Common Sense Parenting

Perhaps due to my British roots, I am big on good ol’ traditional common sense. For whatever reason, in America people tend to lose their common sense. Politics, academia, diets, and especially in parenting… theories run wild about the best way to do things only to create an extreme worldview that no-one can keep up. The answer, I contend, is not a better philosophy as it is common sense.

Philosophy is important but people do things differently. That is the beauty of this nation. Rarely do you get locked up for your differences, so you can feel free to choose what goals and methods you’d like to use. In the field of parenting, we have become so confused about both goals and methods that the average parent doesn’t know where to start. We end up “winging it” and getting better the second time around because of experience. We might try strange things with our first child—and God tends to give firstborns extra thick blood because of it—but by the second, we settle down a bit. Where we once tried making our own wipes, we now buy Huggies. Where we once ground our own baby food, we now have a jar or two of Gerbers on the shelf with big sister’s graham crackers for back-up. And where we once demonized formula, there’s often a bottle and packet or two of Similac somewhere in the house (just in case).  On the other hand, we might be brave enough to try a birthing center or water birth the second or third time around.  We might feel grace enough to sling and nurse even if it didn’t work out before.  We might take a long maternity leave or join a class soon after birth to avoid the post-partum blues we suspect we’ll have again.

All of this is good. We need to let the religious view of parenting relax a little. Not because we care less but because we care more. We realize how important it is to keep the main thing, the main thing. Stressing over Cheerios versus organic Oatey-Os is no longer worth it. We have to figure out how to tend to a newborn AND help our toddler who is having nightmares. Or our elementary child who is struggling to read. These are the priorities of parenting, and worth our attention.

I write this because I think parenting in America has largely lost its compass. It has lost the fact that we are not raising our children to be children; we don’t need brats, nuisances, trophies, guinea pigs, or the eternal baby. But what we do need eludes us. We don’t know how to get the results we want… is what we want even possible? We don’t know where we’re going so we don’t know how to get there. Expert advice has made it hard for us to answer even the basic questions. All of a sudden everything from childbirth to speech development is under a microscope. Having babies becomes this existential experience that we barely survive, let alone thrive in.

Let me suggest that we are raising our children to be people. They are precious beyond belief, but they will leave us. When they do, our job is to have made them largely functioning people with strong physical, emotional, rational, and moral capacities. If any of these areas are missing, they will be in trouble. We don’t stress over their bodies, feelings, minds, or personalities, but we do look to help them be independent and successful. From day one, we look to make healthy, energetic, bright citizens who stand for something good, know how to work at it, and can withstand the various pressures and temptations of the big, wide world. They will have to chart and navigate themselves through all kinds of choices and storms, as they tread the dear soil of their lives. They will have to give to others but also take care of themselves. They must love. They must give and receive love, or life will not be worth living. This is what we’re looking for. This is where our parenting must take them.

It’s a big job! From the moment they arrive in our eager, trembling arms, we have to prepare to let go. For we don’t really know when our children will leave us. Maybe it will be eighteen years, but maybe it will be tomorrow. Or never. We have to start as we mean to go on, and put all our efforts into believing and obtaining the loving, capable, moral adult we want. If we do that, our parenting can be a success story.

And sometimes achieving that story means abandoning “cool” parenting systems or principles that we have adopted for purely ideological reasons.  Or because of pressure.  Because if there is one thing that raising a child shouldn’t be, it’s political.

However soon they leave us, and whatever individual potentials they have, they will get closer to the goal as long as we put the effort in. What a blessing! And what a challenge.

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7 thoughts on “Common Sense Parenting

  1. Can I just say . . .I love you? Seriously. I am the mother of a 15 month old BEAUTIFUL, amazing, miracle child. I had 2 boys who both passed away due to their extreme prematurity (caused by Incompetent Cervix). I had a surgery that enabled me to carry my daughter to term, and now am expecting again! I am a hyper-vigilant parent because of what I have been through and because I have OCD.

    I stumbled upon your blog while blindly trying to find ONE other person who felt like I did. While my daughter has failed to exhibit even ONE single solitary “red flag” for autism, I find myself analyzing everything she does . . .watching her with what I imagine are other people’s eyes, wondering if they are judging her, labeling her, thinking she is “different,” etc. Like you, I am all in favor of TRUE autism diagnoses . . .but I think that we are over-diagnosing and labeling children so much that it’s become almost impossible as a parent to relax!!!! I obsess because it is in my nature to obsess, but at the same time, I am in early childhood, and allllllllll day long, all you see/hear is “early intervention,” and how VITAL it is to recognize your children’s “red flags” from as early as 6 months. I feel like I have spent the first 15 months of my sweet girl’s life over-analyzing her behavior, rather than simply enjoying her for exactly who she is. She is sweet and funny and kind, and I am tired of worrying all the time. My husband (also British–haha!) has your attitude and finds me very difficult to deal with sometimes. But my worries come from my love for my daughter and my feelings of perfectionism and worry/guilt that I won’t be a good enough parent–what if there IS something there, and because I listen to my husband telling me she is PERFECT, I miss it, and therefore miss the window of opportunity to help her? All in all, I think the “spectrum” is a very, very vague thing which lends iteself perfectly to OCD . . .what if, what if, what if??? What if my child isn’t like everybody else’s NORMAL child?

    What if we’re all on “the spectrum” somewhere? What if we’re not allowing children to simply be who they are because we think they need to fit into some social box?

    Thank you so much for this blog. Seriously. For having the bravery to say what so many others are afraid to say out loud, and for giving me (and others) the courage to follow our hearts as parents. I really do love you! 🙂

  2. Whew! It’s such a relief to find someone with your educational background and real world experience, period, much less someone whose words resonate within my mommy soul.

    I found your blog in my attempts to figure out a schedule for my twin two year old boys and have been truly encouraged by several different posts.

    I have seriously struggled during this pregnancy with our third child (another boy due in September!) and I have great hope that I will regain my confidence now that I have a resource to lean on.

    Thanks for sharing with the rest of us!

  3. Dear Mandy,

    Thanks for your feedback! I totally wonder why the “average Mommy” voice seems to be so low on the radar. I truly believe that many of us feel and believe the same things, only to have our viewpoint be crushed by outside influences. Why is common sense so hard to find? I was just trying to give some of that voice back, so your words are encouraging!

    Good luck with your third boy… you’ll make it! If you have made it through twin boys already, then you already have more stamina than most of us. I found the addition of our third boy thrilling since his personality really rounded out the family. He is a classic Type B around a bunch of Type A’s, so he has brought a lot of fresh air to us all =) I will be hoping your next little guy does the same =)

    Thanks again!

    Jaime

  4. I am the mother of 4 yr old and 10 mth old boys. My husband and I we considered “old fashioned” or in our child rearing by neighours. We live in a very urban and “progressive” neighbourhood where our approach is sometimes frowned upon. But every day we see parents struggling with their kids’ tantrums or whining or inability to put on their own clothes at 4 yrs old. Meanwhile our kids get invited to playdates constantly by all the other parents in the neighbourhood and I’m sure it’s because we actually expect our kids to respect other people and their property. That is all you are really espousing.
    I found yours site because I was looking for some advice about my 4 yrs old who is going through a “bossy” stage. I’m glad to have found your site with practical information from someone with both academic and practical experience with child rearing. I will be following your blog and recommending it.

  5. Thank you very much for all your articles, specially about the language pick up of only child, I really need help for my son. He does speak small sentences on his own but I am not able to make him understand the concept like today, tomorrow or if I ask him what did you do in the school today. He seems to not understand what am I telling. He is around 33 months now.

  6. Finding this blog has changed my life. I have never read a blog before, but I can see from all the posts many people feel like I do. My first born 3 year old son has two “red flags” language delay & inconsistent eye contact. I really didn’t feel I needed to be worried because he exhibits no behavioral issues. However, my doctor notified me that he wasn’t reaching his language milestones. I was referred to EI services, and I feel like this whole process has turned my life upside down. I feel very much like what you have said, why am I letting someone who doesn’t know a single thing about my child tell me something is wrong, I have never felt that way. Well as it turns, out my son had fluid in his ears and had to have tubes put in. My question for you is, it was recommended by EI that he still be sent for an assessment because the wait list is 6 months long, and if he starts talking we can just take him off the list. Should I entertain this? He exhibits absolutely no restrictive repetitive behaviors as per the DSM5, when I informed the government funded SLP of this fact, she kind of just shrugged??

  7. Can I just say that if you want traffic to your site you probably shouldn’t be saying things like Americans have no common sense. We had enough common sense to get out from underneath the monarchy and enough sense to not read a blog that starts off by insulting us.

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