While dropping my son off at preschool the other day, I saw a grown man kneel down, stare deeply into his daughter’s eyes, and sweetly say, “Be kind, be strong, and have a wonderful day!” The whole scene made me feel like I needed to step it up in the mom department, since my goodbye consists of yelling, “Bye son!” as he runs towards his singing, maraca-shaking teacher. This preschool father was clearly a saint, and his heartfelt speech made me feel bad, so what kind of parent did that make me?
We’ve all read about the “types” of parenting styles and maybe even taken an online quiz or two to figure out if we’re a Snowplow or a Helicopter or a Laid Back Progressive. All the types I read about never really felt like a perfect fit, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and create some new parenting styles that I can get behind.
As you’re pigeonholing yourself via the types I’ve come up with, feel free to mix and match, since most of us shapeshift between a Hummingbird and an Authoritarian and a Permissive parent, depending on the day…
Like the dad at my son’s preschool, Saints kneel and listen. They respond to toddler tantrums with superhuman patience and they recite soothing mantras while their child flings spaghetti at the wall or dunks another Elmo toothbrush in the toilet. There aren’t many of these parents in the world, but I know you exist because I saw one at preschool drop off and immediately felt like repenting.
The free(ish) range parent
Unlike the more common Free Range Parent, the Free(ish) Range Parent will let their kids roam and explore, but only if they’re within shouting distance. Like yearning to be cool as a teenager, I now yearn to be a Free Range Parent.
The problem is that I live in a city and not a lovely and endless piece of land, so it’s hard to disguise my terror when it comes to moving vehicles, strange people lurking at parks, or pools, ponds, lakes, fountains—basically bodies of water of any kind.
The Free(ish) Range Parent doesn’t need to hover when their toddler goes down a “big kid” slide or scales a 3-foot climbing wall. Yet, although they may appear relaxed, they’re primed and ready to pounce if a fall or scrape occurs.
The cosmic mama
Wouldn’t we all love to be a Cosmic Mama? The kind of parent who chooses a home birth, who is bold enough to refuse an epidural, and who finds breastfeeding relaxing. I’m not so bold, but I did have a few, very brief cosmic moments when my son was a newborn. Over the three months that I nursed him, I would say there were maybe one to three total minutes of heavenly bonding bliss, which were quickly overshadowed by the more mundane moments of pain and discomfort. Those fleeting moments were pretty great, but probably not enough to qualify me as a Cosmic Mama. Again, I repent.
The keepin’ it real mama
This type of parent can often be seen walking into an important work meeting with a large patch of dried baby spit-up on the front of their black Anthropologie jumpsuit, which they bought because it made them feel stylish after being on maternity leave and wearing nothing but a dirty robe and plush socks for three months. They sometimes eat their child’s Puffs at the park because they’re starving and desperate and forgot to pack their own adult snacks. That said, no matter how ravenous they are they always selflessly leave enough Puffs for their kid.
Depending on their level of exhaustion, if a pacifier falls onto the airport floor, the Keepin’ it Real might just give it two halfhearted wipes on their pants leg and mumble, “Well, it’ll build their immune system,” before handing it back to their child. They might not make gourmet meals for their kids, but they’re highly skilled at hiding broccoli and spinach inside of quesadillas. The Keepin’ it Real is no Saint, but they’re trying—really, really hard.
After careful consideration, I’ve come to realize that I am approximately 98% Keepin’ it Real, with 2% Free(ish) Range Parent thrown in, and I’m okay with it. I’ve surreptitiously eaten the Puffs and been oblivious to the spit up on my clothes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love my kid.
When it comes down to it, we’re all just trying our best, regardless of our parenting styles.