As I went through the results of my recent readers survey, I was struck by a particular comment.
I like your reflections on parenting Sally, but they have little to do with Sally. They are about you reinventing parenting and allowing Sally to teach you.
This comment is so true. I never thought when I first gave birth that the little new life I held in my arms would so profoundly change me. Not simply change my life, but actually really truly change who I am as a person. Sally has spurred me to introspect on my upbringing, my values, and the way I relate to others, but more than that, the parenting adventure I undertook when I birthed Sally has changed how I approach and understand life.
This isn’t one of those “now that I have children I know what it’s like to have true meaning in life” posts. It’s not that I’ve suddenly realized that compared to mothering nothing else in life matters, because, well, the opposite is actually true. Having always viewed motherhood as my primary role in life, I have come to see that I can – and should – have an identity outside of being a parent. At the same time that motherhood has profoundly changed me, I have also found that motherhood is not all that I am.
When I first gave birth to Sally, I had questioned some of my upbringing but not all. I still planned to follow the Pearls’ child rearing methods, still placed a high value on immediate obedience, and still saw my role as training rather than guiding. Then one day when Sally was about ten months old, all of that changed. I realized as I followed the methods I had been taught that I was spanking her for curiosity, not for disobedience, and my reaction was one of horror. What was I doing? And that began a journey in which I questioned essentially everything I’d been taught about parenting, obedience, and authority. One thing spilled into another, and I found I couldn’t stop.
When I write about parenting and about Sally, I’m writing about myself and my journey. I’m writing about what happened when I stepped outside of the parenting roles I’d been taught were so crucial and questioned everything about parenting I’d thought was so obvious it was beyond question. I didn’t realize when I jettisoned everything I’d thought I’d known about child rearing that doing so would so completely change my life.
And my posts on parenting are about so much more than just parenting. They’re about life, about raw humanity, and about discovering a way of living outside of the patriarchal and authoritarian structures with which so many of us have had to struggle. They’re about a reinvention of who I am, and who I want to be. They’re about a new way of relating to humanity, and a new way of viewing those around me. They’re about, quite simply, how Sally changed my life.
I’m trying to think of a short title for my parenting posts. I want one for organization’s sake, and also because I often come up with titles that don’t mention parenting, so a short title at the front clarifies the topic. A friend mentioned that I could go with “Parenting Unroled,” but I was wondering if anyone else had any suggestions. Ideally, it would only be two words or so long, and would go at the front of each post I do on a parenting-related subject (i.e., “Parenting Unroled: On Causes and Symptoms”). Thoughts or suggestions?