Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Parenting 101

I was talking on the phone with my mother yesterday, something I generally try to avoid as much as I can because it is just never a good idea. But sometimes it has to be done.

Ever since I became a father she likes to try to have conversations about raising kids or sharing some sort of story from my childhood as an example of her good parenting skills. My mother and I have very disparate opinions of these supposed skills. But she thinks that we can bond over shared stories of child-rearing now that I have my own little offspring to screw up.

Yesterday she asked me about my daughter's sleep habits. She asked if we put her down in her crib to fall asleep on her own (we do), what time (7:30), how long she naps (1-2 hours), etc, blah, blah, blah. She then proceeds to tell me how she just let my siblings and I go to bed whenever we decided we wanted to go to bed. So when I was less than two-years-old I would stay up until 10:00 or 11:00 in the evening. She said this with an amazing sense of pride, like she was the cool mom who didn't run her kids' lives with a bunch of stiff rules or rigid structure. Right on dude.

What the fuck? Look, I know that back when my mother became a parent that there was a lot of bad information out there and a lot less research than there is today. But she let me go to bed whenever the hell I wanted? You've got to be kidding me. It doesn't take a goddamn rocket scientist to figure out that having a consistent bed time helps your kid develop good sleep habits, not to mention some decent sanity for the parents. I didn't need one of today's baby books to tell me that.

And this makes so much sense. I have some of the absolute worst sleep habits of anybody I know. I stay up to late, I sleep as late as I can (which of course isn't very late now with the kid) and I generally don't sleep enough, which is pretty unhealthy. I have an incredibly hard time making myself go to sleep at a decent hour. Would I have turned out differently had my mother maybe done a little bit better job of giving me a decent sleep structure? Well, maybe not. But we'll never know.

And for the record, I don't believe for a minute that her doing this was some choice based on a particular philosophy of parenting. My mother was not the "cool" or "laid back" parent in any way shape or form. She ruled the house with an iron fist, a big yardstick and fear. It is much more likely that she was too lazy and stupid to deal with getting a reluctant kid to go to bed, so she let it go.

This is surely one of the least horrible things my mother did (or didn't do) as a parent. But still, she couldn't even establish a fucking bedtime? Shit, I got whacked on the head for singing at the dinner table, she couldn't get me to bed at an appropriate time?

After we found out my wife was pregnant I thought a lot about parenting styles and philosophies and I came to a basic conclusion on what would make me a good parent. Just think of everything my mother did and do the exact opposite.

Lots of people I tell that to think it's a joke. But that thinking has served me well thus far.

I guess I did learn how to be a good parent from my idiot mother.