!!!