By James Muscolino
I have a grin on my face as I write this because I can hear the shrieks of absolute relief from many of my family members calling out to one another: “He’s finally going to admit that he’s a controlling parent!” Ha ha! 11 months of being a parent and I never once lied to anyone about it. Prior to my daughters birth, I ALWAYS stated that I was going to be a tad bit controlling. Hell, I am controlling about which paper towels need to be displayed in the house (ask my partner….he once made that mistake lol). Indeed, I have stood tall and true to the challenge! In other ways, I let my child be a free spirit to find her own way. For the record, if I had to choose, I would rather see a parent have too much control rather than not enough. I would rather see a parent making too many choices for their children and feel the need to be that involved than to stand back and watch a person with no legs try to walk. Absolutely, children are individuals and they should embrace their individuality. I wholeheartedly believe that and want that for my daughter. However, the stages of Baby to Infant to Toddler, if not for anything but due to continuing brain development, is impossible for them to make appropriate decisions for every occasion, cope adequately or fully understand long-term consequences.
(for the record, once again, I am strictly speaking about babies, infants and toddlers)
Some say controlling parents believe that children are blank slates whom they can control and dictate to. I do not see myself this way nor do I see myself as needing to control my child…to make sure she turns out exactly as I want her to turn out. Rather, I think the fear lies in what happens if I am not assisting my child in her choices. This is the category where I whole-heartedly fall into.
As parents, we are responsible for “molding” our children into whom they become. If we don’t, they will only find the influences elsewhere. I am a parent who was brought up in a certain & unique way unlike anyone else that I am surrounded by and I know (and want) to teach my daughter, and the children that may come after her, all the morals and values they will ever need, inside of our own home. The home that my partner and I built together, with my partner and I’s beliefs, morals and standards…which at times contradict with many around us. Furthermore, for “controlling parents” the fear lies when the child walks out the door and you know that you have lost all control and you need to fully accept that. However, my child is not walking out the door today.
I will admit to a couple of instances. My partner and I are fairly strict on what our daughter eats. We control what she eats for the many reasons we should. Obesity. Certain food is not good for her. Too young and may be allergic. No need for sugar. Doctors orders until she is 1 years old. Yet, people don’t seem to understand why I am so “controlling” about what I feed our daughter. Why would I give my 11 month old a hot dog? It is processed meat/fat not to mention the fact that there is no reason for her to eat that. Another “hot topic” (and forgive me, I am not picking on anyone specifically here) is the television. Oh, is that a HUGE issue with many, many people, despite article after article I have sent to try earnestly to persuade my point (despite the fact that I should not have to do that). My partner and I have decided no TV for our daughter until the age of 2. Totally our choice. (No criticism AT ALL to those parents who think opposite of us). This is simply our decision based on research that has been done. Yet, I “control” the remote.
On the flip side, our daughter is not locked in a playpen. Under my direct supervision, she is free to explore and challenge her curiosity. She has playgroups, friends, a music class soon, gets to swim, sees family, is spoiled with toys, clothes and has an abundance of love and affection. Yep, admittedly, I run a controlling, very clean and organized tight ship…as is my nature far before Reagan ever arrived. Reagan is on a schedule, her nap times are to the minute, (even her poop is!). She has her daily routine and you now something? Our daughter feels SAFE and SECURE with that routine because she knows what to expect. To boot, Reagan has had a smile on her face since Day 1. So something is being done correctly.
The bottom line is, Reagan is our first child. Anyone with a first born child, anyone who had difficulty conceiving and now has a child or anyone who went through what we had gone through to get her, can relate to a little bit of this….that it’s OK to be a little controlling. You see, I want to be there to assist Reagan with all her needs, to watch all of her first moments, to experience them with her. I won’t go away on vacation without her anytime soon. When she is with the sitter for 2 hours, I am practically speeding down the street to get back to her. The rule in our house is that she awakens to one of her parents and she falls asleep to one of her parents. Some think of that as controlling. I think of that as beautiful. What better way to instill trust and love between child and parent.
My insecurity tends to take over with this topic and I take it personal at times when I am criticized for “the way I am”. The way I am is the most loving father there ever can be. Reagan has tons of freedom to find her soul and listen to where it needs to guide her. I certainly would never stand in the way of that. Let it take her where it takes her. But when its time to go to bed…its time to go to bed. Children are just that…children. They are indeed blank slates and (at this point in the game) we need to fill the slates in for them and then stand by and watch them when the time comes to see if we have taught them well. There needs to be a parent vs. child role in the house. As well as mutual respect for all who live under the roof.
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Originally published on The Seattle Lesbian
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