I tend to be one of those people that is pretty black and white. When I imagine a scenario for my life, no matter how big or small, I leave little room for gray. My brothers are like this too. Hey Mom and Dad, what did you do to us? And while sometimes things turn out just like I planned them (like my birth story), most of the scenarios that involve other people (like my marriage and child) do not. This leaves me fumbling and trying to figure out what went wrong. Why didn't my plan work? And more importantly, how to make it work.
The best example of what I'm talking about is everything I have tried with parenting my child. Everything. All of my grande ideas, every perfect plan I think out for each occasion seems to fall apart.
When I am concocting these brilliant plans, I always forget that I am dealing with another person. A very little person with a very big will. And she foils my plan every. single. time. You'd think that I would have multiple plans in place so when one gets foiled, there is another readily available but I'm not that clever. And I never think my plan won't work. After all, these are brilliant plans people.
Before I had Beatrice, my biggest goal was to not raise a spoiled brat. You know the kid I'm talking about, the kid that only eats marshmallows and raisins. The kid that screams and beats their chest when you say it's time to go home. The kid that doesn't mind, the kid that says you're not the boss of me, the kid that gets their way by whining, the kid that takes over your house, marriage, relationships, finances, career all because they are a holy terror and you don't know what the heck to do with them because you are a little scared of them. You know, that kid. Basically, my worst nightmare.
I was raised by parents whose mantra was "spare the rod and spoil the child," Proverbs 13:24. They tolerated very little "misbehavior." Actually, they didn't tolerate ANY misbehavior. We were raised with an iron fist. A very loving iron fist, but iron nonetheless. I am not saying that my parenting style will be as ardent as theirs, but if you asked me 8 months ago before this little one came into my life I would have told you that the only way to parent was with a no-nonsense mentality. If you are lenient with the small stuff (like giving a paci), then your kid will walk all over you with the big stuff (we boiled the pacis on night four home from the hospital....). We were hugely against giving Beatrice a pacifier because we thought it would be a terrible habit to break later on. And I REALLY don't want to have the 5 year kid walking around with a paci. Second worst nightmare.
Now that she is here, everything that I said I would never/always do has been nothing more than a lofty idea. I'm not talking about discipline because she is too little for that, even though she throws a mean temper tantrum if I withhold my car keys and cellphone from her. Right now I'm talking about the way I feed her, the way I sleep trained her, the way I kind of give her anything she wants if it means she doesn't throw a tantrum/smiles. Who am I kidding, I don't possess a speck of iron in me. Mom, teach me your ways. Which leaves me wondering how the heck I am going to parent a toddler. And then a teenager. I only have one plan: the strict, discipline-her-to-the-max plan. I haven't thought out any other way to handle a real, full fledged toddler temper tantrum let alone a teenage crisis. I am not against spanking at all, but does every offense warrant it? And when those big teary eyes look into mine after she disobeys and says, "I didn't do it Mommy," will I have the strength to follow through with correcting her? After all, my heart melts for those eyes.
Knowing all of this now should convince me to figure out another plan or at least have a backup plan to the original plan. But I haven't. And what I have learned in my 8 months as a parent is there is a lot of gray in parenting. Sure there is plenty of black and white. When she tells a lie, there will be correcting. Black and white. When she hits someone, punishment. Black and white. But when she has a meltdown because she has missed a nap and it's not necessarily bad behavior at play, what then? Where is the line drawn between doing the hard job of discipline and accidentally raising a spoiled brat? What behaviors can be ignored and still not end up with a hooligan?
I don't have it in me to parent the way my parents did. I know they did the best they could but I don't want to mistake my child's curiosity for questioning authority. I want Beatrice to grow up with a healthy fear respect for us but still have the assurance that we love her and want her to be herself. A godly, non-bratty version of herself of course. And if she doesn't turn out to be a sweet, humble, meek, God-fearing person, it will probably be my fault.