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 person. She has a daughter of her own and is a wonderful mother in addition to doing well in her career.
I wasn’t a phone-in parent. I was at home with our kids every day. I knew what they were reading, what they watched on television, what they ate, if they’d brushed their teeth, and how many hours of sleep they’d had. Our family was the center of my life. Balancing my partnership with Sam with being Katie’s mother and being stepmother to Sam’s kids was a delicate process. Blending families wasn’t easy. We had to come to a consensus on one set of rules for everybody, adjust to different family traditions, etc. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was one of the biggest challenges in our lives. Fortunately, Sam and I shared the same values and agreed 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 was absolutely the most wonderful thing I’ve ever experienced. It was beautiful, exhilarating, and unique. It was also tiring, exasperating, and sometimes frightening as hell when I occasionally stopped to think about the fact that I was wholly responsible for the well-being and training of this marvelous little person, and that what I did would set the tone for her entire life. The responsibility could be daunting, but the rewards were worth it. It isn’t something I’d ever do lightly. I regarded every bit of it as 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 very small (yep, all the way back in 1990–1991), so she didn’t have to go right into a daycare. That let us continue the closeness we’d had during the pregnancy. (Yes, I am absolutely certain she was a person long 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. 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 helps to give kids a solid sense of security later on.1I’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. That 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 always kept in mind that I wanted my daughter to be somebody I wanted to be around. That means it was necessary to teach her to behave so she was pleasant company, to make sure she had a good work ethic, to be sure she had a strong ethical grounding, and to make sure she knew how to laugh, at herself and the world around her. I wanted to give her a good education, especially in knowing how to learn. I wanted to be sure she knew how to take care of herself and could live independently, so she had chores and helped around the house since the time she was old enough to imitate me as I dusted.
While I won’t claim my parents did a perfect job with us, they raised three people 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, 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 very little in common other than blood. I think they did a pretty good job, so in many ways, I chose to emulate them.
I didn’t believe in turning over any of my responsibility as a parent to the state or the church or anyone else, so I homeschooled Katie. I monitored what she read and what she saw and how much time she spent with whom. If she was online, I was right there with her at a young age, and later I monitored things closely. There are people we didn’t socialize with because they or their children were poorly behaved or extremely bigoted, and I didn’t want my daughter picking up bad habits or poisonous beliefs from them even if we happened to be related to those people.
While my politics differed greatly from those of Marion Wright Edelman, I found her 25 Lessons for Life an excellent reminder.