Move and Stand

I used to think that people couldn’t change. I used to think that no matter what, when folks entered a “discussion” there really wasn’t a lot of true back and forth going on, unless it was just the back and forth of voices going in one ear and out the other. I used to think that either people were truly set in their ways because they really believed in them, or because they were too proud to allow another opinion to seep into their consciousness.

I think there was a time that I was both of those things. I took a stand – I didn’t believe in being equivocal. “If you don’t stand for something, then you stand for nothing” was my motto. Everything had a right side and a wrong side and I didn’t really care much for people who couldn’t pick a side and then stick to it. Wishy-washy-ness just seemed like the creed of the follower, the person who didn’t have opinions of their own but could easily be swayed one way or another. It also seemed like intellectual laziness, too – I thought that if you just thought long enough about something, the right answer would come to you.

And then I had kids. I changed. But other folks with kids….they haven’t.

It’s amazing to me how childrearing has been happening for thousands of years but yet there still is no right answer. But instead of just accepting that, we keep fighting about it. We take stands every generation on something only to have that stand be overturned the next generation, and turned back the generation after that. This morning I saw a story on potty training, and how it was the newest front in the mommy wars. The story says that moms today are being pressured to potty train their kids “earlier and earlier,” but I know that older folks were telling me that back in the day kids were potty trained at two. So this “new” pressure isn’t really new; it’s just a generation gap, a old war that’s being recycled.

Little A way before the potty training bug bit her

Back then the stand was that no child wants to be potty trained – who wouldn’t prefer to pee and poop as you go, not stopping your daily activities, and have somebody else change you? Of course you need to go hard on the training. In the 50s, 90% of kids where potty trained by 2. Then the next generation came in and said – “Hey, wait! That’s emotional abuse! Let kids take their time, do it on their own time. They’ll be more successful, and you’ll save their psyche in the end too.” So 50 years later, by the 2000s, potty training wasn’t achieved until 3 and later. (And the diaper companies cheered.) Now, with more and more kids in day care and preschool, the centers are like – whoa….3-year-olds in diapers? If the child can say, “Change me!” then that child can go to the toilet! When parents start putting the hard work of toileting and diapering 30 pound children on somebody else, that somebody else is bound to start complaining.  It’s also some of the backlash against this child-centered parenting.

It’s telling how rigid some folks are on these issues. I’m happy to say that many of the conversations we’ve had on this blog have greatly impacted my own parenting. I am one of those people who used to be rigid in my beliefs, because I thought taking a stand meant something about me as a person. I still do. But now I think that being able to be flexible in one’s views – not wishy-washy, but being able to move, and stand, move and stand – is the better place to be. When we’ve argued about spanking, I’ve cut back on my spoon action a bit to contemplate what my other mamas have said. Our homeschooling discussions have really made me reconsider whether public schools can – and will – ever properly serve black children. I’m glad I’m out of the potty training phase with my kids – finally – but if we ever have another one, I’m sure I’ll deliberate about what approach to take given my experiences and the experiences of others – instead of being dogmatic about one way or another.

I still think its fascinating though: How can it be that after all this time, after all these children, that we are still learning – and fighting about – “what’s best?”

5 thoughts on “Move and Stand

  1. A little while back, I was also a little fixed in some viewpoints. But that was before life ‘kicked my ass’ and took me in directions I never thought possible (good and bad). Now I take a position but challenge it, examine it and conclude to either defend that position, concede it or compromise. An approach that also keeps my mind open to throwing the light of scrutiny on my own thinking from time to time.

    The ‘You-Should-Be-Doing-This’ brigade are usually standing in their own mires of uncertainty and where critiquing someone else is often the easier option. HMS

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  2. I feel like my husband and I’s general position as parents is to make it up as we go along. My father was tremendously strict, even militaristic, maybe in my small way I’m rebelling against this. Before I got married, when it was just Mekhi and I, I had more “rules,” firmer (and earlier) bedtime, for instance. My husband’s mellow cool might have softened me.

    I think it is good to be principled but not overbearing when it comes to kids. It encourages them to develop an independence previous generations of children did not have.

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  3. I’m with Tanji; we’re fairly flexible as well. I don’t like to have too many rules, because it becomes impossible to enforce them all. The rules have to be limited to ones that really matter, because I don’t have the emotional energy to deal with a child who is always crying because they’ve broken some arbitrary rule.

    I also am trying to raise an independent child; one who, to use Tanji’s phrase from a while back, has a healthy dose of entitlement. The world is your playground, baby; go get it!

    As for the mommy wars, who knows why we perpetuate these things? I suspect Mel is right; rules and principles fortress our identity, giving us something to stand for; to be about. Who wants to admit that they don’t know what the heck they’re doing, and that they’ve pursued a particular path not because it’s “right” but because it’s most convenient? In any event, my daughter can tell us when she needs a change, and is very interested in what we do in the bathroom. But until she emerges from the oppositional phase in which she currently lives her life, there will be little talk of potty training!

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    1. I have to also add that that pre-school sounds just awful. Our pre-school will be “working with parents” to determine potty-training readiness, but has no rigid rules about when children must be completely trained. Hel-lo; it’s a process! I imagine that policy, however, is much more sustainable if you have enough instructors (and few enough kids) to make regular diaper changes feasible.

      …And Little A is adorable! That is all.

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