Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Human

Are you the perfect mom? Or dad?

I know. It's an utterly ridiculous concept. 'Cause guess what? No one is perfect. God even said so.

Yet parents today, especially mothers, face intense pressure to live up to ever-mounting standards that become increasingly impossible to achieve.

Of course, it depends on which camp you're in as to which set of standards you should follow. Maybe you're a follower of Dr. Sears and believe in Attachment Parenting. To you the ideal mom breastfeeds exclusively until the child self-weans even if he or she is five, co-sleeps, wears her child in a sling, and is never out of the child's sight.

Or maybe you're a Ferberite or Baby Wisefollower and believe your baby should be on a schedule, sleeping in her own crib and through the night by the time she's three-months old.

Maybe your best friend has her toddler signed up for every class from Kindermusic to Gymboree, but you question how much an 18-month old can really absorb. Or maybe you don't have the $100 extra the classes cost because you gave up the job that would have allowed you to pay for the classes so you could be at home with your child on a full-time basis.

Oh! And there it is...the mother of all I'm a better parent than you arguments: Working Mom vs. Stay-at-Home Mom.

Are you getting it now?

You know it. I know it. None of us are perfect. We're all just doing the best we can to be the best parents we can be for our kids. Making the choices that we think are right. But our choices don't make us perfect and if we make a few mistakes here and there, that doesn't mean we're not good parents. It means we're human.

Choosing to be self-righteous about our personal choices when it comes to parenting doesn't make us perfect. Far from it, in fact. If we convey that attitude to our children we're simply doing them the injustice of teaching them to be judgmental rather than looking at their peers or others through the eyes of love and compassion.

As parents, I think we're all better off if we see other parents as we hope to be seen: as parents who love their children and want the best for them and who weigh every decision we make, hoping we're doing the right things to keep our kids healthy, reasonably happy, and to promote their overall well-being.

I've been torturing myself and my poor husband for weeks now trying to decide if we should enter our neighborhood school's lottery for the magnet Kindergarten class. If Brendan got into the class it would mean he has French lessons every day plus an intensified math and science curriculum. It would also mean that he is stuck with the same 20 or so kids until he goes to high school. Which I kind of think...sucks. But it's possible the academic advantages outweigh the social implications. But I don't know.

If he doesn't join (or get in – it is a lottery!) the magnet class, he can always be tested for the school's gifted class. And then, there's the possibility that academics just aren't his bag. Who knows? He's 5.

Yet, this decision has been weighing on me for weeks. As if the choice I make regarding his Kindergarten class will impact his academic and social status for the rest of his life.

I also have been feeling some (self-inflicted) pressure as I see the looks on all the faces of the parents who know without a doubt they want their wee ones in the magnet class. When I've said I'm uncertain as to whether or not I want Brendan in the class, they look at me as if I've sprouted an extra head. I imagine they think I'm not too bright and that I don't value academics. But as a natural-born geek who was always known as the smart kid I have to admit, I want more for my kid. I'd rather he be the popular kid. Or really to be both. But that's not always realistic.

It's only after spending many wasted hours reflecting on all of this that I decided that I don't care what the other moms think of me. I'm doing the best I can and if I decide that the social limitations of being in the magnet class are a deterrent to my child's overall development and that outweighs whatever academic advantage he would gain by having a little extra math and science, that's my decision to make in concert with my husband. And it doesn't make me – or you – a bad mom if we don't follow a particular crowd.

13 comments:

Stacey said...

If only I had a nickel, or even a penny, for every minute I've tortured myself with some decision to make in parenting my children - school, day-care, being at home, going to ballet, whatever - I'd be a rich woman at this point. With fewer wrinkles and gray hairs, for sure. Hooray Dawn! We all need to remember we're doing the best we know how - and it's different for each of us.

Mimi said...

Amen, Dawn! One of the things I like about bloggy moms so much is that, by and large, we are not either/or people. Most of the moms online seem really cool about "you have to decide what works for your family" and then supporting each other in decisions we might not have made for ourselves and our families.

You do what feels right for all of you.

I was in gifted class, btw, in a French-only school. We made Cabbage Patch Dolls. For enrichment. Whatever. I still managed to get a PhD even though I just went to the school that was closest to my house, the french one because our neighbour was the JK teacher. How's that for obsessing about My Academic Future? Bah.

You do what feels right! I think you'll make the right choice!

Dawn said...

Thanks, y'all.

For what it's worth, I did decide to apply for the magnet class. Not because of what anyone else thinks, but because I know that Brendan really likes science. His pre-K teacher has told me repeatedly that science is his favorite subject and that he would spend all day in the class science hub if she allowed him to.

The magnet K class has science three days a week vs. one day in the regular class.

However, if we don't get in, I'm not really worried.

We have an excellent, excellent neighborhood school. So no matter which class he's in, he'll be fine.

The only hesitation I had about applying is the fact that he is soooo very shy and I think he needs to be exposed to as many different kids as possible and the magnet kids stay together at least through 5th grade and someone else told me that it's actually through 8th grade.

It's not a life or death decision, yet, like so many things with parenting, I initially came at it that way, and initially, did spend some time concerned that other moms thought I was some sort of slacker for not wanting to get in.

Whatever. He'll be fine.

Thanks for the support.

Jen said...

I don't have any kids yet, but I've watched my sister go through this process and it was really hard on her. Her pediatrician pushed attachment parenting. He told her that if she put her baby down while she was crying, then she was being a bad mother because clearly Jenna needed something and my sister wasn't providing it. Harsh.

Thanks for a great post!

Jeremy said...

Well, if he gets in and doesn't like it, you can always move him back to regular school–or the gifted class–right?

We're still a year away, but we've been debating the IB charter school for Nathan. I guess we'll just see how things are going this time in '09.

I hope the show was a hit!

merlotmom said...

I went through what you did except for us it was public vs. private school. As your friends thought you were nut NOT considering the magnet, mine thought I was crazy not to send to private. Well, now many years later, we've done both and are back in public.

Do what your gut tells you is right for you.
Decisions are not set in stone. You can always change course.

rennratt said...

I'm with the others on this one!

Nooze is a lover of all things Science, too. We have found GREAT, easy to follow (and inexpensive!) science kits at Kaybee Toy, BJs and on line at Amazon.com. So far, she has built a skeleton, created a mini plane and learned basic physics.

She has a great book called "Kitchen Science", which we shall drag out this spring/summer. I'm hoping we don't blow anything up. On purpose, anyway!

If you're interested, email me. I'll find the name of the company that makes the kits. Especially the skeleton.

DCup said...

You are so right. Each decision can seem monumental, but you have to do what is best for your kid. And each of your kids is different. What works for Brendan might not work for Beckett when he reaches those same life stages.

You seem to be doing a great job. It's tough not feeling insecure when you've got the pressure of the other parents, but if you follow your instincts, you'll likely do the right thing.

Dawn said...

Jen, I'm so sorry your sister had such a negative experience with her pediatrician. I hope she was able to either find a new one or find a way to express her own needs and values as a parent.

Jeremy, I have no doubt that you and Teresa will make the right decision. Nathan is an amazing kid, so obviously y'all are doing all the right things already.

MM, we took about 10 min. of nagging from my mother-in-law about how we should be sending our kids to Catholic school and then quickly and politely informed her that we had a choice: we could send our kids to private school and then pray they got full scholarships to college or we could use our resources for college, but there was no way I could stay at home and we could do both. It sounds like you're doing a wonderful job managing and doing all the right things for your kids.

Renn, I will definitely e-mail you to get the name of those kits. We gave Brendan a chemistry set for his birthday, but we haven't used it yet. I was saving it for spring break since we're not going out of town. I can't wait. I think I'm more excited about it than he is right now. But once he realizes what it is fully, I think he'll have fun with it.

Thanks, D. These two boys are pretty different. I can already see. Brendan loved to have me read to him when he was a baby and does now after going through a phase of not enjoying. But Beckett just wants to take the books and do it himself. He'll listen to a page or two, then he's done. When Brendan was his age, he could sit and play by himself for about 20 min., but Beckett is moving constantly and has about a 2 min. attention span. Everyone's different. It's fun though.

Dawn said...

Jen, I'm so sorry your sister had such a negative experience with her pediatrician. I hope she was able to either find a new one or find a way to express her own needs and values as a parent.

Jeremy, I have no doubt that you and Teresa will make the right decision. Nathan is an amazing kid, so obviously y'all are doing all the right things already.

MM, we took about 10 min. of nagging from my mother-in-law about how we should be sending our kids to Catholic school and then quickly and politely informed her that we had a choice: we could send our kids to private school and then pray they got full scholarships to college or we could use our resources for college, but there was no way I could stay at home and we could do both. It sounds like you're doing a wonderful job managing and doing all the right things for your kids.

Renn, I will definitely e-mail you to get the name of those kits. We gave Brendan a chemistry set for his birthday, but we haven't used it yet. I was saving it for spring break since we're not going out of town. I can't wait. I think I'm more excited about it than he is right now. But once he realizes what it is fully, I think he'll have fun with it.

Thanks, D. These two boys are pretty different. I can already see. Brendan loved to have me read to him when he was a baby and does now after going through a phase of not enjoying. But Beckett just wants to take the books and do it himself. He'll listen to a page or two, then he's done. When Brendan was his age, he could sit and play by himself for about 20 min., but Beckett is moving constantly and has about a 2 min. attention span. Everyone's different. It's fun though.

Christopher Pelham said...

I think we have one of the few cultures in the world that does not practice attachment parenting or something close to it so I'm inclined to believe that it's natural.

But more than that and more generally speaking, I think that each individual is born with an innate personality, preferences, tendencies, interests, etc. and that the whole nature/nurture thing is not at all clear-cut. I think individuals have a lot of resiliency and self-determination and adapt to a lot of environments and find their way through. And that implies that parents are not all-responsible and need not feel all-responsible.

it's simply not possible to scientifically judge all variables in your child's life and accurately predict and compare all possible future outcomes. just do your best and don't look back!

Say your son loves science but one year your school's science curriculum and/or teacher isn't really turning on your kid (been there!). It's not the end of the world. It simply gives you an opportunity to explore more science with him outside of school. Same goes for art, music, sports, etc. Just like you can't try to be a perfect parent, you needn't try to find a perfect school. Just find a school that you and your child feel comfortable with and that has SOME strengths. Then you can make up for any weaknesses outside of school, which you already do, so it's not even anything new.

Wendy said...

This debate -- or rather, the people on either side who are absolutely convinced that they are right and that anyone who doesn't follow their theory is a bad parent who is harming their child -- drives me absolutely insane. Follow your instincts and do what you think is best based upon your unique understanding of your own child. Whatever you choose, you're not going to irrevocably harm your kid. I truly believe that people are the way they are, and that there's very little parents can do to change how their kids turn out (beyond abusing them or something like that).

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, you say your neighborhood school is excellent, so you may just have the best of both worlds here.

If he gets in the lottery school, and for whatever reason it's not doing it for you (or rather, him), you can always switch him back to the neighborhood school next year. Kids are a lot more resilient than we give them credit for, and at his age, the period of adjustment to a new school should be small.

My son is in a lottery school now, and after five years of driving him across town, I'll be quite relieved next year, when he'll be back in our neighborhood for middle school. Well, except for that "my baby's in MIDDLE school" crying jag I'm sure to have. His middle school also takes lottery students; we just happen to be zoned for it, so we're kind of lucky there as well.

Best of luck to you!!