As I approach the first anniversary of Babynut – Babynut’s 1st Birthday! – I am very aware of how much of a parent I am to this brand new business. As with a real child, the first year has been packed with learning and development and unexpected crises, problems and joys.
When I look back upon my experience as a parent and compare it to my experience as a grandparent, I have to laugh. Being a parent is SO much harder – I felt so responsible and I was! Everything my kids put in their mouth, wore on their bodies, everywhere they went, where they lived, what they watched on TV – whether they watched TV – it all was up to me! Or so it seemed.
From the time they were in the womb both Joseph and Gabriel asserted their own personalities. Slowly I learned that - while I was the one making most of the major decisions in their lives (with the help of their dad) – they had their own specific needs, wants, preferences and karma. The idea that a baby is a tabula rasa – blank slate – was conceived by someone who never had a baby or ever tried to raise one!
In the nature vs nurture debate, I began to lean more heavily toward nature as my experience as a parent grew. I could influence their daily environment and make decisions for them about what they could eat when they were with me, where they would live, what toys they could have, but they had their own likes and dislikes, needs and desires and my job as a parent began to take a different role as I paid more attention to them as separate people with their own dharma, or destiny to live out.
As a new parent I was intense in my need and determination to be the best mother I could be. My oldest son Joseph was NOT going to wear disposable diapers, eat processed sugar, play with guns. His birthday cake when he was two was a carrot cake made with whole wheat flower and honey and must have weight ten pounds!
One day when he was three, he ran into the local general store ahead of me and headed straight for the candy display. I didn’t think he even knew what a candy bar was, yet there he was eating a Snickers right through the wrapping! I had to pry the bar out of his sticky little hands, pay for it, then tell the store clerk to throw it away.
He wasn’t allowed to play with guns or have one, so every stick he found became a gun. “Pow-pow!” he’d shout, running all over the yard and through the woods with his little friends. When he was six he got some money for his birthday from a relative. I took him to the toy store and what did he want to buy? A set of six-guns in a holster. Of course. And you know what? I let him buy them.
This is what I finally got through my thick, self-righteous head: by denying him access to toy guns and candy bars I was setting up an even more intense desire for toy guns and candy bars. This is where the title of the piece comes in. I began to realize that there had to be a middle road to parenting. Buddha talked about the middle path, about moderation in all things. As a parent so far I was anything but moderate. I was a fanatic!
I started to ease up on my need to control everything that went into Joseph’s mouth, every toy he played with. That didn’t mean I stopped parenting. What it does mean is that I started listening to Joseph more, allowing him to make more of his own choices. He bought the gun set and played cowboy a lot for a few days and then the guns became just one of his many toys. The desire, once fulfilled, extinguished. I let him have a candy bar every now and then as a special treat. No big deal. He lived!
When my second son, Gabriel, was born, we were living on 40 acres of land with no electricity and only cold running water. I had to wash his cloth diapers with a hand-operated wringer washer. It took all day to accomplish the tasks of cooking, cleaning and washing and washing and washing!
As Gabriel grew I began cheating a little. When we went into town for the day to go grocery shopping or use the laundromat, I would resort to disposable diapers for the trip. At first I felt really guilty, then relieved as it was one less thing to deal with during this very busy town day with two young children. I began to see that being a happier, more relaxed parent was preferable to being an overworked, miserable parent, lugging a bunch of smelly diapers around all day.
As you travel your own parenting path, you will come to many crossroads, many decision points. Home birth? Circumcision? Cloth diapers? Vaccines? Nursing? Vegetarian diet? Organic clothes? Co-sleeping? Time out? Home schooling? You will get a lot of peer pressure and family pressure to decide one way or the other, depending upon your friends’ and family’s opinions, but that is another article! And you will also get a lot of information from your child as she grows and develops. I urge you to find your own middle path. Listen to your self, your clear inner voice that tells you whether you are being true to yourself and your inner core of beliefs. Listen to your child and try to determine when it is necessary to hold the line and when the line has some give to it.
The world is full of experts with opinions and facts to support those opinions, and full of opinionated people with absolutely no facts to support their opinions! You must learn to walk through the maze of these opinions and methods of child-rearing, and – in the end – come to a place that works for you, your child, your family, your peace of mind. I wish you much joy on your journey.