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TODAY

Saturday, April 20

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Airbags

Whenever my son and I visit my mother, every so often I hear this little voice which tells me that I am doing something she doesn't approve of. OK, so that voice is hers, but there it is, sweetly telling me, "Shouldn't he be wearing his hat?" or "Maybe he needs to start drinking milk?" While some parents may find motherly advice comforting, I find it a bit unnerving. I know my mother means well, but we are clearly from different schools of parenting. While she grew up with the old school "Let the Baby Cry it Out" notion, I practice Attachment Parenting. Still, part of me wonders am I doing the right thing? Does Mother really know best?

Last week, my son and I attended the American Montessori Society National Conference, held here in Chicago and we participated in their Montessori Parent-Child community demonstration classroom. Basically, we were in a model classroom while people (scholars, teachers, authors, lecturers, etc.) watched Vincent and I "work".

With six children in all, my son being the youngest one, the kids would pick a project and work, while their mothers sat with them. Vincent spent about 10 minutes engrossed with a wooden jig saw puzzle, after which he crawled on to his next work, a box with cut-outs of different shapes. His little hands worked carefully, as he tried to place the wooden sphere, rectangle and square into their corresponding holes.

Feeling like a monkey in the zoo, I tried to act natural as the crowd around us watched him -- watched me. While Vincent was delighting in his accomplishments, I sat there red-faced wondering if these teachers -- whom I felt probably knew more about parenting than I did -- were critiquing my interactions with him. Was I encouraging him enough? Or too much? Was I too aloof, or did I meddle with his growth? Was I in the way of "proper" exploration?

Suddenly, I saw Vincent laugh and clap -- His first real clap! -- upon putting the round ball through the round hole and all the other faces began to fade away. He jumped excitedly and waved his hands furiously, happy of what he had accomplished. Throwing his little body towards my arms, he was proud and knew I was there to share this moment with him. After that, I could feel my shoulders relax, my neck ease up and I began to savor this moment with him, oblivious to those around us.

It occurred to me that while I was nervous about what all of those people would think of me and my skills as a mother, I am my worst critic. Sure, I would like those scholars to think I am doing a good job and of course I want my mother to say, "He is dressed absolutely perfect for this weather. You rock!", but ultimately the only people whose opinion I should really care about are my son, my husband's and my own.

I took this lesson to heart and decided that I should use my revelation during day-to-day dealings with other parents and people, who for all intents and purposes may be well meaning, but do not know what our home life is like. They are not there when I am wiping my son's nose with a handkerchief a.k.a. "my sleeve"; they are absent when I am chasing him down the hallway, threatening to cover his little head with kisses; they are missing when Vincent sits on the potty and I cheer him on with the "Pee-Poo" song.

So I go on, thank those who genuinely wish us well, follow any advice given that does suit us and at the end of the day I pat myself on the back. To those who judge me or criticize my actions, I say look at my son -- he is a happy boy! I do what is best for us, and it seems to be working. As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently stated, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." And how, Eleanor. And how!

Recommended Reading

Now for those days when you feel you'd like some help, and there are times where we could all use some, here are a few books I have found to be a great resource or have been recommended to me by friends:

Becoming the Parent You Want to Be
Laura Davis and Janis Keyser
A great book which addresses the many challenges of parenting.

The Discipline Book
Sears and Sears
Dr. Sears discusses positive discipline from an Attachment Parenting point of view: from whining, tantrums, power struggles, and more. A really great book!

The Emotional Life of the Toddler
Alicia Lieberman
Is your child a "rough houser"? Are he or she painfully shy? This book discusses the emotional life of the toddlers 1 to 3 years old and helps you understand what they are going through.

Raising Your Spirited Child
Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
How do you cope with a spirited child? This book gives suggestions for both parent and child on how to deal with this strong and unique personality.

Smart Love
Martha Heineman Pieper and William J. Pieper
An alternative to discipline for well-adjusted children. The approach puts emphasis on compassion.

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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