By Jean Lomas-Hamilton of this slow process
Painstakingly researching and selecting a parenting style has become a necessary rite of passage for modern moms. After all, without a parenting style, we have no rules to follow. Without a set of rules to follow, we’re just making things up as we go along. And if we make things up as we go along, we’ll damage our children for life.
Or so the parenting experts would have us believe.
When I was pregnant, a seemingly endless parade of impending choices goose-stepped through my mind: how to birth, how to feed, how to communicate, how to discipline, and most importantly, how to survive parenthood without suffering a complete nervous breakdown. I thought if I could only find a parenting philosophy to guide me, I’d feel much calmer and better prepared for this new chapter in my life.
Eventually, I found a Facebook moms group full of liberal-minded, attachment-parenting, babywearing women. They seemed to have all the answers, and I immediately knew: these were my people.
I was a crunchy mom. It was destiny.
Then I actually had the baby and realized I have no business calling myself crunchy. But I’m not really non-crunchy, either. Like most parents, it turns out I’m a little bit of everything.
But what to do about my parenting philosophy? How would I know what type of mom I was if I didn’t fit into an established category? And if I didn’t know what type of mom I was … how would I brag about it to people? Would Facebook even have meaning anymore?
What the hell was I going to do with my life?
Enter Al Dente parenting, the revolutionary new parenting style that I just made up.
Al dente means “to the tooth,” which is how Italians like their pasta — cooked through, but still a little firm. Al Dente parenting strikes the optimal balance between the crunchy methods I’m often drawn to and the not-so-crunchy techniques that also work for my family.
One way to check if your pasta is al dente is to throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. This is a perfect metaphor for how I parent.
Al Dente parents believe subscribing to one parenting philosophy is unnecessarily limiting. Experience has taught them that rigid adherence to a single method might not be appropriate for their children 100% of the time, so they’ve chosen to access a bigger bag of parenting tricks. They’ve perused the menu of approaches and opted to order a bunch of appetizers rather than blowing the budget on just one main course.
And let’s face it, who doesn’t love appys?
They practice extended breastfeeding, but they also let their kids eat sugar. They co-sleep, but they leave the TV on during playtime. They do baby-led weaning, but they’re not opposed to spoon-feeding their kids if they’re in a rush to get out the door. They babywear, but they do it in the $10 Baby Bjorn they found at a garage sale because the baby hates the gorgeous handwoven wraps that cost them half a mortgage payment. They had a hospital birth with allll the drugs, but they had their placenta encapsulated. Then they threw the pills away because (a) they didn’t do anything and (b) they tasted super gross. Plus they really only did it because they heard the pills were a great hangover cure (I know this sounds oddly specific so let’s just say it happened to a friend of mine.)
Or they do the opposite of all of the above, because that’s what works for them. It’s flexible like that.
The best part about Al Dente parenting is that anyone can do it; in fact, you probably already are. All you have to do is adapt your approach to fit your family’s needs. It’s the parenting style for the rest of us!
Baby won’t fall asleep unless you let him cry for a few minutes? Let him cry a bit — research shows he’ll be fine (note: it also shows he won’t be fine, which is the frustrating thing about research, so actually let’s just forget about the research).
Baby won’t calm down without a boob in her mouth? Latch her on anytime, anywhere!
Baby needs to stick to a schedule or he turns into a raging, diaper-clad tornado of doom? Get thee to a timetable-ery, or whatever.
Baby needs to be hand-fed in the bouncer while you stand on your head playing peek-a-boo and whistling the Star Spangled Banner? Your baby is a huge weirdo and you might want to seek professional advice. But also do it, if that’s what it takes for her to eat the organic broccoli which you have WORKED YOUR ASS OFF TO PROVIDE.
Did you do all that? Or did you do something else that works for you and keeps everyone happy and, more importantly, sane? Either way, congratulations — you’re an Al Dente parent! Now wasn’t that easy?
… Wait, nope. It’s still parenting and it’s ridiculously hard.
Sorry about that.
About the Author
Jean Lomas-Hamilton has a husband, a daughter, a cat, and a lot of thoughts. You can read about them all on her blog, this slow process. She’s a regular columnist for Sammiches & Psych Meds, and her writing has also been featured on Scary Mommy, the Good Mother Project, Tribe Magazine, and the Huffington Post. When she isn’t writing, parenting, cooking, working, or sleeping (hah!), she’s busy trying to blend in with the cool kids on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Jean loves good beer, fresh bread, bearded men, and certain babies in particular. She does not love the Chicago Blackhawks — a fact which has been the main source of tension in her marriage.