Here’s my confession. I am a huge nerd. No, seriously. Nerd. HUGE nerd. If I’m curious about a topic, I can’t stop myself from reading things – books, articles, blogs, magazines, etc that touch upon said topic. And for the past 5 years, that topic of obsession has been…wait for it…finding my PARENTING STYLE.
How can there be SO many parenting styles?
It’s absolutely mind-boggling. I wanted to read about them all. I wanted to pour through every single bit of insight I could find so I could find the one, perfect, most amazing and “guaranteed-to-help-in-my-efforts-to-raise-the-most-awesome-child” parenting style. And let me tell you, friends, I have found it. Before I tell you what it is, allow me the indulgence of explaining how I found it.
Back when the whole “having a child” thing was still theoretical, before I even became pregnant, I started reading parenting books. (Remember, I’m a huge nerd.)
One of the first books I read was the controversial book by Pamela Druckerman, “Bringing up Bebe,” and I loved it. Well, I loved most of it. Ok, I loved SOME of it.
The part about cultivating miniature foodies who craved raw vegetables and stinky cheese? Yes. Definitely. Sign me up. The other bits about only formula feeding as a way to preserve your sex life? Eh, that didn’t appeal to me quite as much. Just so I’m clear, there’s nothing wrong with formula feeding. Or not having a ton of sex in the months after you give birth. You’ll find no judgment from me. But on a personal level, I wanted both to breastfeed AND to have a rocking sex life. I’m a millennial, and I want it all.
After I read the book, I jotted down a few notes about cultivating tiny foodies, but as I didn’t agree with everything else, I kept on searching for the most amazing guide to parenting.
Next, I looked into attachment parenting.
I found lots of things that sounded awesome. But since I knew I was going to return to work after maternity leave, I was worried that if she attached to me, it would make my return a nightmare (for both of us.) Again, I jotted out a few things I liked and kept on searching.
Then I checked out another controversial book, BabyWise. Theoretically, it sounded pretty awesome. A baby that eats, sleeps, and plays on a schedule? Convenient. I have friends who swear by this method. But it wasn’t for me for one main reason – it required parents to create and maintain a routine.
And to be blunt, my husband and I totally fail at routines. We’re not routine people. At all. We eat when we want. We sleep when we want. My family travels a ton and we needed a child who wasn’t on any sort of routine that would be tested and tried through multiple time zones.
The search continued
Routines totally don’t work for my family. Also, while we didn’t start out co-sleeping, one day, at 9 months old, our daughter decided she would rather never sleep in her crib again. She was so cuddly and sweet that not only did we not complain, but we looked forward to sharing snuggles all night. Especially as a working mom, I found the 8 hours of nightly snuggles kept me sane and feeling bonded. So BabyWise was out. This was not the parenting style that was going to work for my family.
When I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, I thought, oh yes. This sounds familiar. There’s a lot that I really love about this style of parenting.
Once again, it’s a controversial view. (I was beginning to wonder, is there a parenting style that isn’t controversial?!) I was raised in a “Tiger” style of parenting, as were many of my friends. And there’s no doubt in my mind that it can lead to happy, successful, well-rounded kids. But it can also lead to depression and kids growing up thinking they’re just not good enough.
I knew there would be bits of this style that I would subconsciously incorporate but I also knew that my husband would keep me from going too extreme. We once again picked out a few points and continue looking.
I found my true parenting style in the most unlikely of places.
A Japanese art book. The book talked about the idea of wabi-sabi (the art of imperfection.) This art concept guides us to acknowledge that “nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” And that’s precisely what makes it beautiful. A glorious patina on a bronze statue. Gorgeous markings on a piece of wood furniture polished with age. We don’t have a direct translation for this in English, but here’s my attempt to translate it as best as I can.
Wabi can be translated as a “rustic simplicity” and understated elegance. Wikipedia also gives us this definition – “Can also refer to quirks and anomalies arising from the process of construction, which add uniqueness and elegance to the object.”
Sabi – can be translated as “beauty” and “serenity.”
Together, Wikipedia goes on to describe this concept as “the meaning of wabi-sabi is often condensed to “wisdom in natural simplicity”. In art books, it is typically defined as “flawed beauty”.“
For me, this perfectly describes my parenting philosophy. I’m an imperfect mom who’s not finished in her search for the perfect parenting technique. A perfect technique likely doesn’t exist. Childhood doesn’t last, and maybe I won’t find what I’m looking for in time. But I can find wisdom in the natural simplicity of mothering. Undoubtedly, our greatest attempts at parenting will have flaws. And that’s what makes us human. Beautiful, loving, humans.