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Monday, March 10, 2008

Perfect Mother Syndrome

I just have to say that I am a perfect mother. You, too, can claim this exalting title --- IF you follow the advice in this column.

Know exactly what YOUR kids need and when they need it.

Yes, I am clearly aware that you can never truly know everything about what your children need all the time. What I really mean here is that you should know your kids. You should know what they like and what they need to keep them safe and happy. Mostly, you should listen to your own instincts about parenting instead of what the general population might have to say about your techniques.

Know what works for YOUR children and YOUR family.

Again, this has much more to do with knowing what your own family needs to function in a productive way. Each family and each child is different. You need to understand how the members of your family function in order to know what will and what will not work.

For example, I am NOT a morning person. My husband is. My youngest child --- NOT a morning person. My middle child --- perky the moment her eyes open and see daylight. I know that one of my children will be just fine if she has to get up really early in the morning. The other one, well, if she's awakened extra early I know I need to plan for a lot of extra patience to deal with her that day because she will be really tired and somewhat cranky all day.

Do not feel threatened by the knowledge that others may not use the same parenting techniques that you use.

Knowing what your family needs also means understanding that the next door neighbor family probably has different needs. Each parent is different, just as each child is different. There is no one formula for parenting that can be boxed and sold as a guaranteed to work method. The fact that I may use parenting methods that are not the same as yours does not mean that your methods are wrong. They are just different. There may even be times that I disagree with your methods, or you disagree with mine. It is always okay to do things your own way.

Do not feel guilty for making choices that your own parents or in-laws, or other by-standers, might not agree with.

Ultimately, you have to do what you think is best for your family and your children.

Do not be afraid to tell random strangers to keep their hands off of your kids. After all, you do not run a petting zoo. If you did, you would surely charge admission.

Nothing irks me more than somebody that I do not know coming up to me and touching my children. My children do not particularly care for being touched by anyone outside their immediate circle. The disrespect that many adults display towards children is appalling. I have often wanted to reach out to some offending person who felt the need to start stroking my daughters' hair or face and respond in kind. I imagine the shock that would result from my imagined actions. Perhaps one day I will even be brave enough to do just that.

Do not be afraid to offend any well meaning stranger who feels the need to point out whatever they perceive to be your parenting faults.

It is actually possible to notify someone that their opinions are unwanted without being rude. However, I have, on occasion, felt the need to be somewhat blunt when faced with a nosy by-passer. My favorite example of this is the day that I took my youngest child to the store without shoes. Yes, it was the middle of December. Yes, it was pretty cold outside. Yes, her feet were bare.

While I was browsing the aisles, a young lady approached me and commented about my child being out without shoes. Now, I generally just pass this off and give a random explanation about how my children simply do not like shoes. I tried that with this lady to no avail. Mind you, she was quite young and likely did not even have any children of her own (though I did not ask). I perceived her to be around 18. I was 32 at the time and this was my third child so I was not a novice parent.

After my explanation about the disdain for shoes inherent in my family, this wonderful lady persisted in informing me of the evil of my ways. "You're the parent," she says to me. "Make her wear shoes."

Now, for anyone who has had an independent toddler with remarkable dexterity, you realize very quickly that "MAKING" that child wear shoes ( or anything at all, really ) if the child does not wish to wear it is simply a futile pursuit. You will not succeed.

The lady went on to tell me that if my child did not wear shoes that she would catch a cold because her feet were cold. That was my opening. I could not resist.

I smiled my Cheshire cat smile and said to her, quite emphatically, "Silly girl! Cold feet do not cause colds. Cold viruses cause cold." At which point I turned and walked away with my happily barefoot child.