I am not one to give parenting advice. Despite being a relatively new mom (four years in), I understand that parenting practices are as unique as our signatures or walks. As much as an infinite number of us parent, we do it so differently. And deep down inside, we all think that our way is the best, which is why many do not welcome unsolicited advice. Me included.
I tend to give moms the benefit of the doubt when they offer me parenting advice. I have no reason to believe that their intent is anything other than to be helpful, and maybe even guide me away from some of the bumpy roads they had to navigate on their own motherhood journeys. But I must admit, I always do a slight eye roll in my mind whenever I am given advice I did not ask for.
My parenting style is ‘old-school’ with a sprinkling of ‘modern-day.’ Recently, following an outing with my son, the person who was with us, told me out of the clear blue that I needed ‘to loosen up’ with him. I was surprised at her straight with no chaser delivery, but not at the substance of it. While lunching at a restaurant that afternoon, I could see that she did not at all approve of my attempts to correct my son’s behavior. He repeatedly twisted and turned in his seat causing the salt and pepper shakers to crash to the floor, each time startling patrons into looking around for the source of the disturbance. His voice filled the room as he went on about colors, what he saw that day, and whatever else came to his four year-old mind. I, in turn, reminded him to sit up straight and stop twisting and turning in his seat, lower his voice a bit, and eat his over-priced grilled cheese and fries that I did not want to see go to waste. With each of my urgings for him to reign it in, she followed up with encouragement to let it all hang out. And he happily opted for the latter.
When I was a kid, my mother could take me anywhere and I knew how to behave. But it did not start off that way. It took that one time in the women’s section of Macy’s that I learned bad behavior in public would never be tolerated and would always be punished. Harshly. At three or four years old, I cut a complete fool zig-zagging between and darting underneath the jammed packed circular racks of hanging dresses. I squealed and laughed with delight as I purposely left clothes hanging haphazardly on hangers and strewn about the floor. Let’s just say the combination of me somehow getting snatched, the look of horror on the benevolent stranger’s face who thought it was the right thing to do to intervene, and my mother uttering words to the effect of ‘mind your business before you get it too’ guaranteed that she could take me anywhere and I would be the quintessential well-behaved child.
That’s the school of parenting from which I come. When kids need correction, you correct them. I also do not wear what I refer to as the dreaded ‘Mommy Blinders.’ When my child is behaving inappropriately or badly, I do not feign distraction or unawareness, or brush it off as a kid being a kid. I check both him and the behavior—then and there. He receives loads of love and adoration not just from me, but countless others, so tightening the reigns when necessary certainly won’t kill him and, hopefully, he’ll be better for it in the long run.
I want my son to feel free to express himself and be his four-year old self. But I also want to instill in him manners, boundaries, consideration for others, and the ability to be mindful of his own behavior. And he is the perfect age for that to begin.
By all means, lend me advice on how to rev up my self-care, or somehow squeeze in a second yoga class during the week, or find more time for myself, or even where I can find a bevy of beautiful good men. But as for my parenting, I got this. And what I don’t know or am mistaken about, I will learn along the way just like every other mother whose children exemplify the mastery of those lessons.