As my sons near their 8th and 11th birthdays, I have been feeling sentimental, thinking about all of the past experiences of this year and of the past years of their lives. It’s a remarkable thing to watch people you made become older, wiser, and more fully realized humans.
In reflecting on my children’s early years, I wanted to address all of the supportive parents with whom I interacted when my kids were small, because those people made me the parent I am today. I found a group of women while pregnant and just starting out as a mom and I am still friends with them today. They parented like me and supported me through it all; we supported each other. I also used the resources of La Leche League International, attending their free meetings and support groups in local parks. I joined Holistic Moms Network and Attachment Parenting International. I made my own moms group because moms groups in Los Angeles didn’t meet my needs. Those moms are the reason I am the mom I am.
I also want to address all of the people who told me my children would be damaged because of my parenting. You know who you are. Hi.
You may have seen me in your local park or supermarket. You may have seen me breastfeeding my toddler in a corner of the Target on Sepulveda Blvd or in one of the many synagogues I tried to attend with nursing babies before I had to leave because of my baby being upset or one of you being upset. You may have only known me from my blogs I wrote for Kveller.com, or you may have just read about me on the internet. You may have become annoyed with me because I wouldn’t leave my kids to come out to the movies or to get drinks or to go away for a weekend with you. You may even be related to me and that’s ok! (I can love you even if you don’t agree with me!)
To all of you who doubted or disapproved of my parenting decisions, and especially those of you who did so publicly and loudly, I want to tell you this:
My children walked when they were good and ready. I know you judged me for not sending them to physical therapy and occupational therapy, but they are fine. They walk fine.
My children talked when they were good and ready. I know you said mean things to my face and behind my back when I told you they didn’t yet speak sentences at a year; at 2 years; even at 3 years. You told me I was a negligent mom and that they would never learn to speak. You were wrong. They are articulate and expressive. They’re fine.
My children learned to eat even though they did not eat or drink anything except breastmilk until after their first birthday party. You told me I was setting them up for a lifetime of eating problems. Well, believe it or not, they learned to eat. They are healthy and strong little men. They are fine.
My children breastfed and benefited from the nutrients (which are present in breastmilk well into toddler years), the natural immunization (also present well into toddler years), and the nurturing and comfort that breastfeeding provides until they were done. You mocked me, you wrote mean blog posts about me, and you ridiculed me. You posted my picture in “crazy celebrity parents” articles and you warned me that because of my decisions, my children would be gay (as if that was something I could control or should fear!), unable to form healthy relationships, and unnaturally attached to me. You were wrong. My children weaned without trauma or hysteria and they are independent people. They are sensitive, they are loving and they are gentle. They are just fine. They remember breastfeeding as a sweet and tender part of their formative years. They don’t have an obsession with breasts. And I’m sure soon enough, just like a lot of boys, they may become interested in breasts and that’s fine too.
My children sleep like champs: 10 to 12 hours a night. They always have. I know you thought I would one day have to leave them in a room with a locked door to teach them to sleep without me, but you were wrong again. You told me I was a pervert. You told me they would never learn to take care of themselves. You told me that I needed to stop martyring myself and thinking I was better than you (which I never thought) because I went without solid sleep for years because I chose to meet their nighttime needs. You were wrong. I have never had one fight with my children in their lives about them procrastinating about bedtime. Not once. I have never had to leave a crying child in their bed and steel myself against their shrieks and sobbing. I have never cleaned up the vomit of a child who cried so hard they threw up. I have never wondered if my boys felt safe or if they were safe in their beds. I have never had a sleepless night wondering if their fever broke; sleeping safely next to and near my children has been a tremendous gift to all of us. They now can put themselves to sleep just fine, but they also cherish the nights we spend reading together, talking about our day, and sharing things children only share with you when it’s dark and they feel safe and you hold them close. They sleep just fine.
My children are polite and respectful. They respect other people’s property and they have good manners. They are not perfect, and we are all still learning, but without me constantly telling them to say please and thank you from the time they were toddlers, they picked it up from their father and me modeling it and from us gently showing them how to be polite young men. You told me I should have my kids taken away from me and that my parenting would be the downfall of society for not forcing them to say thank you and please. You were wrong.
There are so many ways to parent. And for people who have planned C-sections, formula feed without even trying to breastfeed, rarely hold their babies, discipline them harshly, sleep train them, hit them and give them time outs or harsher punishments, your kids may be fine too.
The point is, mine are too. There is more than one way to parent. And while I believe that evidence strongly points to a lot of things I do as preferable, and while I believe that a lot of the ways people think we “should” parent are based on fear rather than evidence, I can’t make you parent the way I want you to (and you shouldn‘t try to make me parent the way you want me to).
In addition, if you think your child needs physical therapy or occupational therapy or behavioral therapy, that’s fine. Discuss it with your pediatrician and other medical professionals and make all the appointments you want to without believing that’s the “only” way your child will progress. Therapy is critical for children with special needs and therapy can absolutely help speed things up for slower developing children, but for some of us, we don’t want to speed things up. My kids’ dad and I knew our children better than anyone, and we believed in their uniqueness (others called them “delayed” rather than unique) enough to ride it out and not rush into therapy for them. Many of you told us we were negligent. You were wrong. We trusted our intuition, reasoned it out with our pediatrician, and didn’t let what – in many cases – are trends in interventional therapies influence our decisions. Our kids are fine.
I try to be as respectful as I can. As a lactation educator counselor, I encounter a lot of people doing things the way I do, and doing things the way I don’t. That’s okay too. All I can do is do my best as a mom and a counselor and trust that everyone has their own Power guiding them. And when I see children being hit and punished for what I see as “normal” child behaviors, I remind myself I don’t know them. I don’t know their parents and their struggles, and I shouldn’t judge them for making different choices. And I pray that one day, children who experienced hitting and emotional abuse can get help if it hurt them longer than their parents were told it would.
One day, I hope we can all be kinder not only to our children, but to each other. I hope you can respect my choices and believe that my kids are fine just like I allow the possibility that even though I may not agree with you, as far as you are concerned, your kids are fine too.