I'm glad I'm in this era where how-to parent is supported by the abundance of information on the internet. Every bit of information literally at your fingertips. For anything - from how to deal with coughs to how to prepare your teens for college. The parenting groups and communities online are amazing and also always prepared to help through their own experiences.
Raising children does take a village, and this village is no longer limited to our close circle of friends or family, but in these times, this village is worldwide. It's quite extraordinary.
When I had my boy almost 17 years ago, I used to buy books - about raising babies to toddlers and so on.
The internet was, of course, available, but information on parenting was scarce at that time, unlike now. So I did the best I could as a parent. One rule I followed is how I would've wanted to be parented and do it 1000 times better. My parents are great, don't get me wrong, but their parenting was different which I completely understand, especially when trying to parent 5 kids.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
I'm a single parent to an only child. Our family dynamics and circumstances are different. I had and still have only one chance to get things right.
For most of my parenting, I'd always put myself in my son's shoes. To try to understand him, his tantrums, why he did the things he did. Furthermore, not having a father at home, took a bit of manoeuvering on my end. I had to give my son the security and balance he needed for his emotional well-being.
As a parent, I feel like every choice I make is important, and every mistake is significant. I worry that my choices will affect my son badly in the long run. I stress over the maybe's; maybe I should have done this or that, and sometimes I want to take it all back. But every parent has these moments where we feel like we've made bad parenting choices in frustration or confusion.
I must admit parenting is not only hard but extremely scary. Every step of the way, I was questioning myself, but I am managing. Managing, not only the best way how, but the best for my son and the best for me.
Parenting is different for each and every one of us. Our family dynamics are different, our cultural influences, our children, our circumstances, our personalities, geography, schedules, lifestyle - all different. I listen, read and watch other parents, and I cherry-pick what suits my family of two. I have found, most often than not, that my way is just my own and not from the advice that I've come across just because sometimes, something might work for someone but don't for others.
My sister, who has a 7-year old sometimes asks for my advice, and I tell her my experience for when my son was the same age as her son, but I find that I have to keep reminding her that our kids are from different ends of the spectrum, in character and personality. As much as its easier to take another's advice and use it - one size doesn't fit all in parenting.
Nowadays, there is so much information on how we are 'supposed' to parent or how we are 'supposed' to handle certain situations with our kids, and we try them all. Some work, some don't. We take it and adapt it to our own personal situations. Sometimes, if things don't work, we feel like we've failed as parents. We question our own ability to parent because a certain article says we're not supposed to do it. But in actual fact, all of us parents are different, all our kids are different, and it's okay to have your own parenting style. Even if it's unconventional. Who are we to judge?
I have come across the different parenting styles - Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive, Uninvolved. Then there are tiger parenting, slow parenting, attachment parenting, free-range parenting, and helicopter parenting. I mean, do I really have to fit into one of those? What if we don't? What if there's no label to the way I parent?
With these parenting categories and styles, it seems as if we need to identify with at least one of them. Reading about them overwhelmed me and also scared me at the same time. I recently asked my son to read up on all the parenting styles and tell me where I fit in. He said none. Bits of pieces of my parenting 'style' were scattered in most categories.
Parenting is hard enough without putting additional stress on ourselves and our kids to try to stay within the lines of a certain box. The thing is, I think a lot of us fall into the doing-the-best-we-can category. I understand that some parents are advocates of certain parenting philosophies, and that's okay too.
I'm just doing me, for my son, taking into account everything that surrounds us.
I co-slept with my son until he was 11, or maybe 12
I didn't potty train him. When he was ready, he potty trained himself.
Being a terribly picky eater, I spoon-fed him his meals until he was 12 years old.
I let my son play video games for hours on end.
I don't restrict his screen time.
I don't force him to do house chores.
Those are some of the don'ts that I did because it suited us and was necessary for us.
Looking at the list, I might receive some raised eyebrows or may be judged as less of a parent, but the thing is, no one, except for my son and me, really understands why these were and are okay in our household. Should I explain myself - no, I don't have to.
At almost 17 years old, my son shows no signs of; being socially or emotionally damaged, or extreme attachment to me or spoilt, or entitled, or lazy, or irresponsible, or detached, like some parenting articles may claim to be the result of these. On the contrary, he is respectful, independent, intelligent, funny, super organised, has developed his own schedule between revision, homework, social activities and screen-time.
He's a great, well-balanced kid!
Other parents might squirm at my less-than-stellar parenting choices, but I will say that I'm one hell of a good parent to my son. We have our ups and downs, and we deal with it the way we do. It might not be perfect, but it works.
I love my son more than words can explain. I acknowledge his feelings, I listen to him without judgement, and I make myself available for him. Aside from that, I do whatever works for us. The confidence I have with my way of parenting is through experience, even if some might say that it's only through parenting this one child.
To me, parenting one child is hard because I don't get second chances, so I do the best I can, my way.