Archive for the ‘Parenting’ category

“Just smile and say Uh-Huh.”

February 25, 2013

NOTE:  This essay was originally published in Healing Options circa early 1990s.  In response to a friend being accosted with parenting advice from a stranger in a book store, I am posting it for rereading now!

Jaslyn Jadria shirts

“Just smile and say Uh-Huh.”  It was the best advice given to me in my pregnancy.  Actually, I think it’s the best advice I’ve ever received.

Why is it that everyone, including total strangers, feels it is their duty to advise pregnant women and mothers of small children?  When I was pregnant, people who had seldom nodded my way, people who actively disliked me, people who have never even been pregnant themselves, as well as all friends, family and co-workers, gave an endless stream of birth histories, many horror stories, peppered with tips and “must dos”, each supported by its own example story.

The saga continues with each new stage our daughters, Jaslyn and Jadria, pass through.  Only now, the pressure is greater.  “She should have a warmer coat on.”  “You should’ve started solid food at four months.  My doctor. . .”  “She really needs a hair cut.”  “One little cookie won’t hurt.”  “Our pediatrician said. . .”  “Those shoes make it hard for her to keep her balance.  She needs. . .”  “Watch out, she’ll hurt herself.”  “She shouldn’t be doing that alone.”  “Does she say anything yet?  Our daughter was so smart that she was talking. . . ”

Most people are simply doing what was done to them, i.e., they know of no other way to show interest and concern in Jaslyn and Jadria.  Some, unbeknownst even to themselves, are threatened by new ideas.  They are worried that they did not do the best job possible in raising their own children.  If they convince me to do things the way they did them, inwardly they feel assured that they did things the right way.

In raising our daughters, my husband and I have tried very hard to find the voice of our inner selves.  With the constant barrage of unsought advice, and the multitude of ‘how to” books, this voice is sometimes hard to locate.  Through meditation and consultation with each other, we feel we have.  We have also found a wealth of information in the children themselves.   We trust each ones inner sense of what she is ready for in her development, her sense of safety, her knowledge of her own body clock, etc.  In these ways we try to listen to our daughter’s inner selves as much as possible.

Some of the choices we’ve made are not common to our friends and family.   Fear, for example, becomes a factor for people not accustomed to trusting an infant’s sense of discovery.  Those closest to us have come to terms with our ideas.  They have stopped pressuring us to do things their way.  In many cases, not only have their suggestions ceased, but they are now seeking out our thoughts.

The key is not our choices in raising Jazz and Jade, but our belief in our decisions.  The actual choices made are not as important as how comfortable the parents feel with them.  If a parent does not take ownership of a particular idea, adapting it to suit her/his needs, the practice belongs to someone else, and the parent will feel awkward doing it.

A child is the first to sense this.  We feel a large part of Jaslyn’s and Jadria’s security comes from this.  Somehow their inner selves responds to our methods; each child knows that the method used is tailored explicitly for her.  Similarly, we feel our trust in our daughters has allowed each one to take ownership of various rules we teach.  This not only enables a child to lay the foundation for her own code of conduct, it makes it easy to take her anywhere.

If an idea hits home, contemplate it, mull it over, figure out what parts of it is comfortable for you and use them.  In this form of adaptation, an idea evolves into a childrearing practice that becomes your own.

A smile takes fewer muscles to form than a frown.  An “uh-huh” is not anything more than an acknowledgement of a comment.  We have learned how to smile when an Aunt, a neighbor, or a stranger tells us that our child shouldn’t nurse anymore, or needs another layer of clothing, or should use a particular product or gadget.  We have learned to say “uh-huh” to those who are not interested in the way we’ve chosen to raise our daughters, rather than get into an uncomfortable discussion with people who aren’t listening, but are desperately trying to convince us of their way in order to reassure themselves.

Oh, it is plenty difficult at times; even the most well meaning remark can sound like condescension.  We try to look for the intention behind the words.  Our aim is not to convert the world to our ideas, but to raise our child in the best manner we are capable of. . .as we believe all parents try to do.

Jade Joseph Julie Jaslyn • 2012

Jade Joseph Julie Jaslyn • 2012

Julie Lineberger and Joseph Cincotta are the parents of Jaslyn Devi and Jadria Concetta.  They collaborate on sustainable design through their business, LineSync Architecture in Wilmington, Vermont.  She is also a writer who travels the world, taking a little bit from each culture as part of her own.