Monday, January 25, 2010

Parenting Styles and Parenting Fails

If you know me at all, you know that my super-sensitive-bloggy-topic-that-makes-me-postal is mommy wars. I HATE judgey moms. I refuse to be told how to parent and I am furious when anyone even implies that my choices are somehow the "wrong" choices.

Because I hate being a hypocrite, I try very hard to never judge other mothers. Nobody knows the trouble I've seen and you've got to walk a mile in her sensible yet cute shoes and yadda, yadda, more cliques.

Of course, there is a line. A line where it is no longer a matter of parenting style and a matter of crazy. Obviously, abuse falls below this line. While I still try not to judge abusive parents (because of mental illness, etc), I do judge the action as flat out crazy and wrong.

But there's another type of crazy. The crazy that doesn't make any sense, but isn't abusive or wrong. Just weird. Weird parenting choices that I can't, in my mind, justify. These are the tricky ones for me. I try not to judge, I really do. I don't want to judge, but at the same time, I just don't get it. I just don't.

I had a friend in elementary school who wasn't allowed to wear pants. It was a church thing. Since I went to a church all the time and I wore pants even more than I went to church, I didn't see the connection, but I accepted it. The problem was that in the winter, it's hard to not wear pants, so her family's solution: pants under culottes. Which are technically, kinda pants. This poor kid came to school every single day of the winter in sweat pants layered under homemade solid color cotton culottes. Frankly, I think that's crazy. If you don't want your kid to wear pants, okay, I don't agree, but I get it. But don't solve the pants in the cold problem by making them wear really ugly pants over their um... pants.

I knew a girl in high school who was allowed to spend the night at her boyfriend's house, but was not allowed to curl her hair or wear makeup. That's crazy, folks.

This weekend, though, at that party I was telling you about, I was standing around talking to another parent and they brought out the refreshments. Her face fell and she told me that her daughter had never had fruit juice. Because of the sugar.

She's three.

Then, when the cake came, she said that she had never had a cupcake either and in fact, would not know whether to choose vanilla or chocolate because she had never had anything of either flavor.

*POP* That's the noise my head made when it exploded.

I try to be hyper-aware of other parents' wishes for their children's diets. Because, I get it, I'm a little permissive with the diet. Here's the thing, I believe that I drink so much Kool-Aid as an adult, because I didn't get it as a kid. (I didn't get it as a kid because my mom was allergic to it, not because it was outlawed, I mean I drank Coke. And Big Red. Ah, I love Big Red.) My grandma had this "fake food" rule, that precluded me from eating spaghetti-O's, sugar cereal and certain candies. For instance, Twinkies were fake food and disallowed, but Oatmeal Creme Pies were fine. Healthy even. Because of the oatmeal.

So, nothing is off-limits in the Scattered house. That doesn't mean that I buy everything, because I don't like having junk in the house, so I try to keep our groceries healthy. But, if Brynna is allowed a treat in the gas station and she chooses a Twinkie, a Twinkie will she get. If Maren wants a cookie, and it's appropriately between meals and not too close to bedtime, fine.

I like to teach moderation. I know that's not every parent's prerogative. I know kids who have reached school age without ever touching a french fry. Amazing to me, but since neither of my kids seems to really like fries, I don't particularly worry about it. I know even more kids who reach school age without the magic of carbonation ever crossing their lips. Not so much with us. Some occasions, in my humble estimation, require Coke. Like the movies. Or pizza.

So, I try to account for that when I am planning a menu for other people's rugrats. I offer more than one flavor of cake. I know one little girl who can't have anything pink or red because of an allergic reaction she has to the food dye. I know another kid who can't have chocolate because of the caffeine. Fine. Strawberry, chocolate and white will be offered. I don't serve kids pop, and instead offer up lemonade (usually pink because it's a party, dammit) or Kool-Aid. I avoid anything with nuts at all costs. I try, is what I'm saying, to be reasonable and fair to parents who lay down restrictions for personal, religious, moral or medical reasons.

And frankly, if you want to parent your kid to never let them have sugar, okay. You're the parent, the choice is yours. It's not abusive. It's just weird. It makes me wonder about holidays. What does this precious angel eat for her birthday. What does she leave for Santa? What does she do on Halloween, for the love of all that's good and holy? What does that mom do with the little goodies that come home from school on Valentines?

But what's crazy about this, is that she brought the child to a birthday party. Now, in her defense, I don't think anyone but me at the party knew about angel's restrictions. She let her eat cake. For the first time. At three years of age. At someone else's party. Sorry. I just get going, you know. And wash it down with fruit juice.

But still, you know. Was this a surprise? The cake. At a party. I can't cater to this. I can't offer a choice that will cover this. Okay, kids, you can have chocolate, strawberry, white or carrots. Not carrot cake, carrots with ranch dressing. Yay!! Like that psycho Hidden Valley commercial with the kids at the veggie eating contest.

I don't know. I'm just not down with this. And I think she's a lovely woman and her kid is cuter than pie and I get it. I get the desire for your kids to grow up healthy and live forever and have zero cholesterol, but, I don't know.

The non-judgey part of my brain demands that I not post this. The curious part of my brain demands that I do. The part of my brain that can't think of anything else at all right now, because seriously, exploded head also demands that I post it. So, I will. Because two against one, baby. But I'll be praying that this lovely lady doesn't pick today to find my blog. Because I'll die.


Steve said...

I'd love to know why she was so very strict about her diet. (And equally why she relented on this day.) Some parents are just very nervous about their kids, especially over what they eat, which is not entirely surprising with all the scare-stories in the media about the harmful effects of sugars and processed food.

Even so, no cupcakes or chocolate at three...?!

But who am I to comment. Virtually the first words from my daughter's mouth were "choc choc".

Jessi said...

I agree. I really wanted to ask, but was afraid of offending her. In my experience the thing that I have the least control over with my kids is their diet. Grandparents sneak them goodies, they eat stuff at school and daycare and friends give them treats. It would have to be something I was really passionate about to successfully restrict something that broad.

Orlandel Creations said...

Yes! Grandparents are to blame for all the bad food choices. Your Grandfather, who told me to get a drink from the water fountain my entire life, couldn't wait to get you a Big Red!! Your concerned parent did not let you drink Big Red, it was a Grand (!) parent. Of course, I am the grandparent who gave both of your children their first taste of salsa at 9 months and chocolate ice cream (i refuse to say how young---err old!---they were for that!)

Suze said...

I have to admit I fall into that category with fast food. I hate fast food. On taste and principle. Yes, a lot of that is because I am one of THOSE PEOPLE who has read Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore's Dilemma and seen the documentaries about mass-produced meat, and rational or not, I'm terrified that the one time I get them a fast food burger, it will be tainted with E. coli or salmonella. Plus, I just find fast food disgusting. I really and truly don't like it.

So while I don't want my kids to go overboard someday because they were denied it (and that may very well happen) in their young days, when it comes down to it I just can't bring myself to go to McD's or any of those places.

But you know, we have juice and potato chips and we make cocoa and I bake things like cookies all the time, so I don't think my kids are exactly deprived.

Mrs. Allroro said...

As a non-parent, I plan to not give my children sugar, and to not have a tv in the home. But really, where I'd have to pack their own snacks for church, school, etc, and I'm just too lazy for that. That's one reason I'm not yet a parent.

And I have a student who doesn't watch tv at home. I found out that last week in aftercare, they watched a movie, and then had to turn it off, and he threw a screaming fit. Scary.

And I have another student who has lots of allergies and does pack her own snack, but last week she rushed over to the snack table and started eating the animal crackers with everybody else. Much scarier.

So, yeah. I guess maybe that mom knew it would happen one day and just let it be.

Jessi said...

Mom - I wouldn't say ALL the bad food choices, but some. Yeah.

Suze - And that's the thing, I guess, I'm only getting part of the picture. I guess if I knew everything I might think that was extreme, but everything else was normal.

Mrs. A - You just can't control everything your kids come into contact with. I think that's why I try to be in moderation on everything. She's gonna get candy. So I choose to teach her to have a couple of pieces and then move on. She's gonna watch TV, so I try to teach her to not let it control her time. It's obviously not the only choice and I respect other choices. I'm just amazed, I guess.

Strangeite said...

Personally, I blame it all on the kids. These little rugrats develop their own nerotic ticks that appear batshit crazy from an adult's perspective. More than likely it is an evolutionary advantage to drive the parent's insane so that they end up rocking in the corner of their home, instead of going out and having lives. The advantage being that the parents are home to get Goldfish or whatnot.

My little Sophie has a severe orange juice addiction. God forbid that we ever run out. I can't started in the morning without a cup of coffee, but Sophie's heart would actually sieze up if she doesn't get orange juice intervenously injected within 12.3 seconds of waking. I have considered spiking her orange juice with crack just to ween her to less expenisive drug.

Another quirk is clothes. Sophie hates them. A naked toddler running through our house is the order of the day. Her cousin in South Dakota that is 8 days younger, always wears clothes. 9 times out of 10 when we Skype with said cousin, Ella is just SHOCKED that Sophie isn't wearing clothes. She just can't fathom why she is only wearing underwear (we force her to relent and put on panties when we video chat with someone).

Sometimes you just have to pick your battles with your children's individually crazies. For example, most of the time we simply just put our foot down and insist that she wears pants if company is coming over.

And I consider this proof of my success as a father.

Tears In My Shotglass said...

I agree Jess. It is a little crazy to be so extreme. Obviously there are no allergies if she let her have the cake and juice anyway. What about all the other food that contain massive amounts of sugar. Is the child banned from those too? I am with you, everything in moderation.