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Shamelessly Respectful Parenting

quote by Pink in a 2013 issue of Glamour magazine
I am not trying to raise a good child.

I am trying to raise a healthy, happy child who will have the best chances of growing into a healthy, happy, and fulfilled adult.

This attitude tends to come off as rebellious and disrespectful to older generations with a "children should be seen and not heard," authoritarian philosophy of child-rearing, but au contraire! I believe it is simply a departure from the incredibly disrespectful way in which adults in our culture are accustomed to treating children.

Recently, I contributed a guest post to the incredibly profound and accessible mama blog Tongonto.com. Most of the bloggers who contribute to that site discuss parenting issues that have always been deeply instinctual for me. When I became a mom, I instantly lost all patience for people who disrespect children and people who disrespect parents (including other parents and celebrity parenting "experts"), conspiracy theories, snooty trends, and all the other obnoxious crap that distracts from the primal, maternal urge to just focus on, love, enjoy, and respect one's individual child.

As my previous post explained, 2014 is my year to be SHAMELESS, and this extends to my parenting methods. A few weeks ago, I read a draft novel about a 17th century French woman who worked for the nobility and was not expected to care for her own children. A line narrated by the main character described how she breastfed her firstborn child "shamelessly, like a peasant woman." I loved that line, as it used humor and light sarcasm to wink at the absurdity of the young mother's social expectations (of hiring a wet nurse immediately) versus following her instincts about how to love and care for her baby.

I felt that way in the hospital immediately after giving birth. The ONE easy thing about my child's birth happened to be nursing; she started before her cord was cut and kept on with ferocious hunger so that she grew at four times the goal rate. She is now three years old, remarkably healthy, extremely tall and strong for her age, and still nurses. Obviously, we never had much trouble in that area. But I felt the pressures of interference in our nursing relationship immediately. In the hospital room, I was immediately given a bottle of formula from a sponsoring company. Screw you, advertisers! I thought, even as I pocketed the bottle in case of emergency. (I'm more practical than ideological any day.) Then the hospital's lactation consultant came in to my room, watched me nurse my baby, and demanded that I try out a schedule as well as a variety of nursing positions, while she watched and grabbed and pinched at my breasts. I recognized her good intention to be helpful, but honestly I had to fight the urge to roundhouse kick her to the face (which I surely could not have done in my condition anyway) and tell her to GTFO.

The problem was not that the things the hospital did and offered me were not helpful; in fact, the resources and instructions they gave me did end up being, mostly, helpful. It was the irritation that they weren't paying attention to me and my child; it was a one-size-fits-all mentality I felt they were trying to jam down my throat. And this isn't about hospitals and "The Man" in particular--I found an even more harsh version of that mentality in the local La Leche League and Baby Wearers and other hippie-dippy new-mom support groups. All those movements that form a reaction against modern mainstream medicine and economies I think of as "The Woman," and she can be at least as judgmental and oppressive as the systems she purports to oppose. (Like you know who perpetrates most of the FGM in Africa and Asia? Female midwives.) I don't care if you are male or female, mainstream or traditional or new-age crunchy, I want you to care about my baby's particular needs more than your business model or marketing scheme--or I don't want your "care" at all.

And all these--the doctors, the nurses, the Leaguers, the doulas, the birth lovers and educators--all of these are the folks who care very much about (at least the concepts of ) baby care and nurturing--on the other side are people who don't care about the needs of children or parents at all. There are those who think nurturing a child is for sissies, and parents should pander to the needs of their child-free adult neighbors above all else--as if the convenience and comfort of grownups should take precedence over the comfort and developmental needs of children. There's so much advice about how to be a "good" parent and how to raise a "good" child, and I'm tired of it.

Like Pink, I don't want to be your kind of good.

I don't want to force my child into someone else's conception of "good" either. So let's get that out of the way, turn the mirror around, and take a look at why adults feel so free in their judgment of parents and, even more, in their judgment and disrespect of little children.

My guest post for Tongonto is called "Why Are People So Rude to Children?" Find out what I think over at Tongonto.com.

And come back to the Nutshell each first Friday Monday of the month for more wisdom (or just back talk) from the Middle Path Mother series.

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