Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The I Nevers

All mothers joke about the I nevers. "Before I had children, I said that I'd never let them sleep with me!" Every parent I've ever met has an I never, and most have a laundry list of them. I nevers are usually funny - statements from naive young people who quickly abandon such silly mandates when faced with living breathing children. But there are other I nevers too, the ones that we can't quite joke about.

Before parenthood, parenting seems like it is all about the parent. We have our ideals, political and personal. We extrapolate parenting rules from those ideals and create a vision of what parenthood will be. This is an important process, I think, this preliminary definition of ourselves as parents. In many ways, it's the first parenting that we do! We sift and sort, prioritize and dismiss, and decide exactly who we want to be. Then we meet these small people and discover that parenting isn't just about who we want to be. It's also about who our partners want to be. It's also about who these little people are. And the I nevers start dropping like flies.

My list of I nevers is long and mostly forgotten. What's the saying? I was a better parent before I had children, or something similar. Most of my assumptions were just plain wrong and really quite humorous. (Did I really think that my children would be potty trained by age two?) There have been a few compromises, however, that were difficult. Over the past week, I have been wrestling with one of the difficult ones.

I want my children to learn my values. I want them to be ethical people. I want them to understand that we are all of us God's creations, no matter how different we may seem, and we are all of us worthy of respect and inclusion. I want them to reject hatred and discrimination. I also want them to have an innocent childhood. I want them to make their own choices, make their own mistakes, and live their own lives. I don't want to make my children into my own political statement, my puppets in the larger world. I don't want them to be limited by big topics that they don't, and should not understand at a tender age.

And so I am the mother of a Tiger Scout.


Chelsea said...


Thanks Christy.

Mary Witzl said...

My list of nevers included allowing my kids to wipe their hands on my skirt, letting them eat any foodstuff with dodgy preservatives in it, and putting them in disposable diapers. I did pretty well with the last one, but it took a lot out of me, there being no diaper service in our part of Japan. It is so much better to go into parenting with an open mind!