Wednesday, March 28, 2007

DD had a post this week that really got me thinking.. Check it out if you haven't already:

T.K.O. ...more or less...: no. 370 - Adjective Trap (Corrected Link)

OK.. now that you've all read the article, and we're all on the same page... let me tell you what I thought of it.

For the most part, I agree that "a child is a child" and the goals of parenting don't fundamentally change because of how a child got there... I just think that it's over simplistic to deny that HOW a family was built is going to change HOW that child is raised.

BUT... (you knew that was coming, didn't you?)

I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm a stepmom. When I met B, he had a son, T. And an ex-wife. See, T has TWO parents who love him very much. With Dad's remarriage & Mom's remarriage, T now has an extended parental group that involves four adults... but only two of them are his parents.

I have no problem being called stepmom in this situation. Dropping that label would be disrespectful to the mother that T already has.

I have no problem calling T my stepson.

We do raise the boys differently because they don't share the same parents. I can't treat T & G exactly the same all the time because the boys have different parents, and that means different ideas on parenting. I am easily the least permissive parent out of the entire group.. I'm not going to be more lenient with G, and I'm not going to ask B, the ex or stepdad to become more strict just so that the boys will have identical upbringings.

That makes things work a little differently in my family.

A one-size-fits-all approach to parenting wouldn't work here... and I question if it really works anywhere.

Yes, a family IS a family, but they're not all alike.

In the original article, the author took the stance that parents rely too much on adjectives to determine their child-rearing... that parents of today look to the specific differences when seeking information on how to raise their children. Instead of looking for advice on how to raise a child, they're looking for advice on how to raise a ____ child.

I don't think that's a bad thing.

I grew up with only two parents, only one household, and no concept of how to tackle the differences I've encountered in the five years I've been married to B. I can ask my mom for advice on how to potty-train G, because she's been there and done that... but I'm going to call B's stepmom for advice on how to grit my teeth and allow T freedoms I'm not comfortable with, or how to explain to G why he's not allowed to do the same things his brother was allowed at his age. StepMIL has been there, done that.

I can't give advice to my friend on how to tailor her parenting style to accommodate her son's autism.

I'm also not qualified to advise someone on how to best incorporate an unfamiliar culture into the raising of an internationally adopted child... or to explain to a child what a donor is, and how that affects her.

Is it really wrong to acknowledge differences and to use them to help determine what is 'the right method' to raise our children?

We may all have the same goals - raising healthy, happy, productive adults - but because there are differences in the makeup of our families, we are all taking different approaches.. burying our heads in the sand and insisting that all families are alike and need to be treated exactly the same isn't going to help anyone. The children within the family will still know what makes them different or unique, and they will know if a ready-made parenting philosophy isn't really what they need.

Whether or not I like a label doesn't change reality.

my little footnote disclaimer: As I re-read this to proofread, I realize it sounds like I'm saying that the family's differences need to be paramount, and that all things revolve around them.. which is not my intent. I'm talking about what goes on within a family, not necessarily how that family should present itself to the public.


The Town Criers said...

I think you said it perfectly with the stories about calling your mum about potty training but calling B's stepmum for advice on negotiating that situation. I only have a problem with labels when the labels set limits. I've had students who have been labeled with an LD who insist they can't do something because of the LD. And I've had students who have been labeled with an LD who used the label to learn more so they could navigate their LD and succeed.


DD said...

I'm glad you wrote this as I have a very simplistic view on certain things in life. There were no "steps" in my family.

I wish the author had made delved a little deeper beyond his experience, which is dated at best.

Thanks for showing me not everything can be presented in nice/neat little packages that we can take as gospel.