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Theories for Raising My Children

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"Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children and no theories." -- John Wilmot (1647-1680).

crying child in supermarket

Blythe Newsome: We have all been around children before we had children of our own. As you watch those children throw fits and the parents give in, you find yourself thinking that your children will never behave like that and that you will never be that kind of parent. You judge the parents for handing out sugary treats to quiet their children, being permissive enough to give in to a child's every whim. Then you have children and all of those theories go out the window.

My theories dictated that I was not going to be the parent who gave in to a crying child. I would not have children who would be out in public places and be disruptive and loud. I couldn't imagine sitting in the backseat to quiet my child -- I would be up front with their dad. In my dreams, my children were always clean and my house a beautiful and orderly place. When we decide to become parents, those are the things we tell ourselves, that our children will be different.

And then I had children -- six of them, to be exact -- and I quickly learned that even a loving, yet firm parent can be caught in a moment where you just do whatever you can to get through the moment.

Trust me, I have those moments. Sometimes when we are doing a big shopping trip at the grocery store, I am the mom that opens a bag of Goldfish to quiet my crying toddler. There were many car trips I spent in the backseat distracting the little ones while their Dad drove. My children sometimes have dirt on their faces, and my house is in no way the organized Architectural Digest home I imagined. I have flowers in my kitchen, but they are wilted and not what I would have imagined 20 years ago as a centerpiece.

But to me they are beautiful; they are a gift from my son and daughter's backyard adventure. The best part of that muddy adventure was that while they came back dirty, they thought of me and brought me back a flower -- in one of my favorite expensive crystal vases that they filled with dirt. I cannot imagine it holding anything more precious and beautiful.

Maybe at times my children are crying and whining and demanding my attention. I am sure there have been plenty of times when people have seen us out and looked at my children and thought, "If I were their parent ..."

A part of me is that parent I was so sure I would never be. My theories on raising children are very different now. They revolve around never letting a day go by when I haven't told my children how much I love them, holding them tight while they are so little and being there for them as they venture out into the world. I hope that while they are young, I will show them unconditional love and the beauty that life holds for them. My theories will continue to change as the years go by, but instead of deciding now what kind of parent I will be to these ever-changing children, I am going to focus on the parent I am today with the children that bless my life.

next: 22 Things We'll Teach Our Sons about Women
407 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jenny January 12, 2010, 5:24 AM

I could not have said it better myself.

Ash January 12, 2010, 6:15 AM

I agree - when my friend had a child before me I never understood why she didnt call me like she used to. Then when I had a child i got it….you cant fully understand until you have one.

b January 12, 2010, 6:59 AM

I always had ideas about the kind of mother I wanted to be, too. And then Postpardum depression came. And all my ideas not only went out the window, so did most of what I knew about myself. So now, while I have two small children, I’m on a doing everything I can to survive mode. Not only are our childrens’ personalities complete wild cards, so also is our mental status.

Anonymous January 12, 2010, 8:14 AM

I have disagree with the author. I too had theories before children and behavoir expectations - not keeping melting down children in public, no kids in my bed, never sitting in the back seat with them, etc. and I’ve been able to keep them. I can’t undersand why parents have set priorities for how they want to raise their children and then don’t act on them once the children are here. This is why I NEVER say “oh you’ll understand when you have kids” because I’ve kept the same goals and ideas of parenting pre and post children

Jenny January 12, 2010, 10:12 AM


Many parents keep some theories from before they were parents but I think the point she is trying to make is she is no longer as judgmental as she used to be because she now has a different viewpoint. I am sure that there are many things that she said before that still hold true but for most women views and theories change as our life situations and maturity changes. If you have been able to keep all of your theories from before you had kids about how to raise them then perhaps you should think about writing a book, I’m sure many women would be interested to know how you have managed that.


Jamie January 13, 2010, 7:18 AM

I agree w/Anonymous - it’s super simple to maintain your theories from pre-parenthood - just set standards and expectations and abide by them. I think that’s a major issue with many (not all) parents now - no one wants to enforce rules. We’ve given our children as much authority as adults. If you say I’m not going to be the parent who has kids in my bed then you simply don’t let them sleep in the bed. If you say you’re going to be the parent who will not have their child melting down in a store then you take them out when they melt down. It’s not hard. Perhaps since I had so much experience (pre-school teacher, MANY nieces/nephews who I took care of since infancy) with children before having them that I knew I would put my theories into practice that it was easy for me and had no change to my pre-baby theories - who knows.

mercaties January 18, 2010, 12:31 AM

Wow! I think a good mother adjusts accordingly to the current situation. I’am much happier being flexible with my kids then being confined to my pre-parent ways of thinking. It amazes me that there always has to be that mom or mom’s that think they are better than the rest of us.

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