This is one of the historical articles on the site, written when I was a full-time parent. I'm proud to say that Katie has grown up to be a very intelligent, stable young lady with no drug problems or unplanned pregnancies. She's married, doing great in college, and choosing a grad school.
I'm not a phone-in parent. I'm here with our kids every day. I know what they're reading, I know what they watch on television (not much of anything, because there isn't much worth the time), I know what they eat and if they've brushed their teeth and how many hours of sleep they've had. Our family is the center of my life. Balancing my partnership with Sam with being Katie's mother and becoming a step-mother to Sam's kids is very delicate—blending families isn't easy. We're having to come to consensus on one set of rules for everybody, adjust to differing family traditions, etc. It isn't easy —in fact, it's one of the biggest challenges in our lives, and I figure it's likely to stay that way for a long time. Fortunately Sam and I share the same value system and agree on the big things.
|Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to the country and to mankind is to bring up a family. —George Bernard Shaw|
Being a parent is absolutely the most wonderful thing I've ever experienced. It's beautiful, exhilarating, and unique. It is also tiring, exasperating, and sometimes frightening as hell when you stop to think about the fact that you're wholly responsible for the well-being and training of this marvelous little person, and that what you do now will set the tone for her entire life. The responsibility can be daunting--but the rewards are worth it. It isn't something I'd ever do lightly, though, and I'm not sure I'd be eager to have another child. I regard every bit of it is an unexpected gift, though, as I was told I would not be able to have children without fertility treatments, and possibly not at all.
I was very fortunate in that I was able to telecommute when Katie was small, so she didn't have to go right into a day care. That let us continue the closeness we'd had during the pregnancy (yes, I am absolutely certain she was a person before her actual date of birth). I think that being able to breastfeed her and keep her home gave her immune system a healthy start, in addition to having other benefits. I realize that all women can't do the same, but I do think it is beneficial if there's any way you can possibly manage to be home with your child for at least the first few months of his or her life —and I do believe that every family needs to have at least one adult at home full-time as long as there are children in the house (it's easier to do that in households with more than two adults, which is one of the reasons I'm in favor of expanded families). I was able to carry her around with me while I worked and cooked and did everything else —I think that gives kids a real sense of security later on. I've recently been informed that I practiced attachment parenting but I'd never heard the phrase back then. Looking at attachment parenting sites, a lot of people seem to confuse it with permissive parenting, so I'm not wholly comfortable with the label.
Many parents seem to still be children themselves. This isn't an age thing, although it is more obvious when teenagers have children. It is an issue of maturity. If you accidentally got pregnant, despite the easy availability of birth control in our country, just how responsible are you, anyway? I heard someone say once that birds don't lay eggs on branches, but in nests. They prepare before the eggs are laid. Why can't humans do as much as birds? I honestly believe that better planning before parenthood would greatly reduce the number of children who experience various kinds of abuse in our society.
Even the parents who are mature people in other parts of their lives often seem to be going at parenting in a very haphazard fashion, without actually thinking about long-term goals or philosophies. My parents had this odd idea that the whole point of rearing children isn't to make them good kids, but to bring up responsible people. I share that belief, and I've always kept in mind that I want my daughter to be somebody I want to be around —which means it is necessary to teach her to behave so she's pleasant company, to make sure she has a good work ethic, and to be sure she has a strong ethical grounding —and to make sure she knows how to laugh, at herself and the world around her. I want to give her a good education, especially in knowing how to learn. I want to be sure she knows how to take care of herself and can live independently —hence she's had chores and helped around the house since she was old enough to imitate me as I dusted.
While I won't claim my parents did a perfect job with their kids, they raised three kids to adulthood and all of us are mature, responsible people who are supporting ourselves. None of us has ever been in any kind of legal trouble, none of us has ever had a substance abuse problem (or even experimented to any great extent), none of us have had any unwanted pregnancies, and we're all on reasonably good terms with each other despite the fact that we have little in common other than blood. I happen to think they did a pretty good job, so in many ways I've chosen to emulate them.
I don't believe in turning over any of my responsibility as a parent to the state or the church or anyone else, so I homeschool Katie. I monitor what she reads and what she sees and how much time she's spending with whom. If she's online, I'm right there with her. There are people we don't socialize with because they or their children are poorly behaved or extremely bigoted, and I don't want my daughter picking up bad habits or poisonous beliefs from them —even if we happen to be related to those people.
I happen to be an eclectic pagan, and I think raising children in a pagan household has some of its own special concerns, so I've written a separate article about that.
While my politics differ greatly from those of Marion Wright Edelman, I find her 25 Lessons for Life an excellent reminder.
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