Thursday, April 9, 2009

Instinct

I despise labels. I despise labels, and alongside this, I get squirmy with people who try to fit themselves neatly inside of a category. Who, in truth, can be categorized? Should any human being truly attempt to mold themselves to be just alike to any other?
I can first remember being aware of this in the early years of high school, when it dawned upon me that all the kids that proudly proclaimed themselves as "different" were, in fact, mostly the same as one another. There seemed to be a list of things one could do to avoid being mainstream. In our school, there were places you could hang out and people you would associate with to become an untrendy, cool-eschewing "different" person. Of course, there were also many people who delighted in being mainstream, and very cool, and a large chunk of people who didn't fit as neatly into that category of popularity but aspired mightily to do so. And then there were some people who drifted, who belonged nowhere, and I think I was one of them, and I think I still am.
Certainly losing Charlotte is part of what has cast me to the outside in terms of parenting philosophy. But truly, from my heart, I don't think that anyone should suscribe to a parenting "philosophy". What does it mean to be an attachment parent? Why must I wear this label like a badge? If I choose to let my child sleep with me, or carry her in a sling, why then must I have a name for what I am doing? And on the flipside, let us imagine that there is somebody, somewhere, who has not had a night's sleep in eight months and makes the decision that her baby and herself would be better off in separate rooms, and that it would also be mutually beneficial for the baby to be gently taught to sleep for longer periods of time. Why should this mother be automatically shelved as "different" from those who have chosen the ever-so-high and mighty label of attachment parenting?
This brings me back to the alternative kids, who were definitely in the long run (in their opinions) so much better for having not shopped at J.Crew... and to the environmentalists at college who definitely looked down on their frat-house counterparts...
It's all the same, and none of it is necessary. I don't know why this gets to me but it does, somehow by categorizing ourselves a perceived hierarchy is somehow generated, which does nobody any good. It is neither beneficial to feel more important or less important; to feel more effective or less effective.
What is important is to trust ones self, and ones own decisions. I feel I come to this as a result of losing Charlotte, when in the months and particularly the early days and weeks after losing her I could feel my body yearning to mother her. I could feel so distinctly that I was an animal craving my child, and I knew that if she had been there, I would have known just what to do with her. And so as my other children came and have grown I would say that the only description that I would attach to my parenting is instinct and trust, and paying attention to them and to myself. I would like to say that in any parenting situation if a mother or father is attentive to their baby's needs (and many are not, which obviously I can have a tendancy to judge from my wounded perspective), and if they follow their own instincts to best balance their baby's needs with their own (less important and more easily postponed) needs, and if they trust themselves and their baby, then they don't need a label. They are just parents. I am not them, I do not live in their house, I do not make their decisions. I must try not to say, one way or another, whether I approve or disapprove.
The only vote I get to cast is whether it would be right for my child, and maybe it would be, and maybe it wouldn't be, but that's for me to decide. Right? I have never read a book about raising a baby or raising a child, and I am proud of this, because what I read is what in front of me, they are two living, opinionated beings who ooze with direction in terms of how to best serve them and meet their needs. (And-- by this same token-- I absolutely respect people who garner a great deal of thoughtful advice from reading baby books, and use that to shape their best practice.)
But I guess I am more of a hands-on type of girl, waiting to see what will come next. There is no reason to plan, only to enjoy what is now, and to wait and see what comes. This is why living without definition works for me, because I adapt to what I see in front of me, not to what I've planned to do all along, or what I've seen other people do. I am only so honored to do so.

4 comments:

Birdies Mama said...

Carol,

maybe this is in response to the posts on my blog? forgive me if it's not....=)

just wanted to say that i too really, really do not at all like to label myself, i have always been a loner and never liked to subscribe to what was "in" and so forth.

the posts i put up, were and are really meant for my family to see...as they are having such a hard time with my instinctual parenting choices. so, for them i give it a name, a label.

again, if i am totally pulling this out of my arse, forgive me dear!

Hope's Mama said...

the labels and categorys I struggle with now are parents or childless. Because we really aren't either. I feel like we don't fit in anywhere in this world. We have really slipped between the cracks. We don't fit in to a little neat category, unless you are talking about the babylost category and there is nothing neat about that.
I can't wait to get my second chance at parenting Carol, and something tells me my approach to it will be much like yours and Birdie's mamas as well. I don't need a label for that. It will just be love, and making up for lost love.

Birdies Mama said...

Yes, Hope's Mama! Yes!

"Love, and making up for love lost."

I do hope for your sweet miracle to come along soon.

Inanna said...

I don't know that we need the labels. I think, even without words, we all recognize love when we see it, when we're doing it, and when we're not.