Monday, January 25, 2016

Guide to the Early Years for the Modern Southern Mama

When I was pregnant, I read countless articles and books and blog posts about all of the different trendy parenting styles that were available for my choosing as a modern mama. Attachment parenting, French parenting, Babywise, and so on. It was totally overwhelming, and I knew even then that I had been bred and raised with parenting skills in my nature as a Southern woman. I read the books and watched the videos, but deep down, I felt like it was all boiling down to things that seemed common sense to me. I realized that the way I wanted to raise my child was in the vein of old fashioned Southern families with a dash of modern research. Old fashioned, meaning before Southern meant "redneck/racist/ignorant/crazy" (on the lower income stereotype) or a caricature of the well-bred Southern woman with everything Vera Bradley and monograms (the mid-to-upper income stereotype.) No, I'm referring to the "play all day/do your chores/eat your veggies/because I said so" kind of Southern, with hugs and grandparents and lots of love but taking no crap. Simple and straightforward, natural and loving.

I've drawn up a tentative list of the rules I'm parenting by so far; feel free to add your own in the comments. 

1. Family First
    This is a core tenant of old fashioned southern parenting -- the family name is a blanket of protection, acceptance, and responsibility. It means making your decisions as a parent with the whole family in mind, not just the baby. Asking yourself things like, "how will this affect my marriage?" "how will this affect our family's weekly schedule?" etc. will help keep perspective in the right place. It's easy to get tunnel vision when you have a needy child, but we've definitely seen a difference when we have thought about our family as a whole rather than as pieces. 

2. Love openly and extravagantly
     Kissing and hugging and being intimate as a family are some of my favorite parts of having a little one. I love for her to be able to see how Everett and I show each other love with gifts, quality time, and acts of service (we've figured out our love languages a bit after these past few years). I want her to know that she can always come to us when she needs us, but also just when she needs a hug or wants to connect with someone. 

3. "No" is not a bad word. 
     One thing that I think Southerners get right is clear boundaries. Saying "no" keeps her safe and shows her that I am in control of her world. I give her choices within my boundaries (like red cup or blue cup), but at this point, her decision making process is pretty simple: Do I want this? Yes. Give it to me and I will have it now thank you or I will scream. I'm still on the fence about spanking, but mostly because a pop on the hand doesn't do anything for Everly's behavior in comparison to the utter devastation of time outs. If she can trust me to follow through on my boundaries, she can trust me to follow through on my promises and commitments. 

4. Eat food you can pronounce. 
     Michael Pollan has the rule "If your grandma wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it." The Southern diet has morphed into a crazy fatty sugar situation, but if you go back a couple of decades, southern cuisine maximizes what the land has to offer and is budget friendly, nutritious, and seasonal. Starting from the womb, babies will get a taste for what mama eats. Collards, pinto beans and corn bread are just one example of a cheap and yummy southern meal, but you can also modernize the menu with all sorts of veggies, legumes, fruits, and meats. Just make sure the ingredients sound like food. 

5. Less electricity, more creativity. 
     I desperately wanted to have as few toys with batteries in our house as possible, and for the most part we've succeeded. The few that we do have, however, pale in comparison to the "non-toy" toys that I keep for Everly to play with while I'm working. Here's a list of some of the stuff she plays with: 

    • pompoms
    • cardboard egg carton
    • plastic spoons
    • giant plastic tweezers
    • tupperware
    • pipe cleaners 
    • rice
    • fabric bags
    • toilet paper and paper towel tubes
I love watching her play with the pompoms, sorting them into the segments of the egg carton with the giant tweezers and plastic spoons. Don't get me wrong, Elmo definitely helps me get important work done, but seeing her hypnotized in front of the screen for long periods of time makes me feel uncomfortable. Playtime is so important for her development and creativity, so I just try to let her live her life amongst her toys and craft supplies as much as possible. (Again, I am a TV friendly mom. No judgement.)

6. Involve little ones in chores
     This is a big part of being in a southern family: You help with the functioning of the house starting almost as soon as you have the pointer-thumb grasp mastered. I'm mostly kidding; Everly doesn't do any real chores, but I like to let her think she does. She's in charge of the sock basket: she puts them into the basket one by one, then removes them one by one. My parents built her a learning tower (look it up on Pinterest), and I put her beside the sink with a bowl and spoon to help me by stirring Cheerios while I cook dinner. She loves being involved, and I know where she is and what she's doing. I'm hoping that I can encourage her natural tendencies to organize and put things into containers and get a little helper out of the deal. :) 

7. Don't reinvent the wheel.
     Every single person that you know and all of the people you haven't met were once babies. Everybody. We've all made it this far both because of and in spite of our parents. You don't have to figure out parenting from scratch. Just act like you like your child, and most things will work out ok. 

Disclaimer: Everly is 18 months old. There are so many moms out there that have tons more experience than me. This list is compiled from a combination of personal experience as a southern child growing up, anecdotal info, and observation of my family and those around me. 

1 comment:

  1. I've thought a lot about spanking with my little one. Granted, she's 7 months old right now, but she's already getting into things, pitching little tantrums, and generally being a little sinner. She's not a trouble baby, but it has got me thinking. I have two much younger sisters, so I was able to watch my mom parent not only myself through my teens, but two much younger (baby-kindergarten) children at the same time and I loved her approach to punishments. A spank was reserved for whenever a child was going to hurt either themselves, or someone else, either physically, or mentally, or if the child was deliberately disobeying ("go get this" "no!"). Hurting themselves would be like stepping into the street, or touching the stove (and generally this happens only if they've been deliberately disobeying). Hurting someone else would be like throwing things. Mentally hurting someone could be pitching a fit when the people around them are very worn out.

    Seeing as this is all very theoretical at the moment, I remember my mom LETTING me touch the stove because I was pestering her as to why she wasn't letting me. It went something like "Why can't I touch the stove?" "Because it hurts." "But I want to touch the stove!" etc. etc., until "ok, fine, touch the stove. But it'll hurt." And I did, and it did.

    Later on, my parents found that taking things away (play dates, and toys, and privileges [EVERYTHING was a privilege in my house]) worked just as well as spanks.

    Good luck with all of this. It looks like a very sound structure. Each child needs something a little different. :)



Blogger Template By Designer Blogs