with Talyaa Liera
I'm Talyaa, the poster child for the concept that there's no one right way to be a parent. I went from stay-at-home attachment-parenting mom of four to being the non-custodial parent, working as a professional writer and channel-psychic. Let's talk about throwing away the parenting manual and exploding the myths and mystique of motherhood!
Check out my personal blog at Juxtapositioning.
Until I read Babble’s piece that explores whether it’s bad parenting to raise unconventional kids, I never thought of it as a lifestyle choice. You raise the kids that your kids are, right? They pretty much insist on raising themselves. Oh, I don’t mean that toddlers are driving the family minivan to T-ball, but kids pretty much insist that we parents toe the line and accept their little, well, … eccentricities.
Take my son, for example. At three he decided that his older sister’s black knit skirt was perfect daytime attire to complement his collection of LL Bean polos. For his fourth birthday present he picked out a gorgeous panne velvet dress with rose appliques and a tulle skirt, along with pink plastic pumps. And eventually I let him wear whatever he wanted. In public. It took an internal struggle to let him do it but I did and then got used to the compliments about my “daughter.” When he started school he told me that he thought he’d better wear “boy clothes” and that was the end of that. I kind of missed my gender-ambiguous child when it was all over.
Odd, yes. Unconventional, certainly. But bad parenting? Are we that harsh about our self-criticism to judge our own choices when it comes to parenting — rather, our children’s choices for being, well, odd? I was okay telling adults that my three-year old daughter had taken the name Polynesia and wouldn’t respond to any other name. I was okay helping my three-year-old son choose plastic bracelets at the dentist’s office that he planned to wear over his ears like huge hoop earrings. I was okay doing whatever it took for them all to be themselves. I would do it all over again, and I continue to encourage unusual choices if they make my kids happy and don’t hurt anyone else. I wish my own parents had done more of that with me.
Obviously this can be taken to unsavory extremes, like the mother I once knew who seemed to be allergic to the idea of imposing boundaries (or rules) of any kind on her six-year old. She also thought that allowing him to make major life choices for himself (”What school do you want to go to, honey?”) without any input or direction from her (”I believe that I shouldn’t interfere with his innate decision-making abilities and that he should completely direct his own life”) was a good idea. The rest of us plotted about staging an intervention.
But besides this snapshot of basic shoddy parenting like the extreme boundaryless mother and her highly annoying child, how weird is too weird? Is there a line we should draw beyond which we think our child will be harmed because of 1) teasing 2) being branded as a paste-eater, excessive book-reader, or just as “weird” by one’s classmates, and 3) experiencing the pain of Just Not Fitting In?
As parents we tend to second-guess ourselves regularly. Kids are kind of perfect to trigger our parental second-guessing. Their flaws are highly visible and we take them personally, as if by injecting our DNA into them we also are responsible for all their traits, good, bad, and weird. While there’s no denying genetics, odd tendencies can be trained out of a child by peer pressure, parental discouragement, or just awareness that certain activities don’t fir within the bell curve of society. And while I’m not suggesting we raise anti-social psychotics, I think that a flattening of the curve and more allowance for the spectrum of human expression in all it’s weird and wonderful variety is a good thing and will benefit all of us in the long run.
Are you raising unconventional kids? Was it a conscious parenting choice? And if you had to start over, would you do it the same way?
Photo: whiteafrican, Flickr
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