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Parenting style? Um: single mom? Photo by Flickr user drinks machine (Creative Commons license).

Parenting style? Um: single mom? Photo by Flickr user drinks machine (Creative Commons license).

I’m reading a lot about different parenting styles because despite blogging about (among other things) being a mom, I don’t think 1) I even remotely know everything there is to know, or 2) I am the best mom in the world. I’m not the worst because my kid is happy and healthy; but no awards have arrived in the mail, you know?

One book I’m reading—I don’t want to share the title because it’s also about other stuff—outlines three types of parenting: permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative. The author thoroughly defines each style, but I’m gonna break it down in real talk. Permissive parents let their kids do whatever they want. Authoritarian parents are disciplinary control freaks. Authoritative parents strike a balance.

Obviously, and I will risk speaking for most parents here, the “strike the balance” goal is the most realistic and beneficial, right? I imagine few of us want to be either a pushover or a tyrant.

So, what kind of parent am I, and what kind do I want to be? That’s what I’ve been thinking about, ever since that Marcy’s diner thing. Because what stuck with me the most about that story—once I got past the fact that a restaurant owner thinks it is EVER appropriate to yell at patrons, let alone those under age two—is the parent-shaming that took place. The suggestion that a crying baby means a neglected baby. The diner owner’s insistence that the parents “weren’t paying attention” to their kid, and hers and others’ assumptions that the parents didn’t do enough or anything to quiet the baby down.

I gotta say, my sympathy still lies with the parents. Sometimes, you just need to sit and sip your damn coffee for a bit.

I’m the reverse of the “I’ll give you something to cry about” parent, though. I was parented that way, and I don’t want to parent that way. There will be no violence. There will be minimal yelling, from either of us. I’m a, “You have no reason to cry, and you will realize that eventually”-type parent. As such, I let Jax cry it out sometimes.

Now listen. Jax crying is rare. He just doesn’t really do it. He has a solid almost-3yo’s whine that can sometimes dissolve into a tantrum if he really wants something and isn’t getting it, but otherwise, he barely cries. If he does, I absolutely try to figure out why. He’s cutting molars right now, so sometimes he sticks his whole fist in his mouth and sobs for a minute, then oh look, my cars!

That said, I will admit to erring on the side of permissive parenting, with authoritative guiding or encouragement—which is the textbook way of saying, I pretty much let little man do what he wants to do, but when he’s at risk of doing something naughty/not good for him/dangerous/that I don’t want him to do, I nudge him toward something else. He’s like a bowling ball and I’m the bumpers on either side of the lane. I’m into unstructured/imagination-building play as well as our routine of reading books before naps and bedtimes. I give Jax alone time–in a safe space where I can hear and see him, but am not all up in his face. He enjoys his me time. He is my kid, after all.

There’s a lot more to be said about different styles of parenting, but I’m no expert. What I am is someone who is parenting alone. I don’t have a partner to ask. I don’t have someone to take Jax outside a restaurant for a few minutes while I enjoy my coffee. It’s me and my son, and that’s a game-changer in terms of parenting style. I can’t be too much of any one thing. What is more important to me than adopting any one “style” of parenting is just knowing/learning about my boy and how we can co-exist together, how I can protect and nurture him as an individual, not an archetypal toddler situation waiting to happen.

So, what would I have done if I was that parent in Marcy’s and Jax was wailing? First, I’d have asked him what was wrong. I’d have probably ordered him some kind of small snack to hold him over. Then I’d have tried gentle bribery, because I am not perfect and I get hungry, too, and my pancakes, I’ve been assured, are coming. Jax loves playing around on my iPhone (his fave activities include an app called ToddlerFish and deleting my photos). He also loves sips of whatever I’m drinking, from my cup. If neither of those worked, I’d assume he had a nasty diaper or was sitting on his boy-junk, so, to the nearest changing table. If THAT didn’t work, and no KIND restaurant employee had yet approached me about either leaving or how they were rushing my order, I would ask that my order be rushed, and would take Jax outside to walk around until it was ready. If it was raining, as it had been that day at Marcy’s, I’d have walked around the restaurant or got my umbrella out of my car. If Jax was hysterical when the food came, I’d ask for it to go. If the food was the main thing he wanted, then obviously we would then sit down to eat. What style of parenting is that?

Now, ask me what I’d do if someone got in Jax’s face and screamed at him to “shut the hell up.” G’head.

What’s your parenting style?

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