Are you an extreme parent?

Katherine - posted on 01/26/2011 ( 2 moms have responded )

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I came across this blog and thought: What a good question. Am i? I don't hover by any means, but sometimes I can be a bit extreme.......

I came across this article this morning courtesy of a tweet from PKIDs (if you haven't visited them, helped them out, please do): Are you an extreme parent? It's a good question, and I bet it's one that autism parents ask themselves a lot. How much is too much? When it comes to parenting, especially parenting a special needs child, when do you let go, how do you know the When has come? When do you let your not-so-good-at-free-ranging child go free range?

The primary reason I'm not an extreme parent is that I'm too lazy. For me, "When" has arrived when I'm still lying in bed and one of my children can't find their underpants. I make them find their underpants, rationalizing that it's helping them to be more independent, more able...but the reality is that I just don't want to get out of bed and find those tiny, Batman underpants myself. Dammit.

Same thing applies in most other situations. My children can climb down from almost anything by themselves because I'm too lazy to help them climb down myself. They can get their own cereal, flatware, napkins, placemats, and milk because you know what? I can't do everything around here, and if you get hungry enough, you learn pretty quickly where the flatware drawer is. My youngest was an expert food forager by the time he was two, thanks to my laziness--er, fantastic parenting skilz--and I think he could now, at age 4, survive in a forest alone for at least a week.

The article lists a few examples of extreme parenting. You might recognize that you're an extreme parent if you do your child's math problems for them. Hmmm. What if instead, every single day you rewrite and re-review your child's math mnemonics and walk through one problem before cutting him loose to complete four more on his own? Does that count as extreme?

If you take a trip to school to deliver your child's forgotten homework, you might be an extreme parent. Well, I homeschool one of my children--I guess that's the extremest of the extreme right there--but what about the maneuver I pulled yesterday? My youngest had "Pajama Day" at school. We hate those around here because our kids think that pajamas are for wearing at home, in bed. One does not wear pajamas at school, and any suggestion to do so is, simply, bizarre and the fruit of the mind of irrational people who think pajamas are fun. So...my youngest went to school in pajamas...to the door of his classroom. At which point he had a conniption fit and a meltdown, and his teacher literally had to peel his tiny little four-year-old hands off of me so I could leave. All because of wearing pajamas in the wrong place, at the wrong time. So what did I do? I dropped off some other clothes for him. Yep. Extreme.

Amy Chua is likely the most prominent current example of extreme parenting, and I'd like to offer myself up as a much lower-profile, counter example of extremely not extreme parenting. I let my children run around my yard with sticks. They fall off of everything, every day, sometimes just flopping over while standing on the floor. Yesterday, one of them dropped an entire roll of toilet paper in the toilet within 5 minutes of arriving home from school. A day does not go by that someone doesn't draw blood somewhere, and we're single-handedly keeping Band-Aid and the people who make hydrogen peroxide in business. We've knocked out half-teeth, sustained hematomas the size of ostrich eggs, sliced gums, and fallen out of trees, and only yesterday, my oldest stepped on a bona fide rusty nail.

Yes, he is up-to-date on his vaccines.


Yet, I'm with these people 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I know their every move, I can predict their thoughts and responses (I saw that Pajama Day meltdown coming from days away, but hey...we tried), and I know what truly hurts them and what truly makes them happy. In spite of my boasting about being lazy, I do purposely arrange untethered experiments in independence, sending TH across the store for a forgotten grocery item (sometimes successful, oftentimes not), cutting them loose to find and explore on their own within reasonable bounds. Leaving them to navigate their way through occasionally dangerous territory in which the possibility of minor injury might be high but serious injury is highly unlikely.

All of these incremental freedoms are the product of an impenetrable maternal calculus that I practice every moment of every day. We all probably do it, so what makes the outcome of the equation so different for some? Why do some of us reach extreme decisions while others release our children to go forth and...step on nails?

The article describes parenting perspectives as falling into two basic categories. Either you're someone who sees your child as fully in your control and fully a reflection of you, a vessel that you fill or, you're someone who's guiding another complete, separate individual, trying to light a path without having them at the end of a leash at all times (that, my friends, was a whopper of a mixed metaphor. If you teach writing, feel free to use it as an example). I learned from the birth of my first child that the word "control" and the word "child" do not mix. That's a person there, not a car.

Folks who read the article may be asking themselves if they are extreme parents. Those who read this may be asking themselves if their parenting just comes down to sheer laziness, as mine seems to. But what about you as Guide? What do you do that guides--rather than controls--your children? If you have a special needs child, how does that change your perception about "extreme" versus "guiding"? Do special needs parents almost have to be extreme sometimes?

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Mary - posted on 01/27/2011

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I sometimes can be extream, I hover over Alex when he is at the play ground. He doesn't know a stranger, no matter how hard we try to teach him, so I am on him like a tic on dog. I also am a lazy parent sometimes, they can fix their own break fast. I do have to guide them a bit in the bath. Cody will come out still stinky, so I have a role call. Hair, face, pits, tummy, privets, and butt. Other wise its just like a fast swimm. and he really has bad BO. lol

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