The Point of Parenting

Ages ago I read Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.  While I don’t adhere to or believe in everything that he wrote, and it is definitely on the ‘a little too extreme’ side, I think that it was worth reading.  And that it has fundamentally changed the way that I look at parenting.  The basic premise that I came away with is that we should raise our kids to know and feel that they are unconditionally loved by us.  Also, that we should parent thoughtfully, and not just using knee-jerk reactions.

So, what is parenting thoughtfully?  For me, I think that it involves actually thinking through what I do with the kids, and what the undertones of what I tell them, restrict them from, and permit them to do says about my values, the values I want for them, and how I feel about them.  When I tell my kid ‘no’, but don’t have a good reason, and expect him to listen, am I instilling in him that he has to listen unquestioningly to authority?  Do I really want that to be how he grows up?

Because of this, I really have changed my parenting.  I’m not perfect, by any means.  I still get frustrated and yell at my kids.  I still put them in time-out–although I do it more mindfully, and using a totally different process than before.   I still deal with typical kid behaviors.  But Kullervo and I spend a lot of time talking about how we want to act and respond in certain situations.  When Oliver backtalks, how do we want to respond?  What about his semi-refusal to use the potty?  How do we feel about him sleeping on the floor instead of his bed (he prefers it most days)?

I think that talking about stuff, even the inane, helps us react better when it comes up again.  And discussing together how we reacted in the moment helps us figure out what we could have done better or wish we had said instead, or what magically worked.  And we’re figuring out that things that worked or that we took for granted with Oliver are totally different with Hazel.  And so we also discuss the ways that we wind up parenting our kids differently from each other.

I want my kids to grow up secure that, no matter what, their parents love them.  My love really isn’t conditional on them being or acting or doing something specific.  When they do things that I don’t like, I want to be supportive.  I want them to know that I don’t like what they do, but I love them, because they’re my kid, and they don’t have to do anything to earn that.  It just is.  Even when I’m pissed off.  Even when they hate me. I think that maybe parenting pays it forward, because I don’t feel like love of a parent is necessarily unconditional–but love of a child should be.

I also want them to grow up with values, values that Kullervo and I think are important.  We’ve been tossing around ideas about the values we want to instill in our kids, and I might start a series of blog posts to get any other feedback in ways to help teach our kids these values, or whether anyone else thinks they’re important, or stupid, or whatever.  The process we’ve been going through is, I think, necessary for us as we grow into different avenues, religiously, but still share a life and a family and a relationship.

So, expect more to come in the future.

Interfaith Marriage

It’s not as if I hadn’t thought much about interfaith marriage before. When Kullervo began doubting the LDS church, I was still a steadfast Mormon. We were living with his parents at the time, and stayed up late many nights talking about how we would relate to each other, how we would navigate church waters, and, most importantly, what we wanted for Oliver, who at the time was only about five months old.

It has been an ongoing dialogue since then. I found my church home at Cedar Ridge Community Church, but for awhile Kullervo was pretty sure he leaned towards more traditional, liturgical types of worship. And, as it turns out… I really don’t love the liturgy. So, there was the dilemma of where to go to worship when we actually prefer different styles of worshiping. But, then we were still both considering ourselves Christian.

However, Kullervo has discovered that he is, and always has been, a pagan. And I am still a Christian.

I was reading Jack’s blog the other day, and saw that at the top was written “Interfaith Marriage”, and I realized that, officially, I am a part of one.

Honestly, I’m not sure what it will mean for us. But it seems significant to realize. We still have to figure out the best way to raise the kids so that they will be open minded, tolerant people who have minds of their own and will realize that Christianity is truuuuuuue (hahaha! just kinda kidding!). Seriously, though, it’s something that we need to consider and kind of hammer down (inasmuch as you can hammer anything about parenting down, besides windowsills) while the kids are still fairly young.

When Did This Happen?

Hazel has a few words (Mommy, Daddy, tickle, baby, ball, eat, apple, book, and I think a few others). She’s also gotten to the stage where she has more sophisticated wants than she has vocabulary for, and she hasn’t quite mastered pointing. It’s frustrating for everyone; I’ve been trying to introduce sign language (we have got milk and eat down for that), but it’s still a frustrating time.

At the same time, she is delightful. She has more personality than her size would imply. She’s her own little person, through and through. She’s feisty, independent, and loving. This little girl loves! She loves the cats–even The Beast, who is kind of unlovable. She sees the cats, points, smiles and looks ridiculously happy. She’s very gentle with them (for the most part), and approaches them gently and slowly. It’s like she has an instinct for it. And she’s incredibly sweet with her stuffed animals. She’ll pick one up and carry it around all day, and smile at it. She’ll hug it tight and make it give her kisses, and then is delighted with the kisses she just got.

She has a favorite book–Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton. I read it to her every time she gets into bed, and she holds the book while she sleeps.

She loves Oliver. They adore each other. They sit in the back of the car and have conversations. Oliver will ask Hazel questions, and then say, “Yes or no, Hazel? Yes or no?”. Hazel will nod or shake her head, and Oliver will take it very seriously. They listen to each other.

Oliver becomes more and more of a total character. First, he can remember everything. Once, about a year ago (when he was just-turned-two), I picked Conner up from Army (heehee!), and we had to wait awhile for him to be ready. We got out of the car and one of the other infantry guys brought out a ball for Oliver to play with. This weekend, when we were there, Oliver asked if he could look for that man with the yellow ball. How can he remember that?!

He also has this amazing imagination. He has started playing pretend games, and is very elaborate with what is going on. Things often get stuck in the mud (I don’t know why, but that’s been an ongoing theme in his imagination since last summer). Today, a dragon got stuck in the mud and Oliver couldn’t get him out! I offered to help, and proceeded to attempt to pull the dragon out with all of my might, but my attempt was foiled! The mud was too thick! So Oliver found a hero who saved the dragon from the mud and they were friends.

He also talks a lot about his “work-job”. When we tell him to do something, his response is likely to be, “But first…” Often, first he has to go to his work-job. When caught picking his nose, he has explained to our nanny that picking his nose is his work-job. And when prodded further, declared that Hazel is his boss at his work-job, and makes him pick his nose. And pays him $1 for it.

So, when did this happen? When did my kids stop being babies and start being these intelligent, imaginative, loving, really cool people?

Also, just for kicks: