Which kind of mom are you?
This past Friday, I took a scary step toward enrolling J.J. in a daycare/nursery school program for the fall. I say scary because as luck would have it, a 15-year study about how daycare turns kids into monsters was just released today. Figures, right? But it's all how you read into things. On the flipside, the same study found that these same kids have better vocabularies than their future raised-at-home classmates -- see how CBS covered it. And, actually, the most important point of both articles was this: "The researchers said the increase in vocabulary and problem behaviors was small, and that parenting quality was a much more important predictor of child development." So why is this making major national headlines, I ask?
For one, it's preying upon the sad but true notion that Moms are guilty by nature, and will click that headline (I did!) to see if they are screwing up their kids. After reading it though, I learned the real truth: No matter how you parent, there will be someone wagging their finger at you for making the wrong choice, and ultimately putting a label on your parenting style. So which type of mom are you? "Crazy Overprotective Mom" (a.k.a. absolutely no Happy Meals for my family!) or "Ultra-Laidback Mom" (she's the one whose kids just knocked you over at the mall while she was chatting on her cell).
I'm not one for labels, so I'd like to think of myself more as "Middle of the Road Mom," although I admit at times I've veered off course in both directions. When it comes to basic safety, I'm definitely a bit more on the cautious side. If I see a small toddler playing near a construction area, for example, I can't help but want to find his mom and smack her upside the head! And although I'm hardly a nutrition nazi, there's no reason in the world why a kid should be eating cheez doodles at 8:15 in the morning. On the other hand, I think sometimes kids need to be exposed to germs, figure out how a puzzle works on their own, play in grass, and indulge in an ice cream cone once in a while.
Look, this is my first go-round at this, so I try not to take decisions about my son lightly -- whether it's putting him into a nursery school program a couple of days a week (we've decided to do it in the fall) or letting him have chocolate (only on special occasions, like in the above pic). Ultimately, I try my best (with my husband's input, of course), to make choices that are both good for J.J., and at the same time give him the chance to enjoy being a kid. In other words, what's good for him, isn't necessarily what's best for him.
Author Paula Spencer explains this notion a little more eloquently than me in this week's My Turn essay in Newsweek:
"You can't go around afraid of everything. It's too exhausting! No matter how careful you are, bad stuff happens (diaper rash, stitches, all your friends assigned to another class). And it's seldom the end of the world."
Amen, sista! I'll have to remember that the first time J.J. acts up in nursery school.