Parenting is a wild ride, and I've always believed in doing things a bit differently. Due to an unexpected turn of events, I found myself raising my son alone from the age of 3. I assumed the role of both mother and, with the best of intentions, attempted to fulfill the fatherly responsibilities, albeit not always successfully.
From co-sleeping until my son was 10 to letting him skip school when he had straight A's, my unconventional parenting methods have raised more than a few eyebrows. I've been bombarded with countless unsolicited opinions, which I've learned to tune out to preserve my sanity. And of course, I've also been fortunate enough to receive a handful of creative and practical advice from fellow parents.
I want to say I had a profound realization early on in my parenting journey: my greatest source of parenting guidance is none other than my own child. Now, this doesn't mean I simply let him have his way and indulge his every whim. Quite the contrary. What I do is foster an environment where I encourage and value his perspective, even when he was as young as 5. It's truly astonishing how much wisdom can emerge from their innocent pure minds, untouched by the influences of society.
So here we go, brace yourselves for five unconventional parenting adventures I embarked on with my son. You might nod in agreement with one or two, and of course, you're absolutely welcome to unleash your inner judge, silently, as you read along. Just remember, it's all in good parenting fun!
Co-Sleeping Until Age 10
Let's start with the co-sleeping revelation. Yes, I let my son sleep with me until he was 10 years old. While some parents might have balked at this, I saw it as an opportunity to foster a close bond with my child. After all, who needs personal space anyway? Plus, it made for some unforgettable snuggle sessions and late-night chats about life, the universe, and everything in between.
Thanks to our co-sleeping adventures, my son skipped the pacifier stage and never turned his thumb into a chewed-up, red popsicle stick. In addition, there was no need for a toddler security blanket to fend off those pesky invisible closet monsters.
That said, in the spirit of embracing vulnerability as Brené Brown advocates, I must confess that the night he proudly declared his wish to sleep on his own felt about as heart-wrenching as a kid being told he had to bid farewell to his cherished security blanket.
Breakfast by First Grade
By the time my son hit first grade, he was already a breakfast-making prodigy. I firmly believe in teaching kids self-sufficiency early on, so I handed him a spatula and let him flip pancakes like a pro. Sure, there were a few mishaps, but the pride on his face when he served up his own creations was priceless.
My son somehow found cooking as a canvas for his creative genius. With each passing year, his culinary creations became more imaginative, both in terms of ingredients and presentation.
The look of uncontainable, almost comically inflated, pride on my face couldn't be hidden when I overheard his college roommates and friends raving about his ability to whip up gourmet feasts on a shoestring budget. I wanted to stay humble, but in my heart, I couldn't help but shout, “Duck yeah, that's my child!” (Thanks, autocorrect, for making me sound like a proud, fowl-loving parent!)
Laundry Lessons in Middle School
Middle school is a time of transition, and I wanted my son to be prepared for the responsibilities of adulthood. So, I introduced him to the world of laundry. Some might call it child labor; I call it life skills training. Well, he might not have mastered the art of separating whites from colors later in life due to the lack of stellar teachings from his dear old mom. I don’t separate colors. I simply mastered the art of avoiding white clothes altogether.
As he grew older, I'd generously offer to lend a hand with his laundry when his schedule was more packed than a clown car at a circus - filled with competitions, homework, and auditions.
But let me share yet another triumphant momma moment with you: the day I helped move my son into his college dorm, one of his roommates' moms leaned in and whispered to me that her child had never done laundry in his life, and she was visibly concerned. With a metaphorical cape billowing in the wind, I gently patted her shoulder and assured her, 'No worries! My son has been a laundry maestro since middle school. He can give yours some tips.'
She appeared relieved, but as we said our goodbyes, I had a sneaky suspicion we were engaged in every parent's favorite pastime: the unspoken showdown of who's the "softie" and who's the "child labor" enthusiast. Ah, the joy of mom judgment, all done with a wink and a smile!
Straight A's and Skipped School
When it came to school, my son was a straight-A student. However, I firmly believed that education isn't just about grades; it's about fostering a love of learning. So, when he brought home a report card with all A's, we celebrated by skipping school the next day. Some might argue that this sends the wrong message, but I saw it as a chance to show him that life isn't just about following the rules. It also gave us the opportunity for impromptu field trips and quality bonding time.
Now if you've quietly stamped me with the 'Tiger Mom' label as you read the subtitle, well, shame on you! It was never a case of 'Come home with straight A's, and you'll earn this and that.' I mean, honestly, if I had pursued that route, don't you think he'd be off attending Yale or Cornell by now instead of a quaint little college that often elicits the 'Oh, that school' response, only when mentioning it alongside Chip and Joanne Gaines?
Skipping school didn't come back to bite us until we ventured into the treacherous terrain known as middle school. Little did I know it would eventually lead to a rendezvous with Saturday school – a place I never thought I'd see on my social calendar. You see, it was news to me that when a student plays hooky, the school's coffers start echoing like a lonely tumbleweed rolling through a ghost town.
Yes, students are unwittingly part of the grand educational business transaction.
But ah, let's not forget our star of the show, the assistant principal, who, I swear, had a floating question mark emoji perpetually parked above his head. It was like having the Riddler from Batman right there in the flesh. And bless his heart, he was determined to unravel this puzzling mystery while giving me a courtesy call.
To decode this educational enigma, I briefly explained my reasons, and admitted there was indeed a method to my apparent madness. It's safe to say that by the end of our conversation, the question mark had vanished from his head, only to be replaced by a, dare I say, lord-have-mercy facepalm emoji.
That very Saturday, I cranked up 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' to full blast as I chauffeured my son to his inaugural Saturday school session. In our household, we believe in doing everything with a dash of style and a sprinkle of humor!
My son was far from amused, while the assistant principal, who kindly waited by the curb for the rookie, struggled to stifle a laugh and mentally high-fived me.
Build His Case for Every Punishment Set
With all due apologies to my own parents (sorry, Mom and Dad, for my less-than-stellar obedience as a child), I often encouraged my son to make his case when faced with potential consequences. Why, you ask? Well, it's all about showing him the art of voicing his opinions and owning up to his actions.
Granted, there were moments when our discussion resembled a quirky mash-up of Judge Judy meets Family Feud but still turned out to be an enlightening lesson in responsibility, accountability, and even the fine art of negotiation – skills that I hope to serve him well in his future endeavors.
And, of course, there were times when he'd opt for facing the punishment just to get it over with, rather than enduring yet another session of profound enlightenment akin to a Dali Lama teaching moments powered by...mom.
There were also moments when I deeply regret offering such a privilege. This feeling presented its case years later when my son participated in a local Teen Court program where he got to prosecute or defend real misdemeanor cases of his peers. The prosecutor who mentored the group told me repeatedly that he has a lot of potential succeed in the field of law.
Parenthood, as contradictory as it can be, brought me days filled with that heartwarming “he's-just-like-me” glow, where I couldn't resist patting myself on the back. But let's not forget those other days when I found myself pulling my hair out, screaming to the sky, and asking the universe, 'Why does he have to act just like me?'
Now, you might be wondering how my unconventional parenting choices turned out. Well, here's the heartwarming part of the story. My son grew up to be more than just okay.
He's independent, confident, and fiercely determined to chase his dreams. He's empathetic and caring, always willing to lend a helping hand. Most importantly, he has a mind of his own and isn't afraid to speak up for what he believes in.
He's learned that life is an adventure, and he's not afraid to make the best out of every situation. And as for those who aim to mistreat him? Well, he doesn't waste much energy on them because he knows his worth.
So, while my unconventional parenting choices might have raised a few eyebrows, they undoubtedly played a role in shaping my son into the remarkable individual he is today – at least, in my somewhat biased opinion.