"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Friday, March 04, 2011

Back when I knew it all

I used to know everything. No really, I did. When I was a teenager, and even a preteen, before I'd had any sort of meaningful relationship or even thought about becoming a parent, I knew, down to the very letter, what I would and would not do as a mother. I knew right from wrong.  I knew where other people were screwing up, and I knew how to avoid their mistakes.  I knew what I wanted, and I knew how to get there.

I just knew.

This is how well all my vast knowledge has served me the past several years....


I knew of one homeschooling family when I was growing up.  They lived down the street from me.  I never actually met them, but I didn't really want to... because they were homeschooled.  They were, you know, weird and stuff.  I didn't understand how anyone could do that to their children, and I felt bad for them, and for their woeful lack of socialization.  I would NEVER homeschool my children.

We have been homeschooling for nine years now, if you start counting when Spencer was 5 and of traditional "school age".... fourteen years if you go by when we made the decision when he was born.  It was one of the single most important decisions we made for our family, and for our kids.


I have three specific breastfeeding memories from when I was younger.  The first was when we were visiting some friends who had a house on a lake.  I really don't remember who it was, because I can't for the life of me remember anyone who actually lived on a lake?  Anyway, we were at this house on the lake, and we went down to the water, and there was a lady there with a little girl and a baby.   She must have lived next door, because it was private access, and you really couldn't get to where we were without going through any of the houses.  So essentially she was in her own backyard.  She had a bikini top on, and she was breastfeeding the baby.   It was normal and beautiful and natural, and... shocking.  I found it shocking.  I just couldn't believe that someone would nurse a baby right outside like that, where people could see her!  And because she was wearing a bikini top, she was entirely exposed.  To my highly evolved and knowledgeable 10 year old brain, she might as well have been naked.  I would NEVER be so crude.  The second person I remember breastfeeding was very discreet.  I didn't see so much as a millimeter of skin.  She was sitting in the same pew as me at church (at church!)  and she nursed her baby on both sides, and then burped him as she listened to the sermon.  I thought it was great that she was breastfeeding, but by golly there was a time and a place.  I would NEVER nurse a baby in church.   And finally, there was the mom at the birthday party.  I think I might have been married by then.  It was a party for one of Mike's little cousins.  A little girl, maybe 2 or 3, came running up to her mom, who scooped her up and started nursing her as she sat and chatted.  I was flabbergasted.  She was walking!  She was talking!  She'd just had birthday cake!  And she was breastfeeding?  I would NEVER breastfeed a toddler.

With the exception of the very beginning, when I was still getting comfortable, I have never been one to make a big deal out of "covering up."  Never really used blankets or anything, especially not behind my own house!   Breastfeeding moms show much less than what you see walking down the beach anyway.  And if sometimes a squirmy baby exposed more than I'd intended (I've accidentally flashed more than a few people).... eh.  We've all got 'em.  I've nursed my babies in stores, in restaurants, in churches, at baseball games, in offices.  Anywhere they were hungry and I could find a place to sit - and sometimes when I couldn't.  As for the distasteful notion of nursing a walking, talking toddler:  I have four kids, and have happily logged a total of around 11 years of breastfeeding, and counting. Again, one of the most important decisions I made for my children, and my family.


I must have done some of my best judging thinking in church, because a lot of these observations were from the same pew where I saw the breastfeeding mom.  I remember a family with little boys, and the boys would always come to church with their hair all messy and slept-on.  Why wouldn't their mom take the time to comb their hair?  And one of them looked like he was in perpetual need of a trim.  Why wouldn't she take him for a haircut?  There was the little girl with the crazy clothes.  Wild colors and prints that never matched.  A princess dress over jeans and snow boots.  Or tights with shorts over them.  Or a dress AND a skirt.  Crazy.  My children would always be neat, pressed, and combed.  My children would wear adorable outfits that always matched.  And they certainly wouldn't be screaming like the three old in the pew behind me.

The first thing I really remember reading about parenting was an article by Dr Sears in a magazine in my OB's waiting room.  It was before I had Spencer.  It was the first time I had heard the term "attachment parenting," and I thought it was ludicrous.  Wear your baby?  Sleep with your baby?  I scoffed and tossed it back down on the table.  Maybe someone not quite as enlightened as myself would like to read it. 

I would NEVER.

Spencer's hair is sometimes longer than mine, because that's the way he likes it.  Everett's is getting long too, with the exception of the short chunk he cut out of his bangs, again because he wanted to.  Some days it's combed, and other days not so much.  Tegan has long curly crazy hair that is tangle-free maybe 2 days out of every 7.  Some days it looks like I combed it with a blender, and I can't remember the last time she had perfect little ponytails.   Her track record for matching clothes that make sense to anyone but her is not much better.   She likes putting together her own outfits, and she does it with gusto.  I generally manage to make sure she has a clean face when we're in public... unless she's eating as she goes out the door, or in the car, or in the parking lot.    BUT SHE'S HAPPY.  They all are.  And I decided a long time ago that their happiness and our relationship is far more important than keeping up appearances.  We don't battle over clothing choices, don't battle over hair styles.  

And yes, that was my daughter screaming that ear-piercing scream at Valle Luna on Monday.  She was over-excited and over-stimulated and well, sometimes three year olds forget about things like using "inside voices."

So I'd like to publicly apologize to all those moms that I mentioned (and to Dr Sears, whose books I did eventually read in their entirety once I actually had a child and lo and behold, my instinct told me to sleep with him, wear him, carry him, and do all the other preposterous things that Sears espouses.) I get it now.

I could go on (vaccinations... circumcision...) but it'd just be more of the same.  I.  Knew.  Everything.  And it's served me well, don't you think?

I try to never say "never" anymore.  I try not to be the judgmental and close-minded person that comes across up above.  I don't really like that person, and I don't think I'd want to be her friend. 

Yes, I don't think I would be friends with my former self.

And the irony is that now of course, I freely admit that I know nothing. But I kind of like not knowing. I like examining my beliefs and ferreting out why I believe in them (if I do, in fact, believe in them after all) I like following my instincts, even if they go against everything I previously thought to be true. I like researching. And researching and researching and researching, until I'm ready to move onto something else. I like discussing, examining, and learning. I like listening to well thought out and well articulated opinions, even when they differ from my own.

I like being able to look back on old things I've written, even if they're embarrassing, because I like seeing how I've grown. (Which is why I try to never delete blog posts and the like. For better or worse, they were my truth at the moment) I like being able to admit I was wrong, to admit I screwed up, to admit... again... that when it comes right down to it, that I don't know anything, and that everything of value that I HAVE learned, I've learned from my kids.

And that is someone I'd want to be friends with.


redrockmama said...

I love this one. Having children has made me grow into someone *completely* different than I was pre-kids (or even pregnancy or first newborn). And even now, the past...five or six months or so, there's a lot of new things coming into my life and my brain and my thoughts that've never been there before. I've had to swallow my pride many, many times and admit that "I know nothing"...and it's true!! I really don't. I've been humbled as of late. Life is shifting and changing, and we're just all following our intuition and what feels right; what feels like "truth" at the time.

Loved this.

jen said...

Thanks Erika, and you've made some great points here. It really is about swallowing our pride, and allowing ourselves to change and grow as life throws new things our way!

Nichole said...

Wonderful post! I remember knowing so much of the same things and being utterly wrong :)

Stephanie said...

ha ha that's funny Jen...I knew it all too but I didn't give much thought about those things as a teen as a matter of fact I didn't want kids, I wanted a career. I knew for sure I would not have both because you can only give fully to one...
I dropped out of college and became a mother, the BEST thing I ever did!

C&A said...

That is someone I want and enjoy being friends with too!

Bona Fide Mama said...

I would *hate* my former self. Feel sorry for her really. I'm more like my 13 year old self today than I was at 25. My awkward years were my early 20s!


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