Saturday, June 1, 2013

An Open Letter to Grandparents who Wonder Why Their Grandkids are being Raised Differently

Dear Mom and Dad,
We see it, you kow. The exasperated look you get when we ask you to do things differently with your grandchildren than you did with us. We see the pain in your eyes even as we give our reasons for why we make different choices than you did. We don't mean to hurt you. You have to know that upfront. Just because we decide to do things differently than you did, it does not mean that we are judging what you did as "wrong." We are just trying to do what we think is right based on the research we have done. We all understand that we survived and thrived with your parenting choices. We give you credit for all the love and care you took in raising us. We understand that you did the best you could with us and that you only wanted our lives to be better than the ones you had. It's because we share this same dream for our children (your grandchildren) that we are striving to do the best we can, too. Sometimes, that means making choices that you didn't make, approaching food or discipline/consequences in a way you didn't, and making different medical or bottlefeeding/breastfeeding choices than you did. None of these differences are even about you; they are more about us. In fact, it is because you did such a good job of teaching us to be ourselves that we are making different parenting choices.

(I'm going to say this like I'm an authority which is laughable because I've only been parenting for almost four years now, but . . . ) The relationships between parents and children, probably more than any other relationships, except maybe romantic relationships/partnerships, are all varied and unique. No two are completely alike and so much of them are based on who you are and who you want to be and who the child is and who s/he wants to be that it would be impossible for us to be exactly like you even if we tried! In short, you parent as you are. Just like you know us and can read our facial expressions like a book (and we can read you!), we can read our children and our children read us. As much as they are "like" us; they are not "us" and they have different needs that we are trying our best to address. You taught us to trust our instincts and to know how to build strong relationships with those we love and we are just using those skills! Our individual choices in how to build those relationships may be different from the choices you made, but we are just transferring, transforming, and building upon the lessons you taught us.

You also did an amazing job teaching us not only to recognize who we are, but also who we want to be. I know that my parenting choices are just as much about who I am as who I want to be. I don't like who I am and what it does to my relationship with my child to be yelling, screaming, and losing my temper all the time. That's why we try so hard to talk through what we are feeling. We each have a dream of being a person who can remain calm in nearly any circumstance and who doesn't lose our tempers even in the face of our children losing theirs. Maybe that means that we overwhelm our children with too many words and choices too early, maybe that means that we don't always make the right choices ourselves, and maybe that means that we sometimes exasperate both our children and you, but it also means that we are learning and practicing. Just as you supported our dreams of being a ballerina/firefighter/detective/actor/superhero/writer/zoo-keeper/rock star/professional athelete, we need you to support our dream of the parent we want to be. It's important to us, way more important than any choice of career could be, because we see how much our relationships with you matter to us and have always mattered to us.

I'm going to let you in on a secret, now, that is not really a secret. We still look up to you and want to be the kind of people you can be proud of. We still crave your support. Think of the parenting phase of our lives as just one more "phase" that you are raising us through. It's another example of us going through a transition of growing and learning, but unlike many of the earlier phases, this is a phase where we need your support and your distance simultaneously. When we make mistakes, we know it and we will fix them when we know we need to. Our children are very good at letting us know when we need to readjust boundaries. (Sound familiar?) So, even if you think you see disaster coming, you have to let us disccover it on our own. Parenting our own children is a little like learning to walk was; I know you want to save us from falling, but it's only through falling that we will learn our balance and, sometimes, we just might surprise you by not falling at all. We only ask that you listen when our hearts are breaking and you try to do what you can to provide consistancy for our children. This may mean doing things that may seem unfamiliar or uncomfortable for you. Please understand that we are not trying to "push your limits or your buttons" any more than we were trying to do it when we were children ourselves. We are just trying to understand our own.

When it comes down to it, individual choices like when to administer medication, vaccinations vs. natural immunity, cloth diapering vs. paper diapering, time outs vs. time ins, what constitutes good snack foods or a healthy diet, baby wearing vs. using swings, co-sleeping vs. crib sleeping etc. are all pretty small differences that just FEEL big. At the root of every parenting choice you made and every choice we make is love: our love of ourselves, our love of our children, and our love of our parents. That love doesn't change from generation to generation. We are only trying to do the best we can just as you did the best you can. We respect that about the way you parented us. We only ask that you respect that about how we parent out kids.

With all due respect and love,
Your Weird Choice Making Kids who now Have Kids of their Own

P.S. If it helps, please know that more often than we care to admit to you, we do parent just like you, and, often, we don't mind the resemblance.


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