I've been writing this post in my head for a while. Probably a few years, actually. I'm potentially going to ruffle a few feathers on this one, and may lose a few readers. Which kinda emphases the points I intend on making...
Motherhood is a really tough job. It can be a pretty soul-destroying business for a woman with a history of improved academic performance and military precision in the classroom as proof of her success at managing children. Babies don't tend to respond to intense targeted learning or behavioural programmes, and keeping a house clean and organised with even one toddler (let alone a preschooler or two thrown in the mix) can be like running a blender with the lid off. It took me a few years (and children to experiment on - thanks for taking it for the team, Sophie!) to realise what mattered to us as a unit and how we could get there with the least carnage and as many smiles as possible.
I don't belong to a 'camp'. I don't follow a school of thought with regards to my parenting, despite reading probably more than anyone I know on the subject. Most sane people would rightly argue that I've wasted countless hours of my life reading about how to make babies do things or why not to make them do anything. About the harm one can do by doing pretty much anything. About how mothers must do everything RIGHT or their babies will break and have unresolvable issues for the rest of their lives. Social media has become a battle ground for parenting approaches, and there seems to no middle ground. One way is RIGHT and the other is WRONG, and one must adopt an ethos and stick to it.
I've covered both ends of the spectrum pretty extensively in my reading, and I've picked out bits and pieces from various approaches and methods that work for us. We do some pretty way-out hippy-ish things in the eyes of many, such as baby-wearing (when my dodgy spinal disc complies) extended breastfeeding and baby-led weaning. And we do some down-right dreadful things in the eyes of others, such as encouraging our children to self-settle in their own beds, and roughly routine-feeding. Some days it doesn't work, so we do something else. After all of my research, I've come to adopt an approach that my parents could have told me about 6 years ago - love and respect your kids, listen to them and be as fair as you can be in a life that isn't.
I'm always going to err towards a routine approach, because I'm not a spontaneous person and I like order. That's who I am, and that's how we manage to keep our household happily ticking along the way we do. Some people aren't wired that way, and that's fine. Things that irk me, don't irk them, and vice-versa.
Sometimes my older kids don't like how I parent. Pretty often they have suggestions about how I could do it better. Sometimes we try their ways. Sometimes I debate with them for half an hour or so and feel chuffed that in spite of doing everything 'wrong' in the eyes of just about every 'camp' out there, my kids are able to think outside the square, solve problems and are confident enough in our relationship to question but (usually) ultimately accept that I have their best interests at heart. Until tomorrow, when they might find another thing to take issue about. And no, Sophie, you cannot have my white chair back in your room - it won't fit, we've gone there already. And Caleb, I don't care if you choose to avoid boats, pools and every single large body of water for the rest of your life, you are still having swimming lessons.
There is more than one way to skin a cat. And actually, the cat might quite like it, either way.