I hear voices in my head. A lot of them. My parents, friends, parenting “experts”, former colleaugues, acquaintances from church, other parents…you name it, they’re talking to me. And they have an annoying habit of speaking up whether their opinions are welcome or not. Lately, I’ve gotten pretty fed up with it. So I’ve decided to start talking back. Here are some of the conversations I’ve had…
Parent of a thoroughly “Ferber-ized” child: What, your baby still isn’t sleeping through the night? Oh, I’m sorry to hear that; you must be so exhausted! Snookums here started sleeping right through at 7 weeks, and we’ve never had a problem since. Don’t you worry that Maggie won’t learn how to soothe herself? Or that she’ll never develop good sleeping habits? I know some 3 or even 4 year olds who still don’t sleep through!
Me (full of confidence in the unschooling philosophy, and bold since this is only imaginary): What, snookums is sleeping through the night? Oh my goodness, you must be so sad to miss all that wonderful, snuggly bonding time. And don’t you worry that he’ll develop insecurities and fears caused by being left alone when he needed you? Not to mention the possibility of that deep sleep resulting in SIDS. I’m so grateful Maggie has followed the natural pattern of sleeping.
Parent who believes in time-outs: You allow your child to talk back to you like that? Junior here would get a firm talking to and time out for that kind of misbehavior. Kids need limits. Otherwise they grow up spoiled and self-centered.
Me (again fearless in my imagination): You don’t let Junior express his thoughts and feelings? Wow, that must leave him feeling really alone and helpless. Faith would have gotten a hug and an invitation to tell me more about what’s going on inside her. Kids need to be treated respectfully, with kindness and empathy. Otherwise they grow up resentful and out of touch with their own inner wisdom and kindness.
Parent who believes in very limited t.v. viewing, or none at all: Lovey simply isn’t allowed to have more than 30 minutes of screen time per day. You know how t.v. rots the brain. She is expected to make intelligent choices about how to use that time. As for the rest of her time – we insist that she does something of value. Kids these days just waste their lives sitting in front of the idiot box. But not our Lovey! Thank goodness we’ve done our homework about this topic, and are willing to stick to our guns. No using t.v. as a babysitter for us! We’re far too responsible to sink that low.
Me: (getting almost brazen): I know what you mean about sticking to your guns. I’m ruthless with myself when I begin slipping into popular but misinformed attitudes about t.v. I’m really glad I’ve been so strict! I can’t begin to tell you how much my kids have learned from the programs we watch. I’m amazed at their body of knowledge, and a lot of it comes from television and the discussions that grow out of what we’re watching. They seem to really take things in; not like I did when I used to come home from school and veg in front of the t.v. just to decompress. Of course, now with the good weather here, they’re usually outside most of the day, so the t.v. has been gathering dust. These kids are just so busy playing, learning and doing! Thank goodness I chose not demonize t.v. viewing! It’s brought us a lot of joy.
And so on. You get the idea. Maybe someday, I’ll actually say stuff like this to real people. But I’m finding the most important voices to confront are the ones talking in my own head, drowning out my inner wisdom. I figure if I can get them to shut up for a few minutes, I might actually hear something pretty profound. And who knows where that conversation might lead?