|The kids on a pallet watching TV - oh wait, that was something else they weren't supposed to do, right?|
Seriously, though - it is just way too easy to ask Google: "Am I a bad parent?" "How do I get the baby to sleep?" "I yelled at my toddler is she ruined forever?"
Parents who didn't have the advantage of Google and 3780340 parenting books seemed to have a lot more peace of mind. Perhaps they didn't know they were making such monstrous mistakes as not feeding their kids all organic home-pureed baby food.
Kids these days have to be "exclusively" everything, if they want a chance at success. It starts with birth. Exclusive medication-free, of course. Wait, I failed that one. I had a half-dose of some dope that gave me amazing hallucinations during Vicki's birth. Then, with Todd, well - no chance for any medication although I would have traded my left brain for some at one point. Nope, my kids weren't exclusively free of medications at birth.
After birth comes vaccinations. We have neither followed a standard vaccination schedule, nor refused to vaccinate. Wait - you mean there's another option than being exclusively pro or anti vaccine!?
Let's not forget cloth diapers. Well, except for all those times I've used disposable diapers. Then we can forget them. But hey, every time I use a cloth diaper, it's one less disposable in the landfill, right?
Next - exclusively breast-fed, naturally. Except that didn't quite work out for me either. I nursed them both as much as I could (and still nurse Todd), and recognized that they wouldn't die from being fed formula the rest of the time. No exclusivity for my combo-fed babies.
Then the sleep training debacle. Of course, you're either spoiling your kids and defiling your marriage by letting your kids sleep in your bed, or you're abusing your kids by letting them cry in their cribs at night while you pee by yourself for once in your life. No middle ground here either. Exclusively attachment parenting or cry-it-out. Well, I failed on that one too. My babies sleep with me all the time, except for when Vicki started sleeping by herself when she was six months and she cried a bunch. Then she slept through the night. Looks like I failed to be consistent on this point, as well.
When your kids start eating real food, you are bombarded by more alarmist messages: If you feed them before six months they will be obese! If you feed them non-organic food they will get autism! The doctor is telling you to give them gruel with no nutritive value that looks awful. Once again - I was never able to achieve anything exclusive. I was the weirdo who pureed coconut oil and chicken stock and homemade yogurt into squash and took it to my kids' daycare. But I also let them eat my fries soaked in GMO canola oil. Nope - life is too short to ever leave a French fry behind.
And now that we are through all those hurdles, the lack of exclusivity continues. Sometimes I yell at my kids. Mostly I try to hug them. Very occasionally they get spanked. I guess this disqualified me from the ranks of the attachment parenting people. But I also don't discipline them with rods and crazy Biblical teachings, either, so I guess I can't be a part of the Train Up a Child community.
There will be more crossroads in the future. Someday my kids will choose gender identities and sexual orientations. I have no idea if they will be exclusively gay or straight. And that's totally cool with me. Someday, perhaps, they will choose partners - and I'm sure I will neither love nor hate those people, but have extremely nuanced feelings about them.
See, life isn't about exclusivity. I hope the one message they are seeing from me, through all of this, is that life is messy and complicated. People who have doctrinaire stances on these issues are setting themselves and their kids up for hard re-actions. There isn't much I can be sure of.
But there is one thing. My children are exclusively loved and protected by God. They are exclusively inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and held by a community of faith. God's love for them is perfect and God needs no Google or manual to show how to love children. So I'm leaving it up to him. Because obviously I can't get it right! And I've really quit trying to be so perfect.