Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Backlash Against Overparenting

The first time I read through Nancy Gibb's Time Magazine article "The Growing Backlash Against Overparenting" I actually laughed out loud. I thought of "overparents" I knew in my own life and thought, smugly, wow, aren't I glad I'm not one of them. When I re-read the article this morning I saw a few things that might have rung true in my own life? Stress over the H1N1 vaccine? Check. Anger at Gymboree for not letting my then two-year- old twins with gross motor delays attend because there was only one adult, the nanny, while I worked full-time? Check. This was starting to get a little personal.

I think I was "saved" from overparenting traps by having twins, and preemies with some health issues at that, right off the bat. From the beginning I had to do just enough to get by, we were in survival mode. I recall when my mom came to help after the twins were born she carefully asked why I hadn't dressed the babies. In tears I replied, "because it's all I can do to get their swaddled blankets over the apnea monitor leads and if I dress them then I have to do the laundry." I relented, letting her dress up her first grand babies so long as she promised to dress, undress and launder the doll-sized clothes.

From there I didn't worry so much about the small stuff like disinfecting pacifiers that fell on the floor. But I did worry every single day about the children not meeting their milestones. There were evaluations, arguments with the County to receive services, consultations with experts, and lots of sleepless nights. At 7 1/2, with very little intervention, they are right with their peer groups. Could they have better pencil-holding grips? Probably, but is it good enough? Yes.

Now that #3 has come around, he's lucky if he gets a fraction of the worry his older brothers received. I forgot about his annual well-check until a neighbor inquired about it, he hasn't been enrolled in a single mommy and me class despite my uber flexible schedule and we're official playgroup dropouts. He seems pretty happy to me.

As we head into the holidays, I'm making a pledge to myself to be more conscious of the looming fear that takes over once you become a parent. I'm going to acknowledge it, think about the consequences, and if the upside outweighs it, make a perceived risky decision and move forward.

For example, kid #3 is riding around in a hand-me-down car seat; it has a 5 point harness, has never been in an accident but it is just past its 5 year "expiration" the industry seems to be touting these days. I was considering buying him a new car seat. For Christmas. Really. Instead, we'll keep riding around in the perfectly fine car seat and I'll get to play Santa with real toys.

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