Friday, March 5, 2010

The Art of Parenting

I've always felt like parenting was much more of an art than a science. Despite all the "What to Expects" and T Berry Brazeltons, all the well-meaning grandparents, not-so-well-meaning playground moms, I've always felt that you had to trust your gut when it comes to raising the specific little individuals you are blessed with guiding through this world. After all who besides you knows that your kid will eat a ham sandwich with mustard only if it is on a baggette or that his hot dog must have the ketchup first and then the mustard. And, who but you knows that when your daughter has a meltdown over homework it is not a sign of her intelligence or lack there of but an indication that someone hurt her feeelings at school and if you just patiently help her solve the algebra problem then she'll open up about the friend and you can help her through that, too.

At the end of the day, you're the mom or the dad and really, it's your call about your kids. You really do know best so trusting yourself is always the best move. I've always made the choice, when possible to chose doctors and dentists, other health care providers that honor the concept that in the end, mom knows best - they might have the medical knowledge and can give you options, but in the end parenting is a game of instinct.

It's also why I think it's so crazy when we judge each other as moms, parents. How can we really know what is right for someone else's kid? Sure, we might know how we'd do it if we were confronted with the challenge but how another mom chooses to approach a challenge with her child well, that's just her call, not any one else's.

That is what I found so refreshing about Hope Edelman's memoir "The Possibility of Everything". This was a mom confronted with a daunting challenge, a daughter whose behavior had changed drastically in a short time. Her radar went up and she knew she needed to get to the bottom of it. And the way she chose to do it, travel to Belize and visit a shaman, even in light of her own skepticism, is the greatest demonstration of "trusting your mom gut". She just knew on some level that the traditional Western medical approach to solving her daughter's challenge was not the best route. I applaud that instinct. Instead of worrying about what other people thought, she, along with her husband, made the decision they thought best for their daughter. And it worked! (full disclosure: I am myself a big believer in alternative therapies having benefited miraculously from them in my own life) But in the end, Hope's story is a refreshingly honest story of "the mom gut" and knowing what's right.

I also applaud Hope's brutal honesty. As painful as it must have been, she shares her own frustrations with the situation in such stark, honest detail I felt I wanted to reach through the book and and give her a hug, thanking her for admitting to the mistakes we all make when parenting meets monumental frustration. I think it is this kind of honesty that makes for a truly connecting experience within a family, among friends, for readers and ultimately between us all.