Wednesdays I’m allocating to general parenting issues. Stuff that’s not rainbow-specific, but that I’d like to give some thought to. As I have toddlers, it’s going to be a bit skewed to issues for people with little kids. If there’s something you’d like to discuss,  send me a suggestion or feel free to offer to write a guest post.

Some time ago there was a series on the ABC where the filmmakers followed six different sets of new parents, all using one of three styles of parenting on their brand new babies. The parenting styles they chose were: a very rigid, routine system; a follow-your-intuition approach; and a very connected style of parenting following the Continuum Concept. I booed the  woman who was instructing the new parents to be rigid and distant, rolled my eyes at the wishy-washy ‘intuitive’ style, and thought I could never keep up with the demands of the constant-contact approach.

In many ways, I don’t think parenting style matters. A great blog I consulted often in the early days is Ask Moxie.  She has a sensible, middle of the road approach which advocates not getting carried away by any particular parenting guru. If I have the best interests of my children at heart and I am responsive to them – if something’s not working, change it – then I think I can’t go too far wrong. I’ve been to two different parenting seminars, and both of them warned that if I didn’t follow their approach, my children were more likely to become drug addicts. I don’t think that drug addiction (or the myriad other things that can go wrong) is caused by refusing to allow my children to sleep in my bed, or conversely, by co-sleeping with them until they are five.

I would basically identify myself as an Attachment Parent , although with twins it’s difficult to be purist about anything. However I do have a touchstone of general ideas about childrearing that I like to consider when I am making day-to-day decisions. So,

  • I believe that children are born with an innate desire to grow up and develop and be the best they can be, and to be community minded and social and loving and kind. It’s simply my role to allow this to happen.  My theory is that I don’t need to teach my children to be independent – that they will naturally reach for independence when they are ready. I don’t need to teach them to be kind, or have manners, or be interested in learning  – I just have to create the conditions for them to follow their innate desire to do these things.
  • The children don’t have to fit into our life. We aren’t a couple anymore.  Elisabeth and I elected to have children, they are part of our family unit, and we are creating a different sort of life together. We don’t want to go back to where we were before them. We want to journey together on this wonderful adventure they have triggered.
  • I’ve developed an idiosyncratic evolutionary perspective that I’ll often consider before deciding how to respond. As in, “Probably in the caves they didn’t freak out every time some food fell on the floor, and they survived”. It’s not ironclad – in many traditional cultures one twin was left on a hillside soon after birth, so I certainly don’t think that just because it’s traditional that it’s better – but it helps me keep a sense of perspective. In tribes, they didn’t have gymbaroo or early Italian classes and they managed to survive. There’s such a variety of childrearing practices across cultures that whatever you are doing is probably normal somewhere. A Ugandan  man who goes to the same playgroup as me said, ‘Of course you sleep with  children! Children need to be with mother! Father can go sleep on couch for while’.
  • I like to keep in mind the sort of young people I’d like to raise. Confident, creative, socially aware, emotionally intelligent and in touch with their passions. Is what I’m doing today helping to move them in that direction?

One thing having twins has taught me is that what’s right for one child is not necessarily right for the other.  Pearl and Louis are very different.  One thing my partner Elisabeth has taught me is that what’s intuitively right for me as a parent is not intuitively right for everyone else. She and I parent differently – not unmanageably so, but enough so that we’ve had to negotiate keeping our mouths shut when the other is in charge. So far, the children seem to be doing okay with this.

So, what’s right for you?