Never in my life have I attempted to "keep up with the Joneses". I have always done my own thing and not much cared if everyone else was doing it or if it was cool or if it was *ahem* appropriate. Since having a child and becoming a mother, things have changed and I feel that I am constantly being nudged into "keeping up with the Joneses" when faced with various parenting choices. While the major options are long past scrutiny (vaccinations, circumcision, breast feeding, and the like), there are these new hurdles that have arisen as Dante has gotten older.
The first came with potty training. I come from the notion that when you child is ready to potty train, they will potty train. There were moms around me who started training their children at 2 years old which was astounding to me. Dante wasn't interested in training at 2, and I didn't push him. The last thing I wanted was some sort of freak child who was scared of the toilet and who would grow up having strange scatological fetishes. That's all I'd need. I have slowly come to accept that Dante is already going to be screwed up on some level as his mother has pink hair, tattoos, piercings, and listens to Duran Duran like its cool, but I certainly don't want to compound that by instilling him with some gross poop fetish and toilet phobia. I can see it now, the year is 2026 and my son is on Jerry-atric Springer in a diaper being beat up by some 400 pound pink haired, tattooed dominatrix named "Mommy". Yea, don't tell me you can't picture it.
Anyhow, regardless of whether or not he was ready or I was ready to start potty training him, there was always the underlying push from the environment to start him. To keep up with the mommies around me, because, in my insecure brain, I felt like I was doing something wrong if I didn't throw him on a toilet and hound him until he was blue in the face. But I didn't. I stuck to my proverbial guns and went with the flow. Consequently, as Dante turned 3 and became more independent, he decided when he wanted to stop going to the bathroom in his pants and he told me when he wanted to use the toilet. It just happened out of the blue. Dante said "I have to go to the potty", we went, and that was that. Despite a few accidents here and there, he did it on his own and now just goes to the bathroom like a champ. No pushing, no coaxing, no begging or pleading. He was ready and he did it.
The next hurdle we've had to face is the school enrollment hurdle. It seems that the new trend is to start your child in school at 6 months old. I'm not even kidding. There are schools here in the area (and I am sure everywhere else) that enroll fetuses. You're pregnant? Great, enroll your embryo into our potty training classes and start taking away their pacifier. I'm not even joking. Isn't it our jobs as parents to teach our children? I mean, I can understand sending your child to school when they are 5 for Kindergarten because that's when their journey begins, but now I am faced with being one of the only mommies with a 3 year old who is not in school. And once again, I am being faced with "keeping up with the Joneses". My insecure brain starts chiming in with "Am I doing something wrong?", "Should I put Dante in school"? , "Is he going to be behind if he doesn't go to pre-pre-pre-K and learn about colors from a stranger instead of his mother?". These are all things that go through my head when I take Dante to the park and he's the oldest kid there and I am confronted by the Momazons asking me why he isn't in school. I usually say that I am teaching him at home and then get the "Oh you're raising a weird home schooled kid that's going to shoot up a school later on in life" look.
I don't want to put Dante in school yet. He's 3 years old for Christmas sake. We do just fine learning on our own. He's socialized, he's intelligent, he's engaging, he's curious and inquisitive. At this rate, I am not even sure if he is even going to go to school around here as we are zoned for some pretty horrible public schools and private school is not an option for so many reasons (namely, they are expensive and they are all religious and there's no way that's going to happen).
But I am constantly nagged by my psyche to "keep up with the Joneses", especially since all of Dante's friends his age are scattered around the area, at various schools during the week, and he hardly sees them anymore. Those are the times that my "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality kicks in the most. "Everyone else is doing it, why aren't we?" "Are we weird?"
And then I realize that, well, we are weird. We're always going to be a bit off kilter. Politically, religiously, the books we like, the movies we like, the clothes we like, and how we are raising Dante. It makes "keeping up with the Joneses" that much more difficult and essentially that much more pointless. I always likened myself to Thoreau's quote, "If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer." I'm going to have to remember that we march to a different orchestra entirely and trust my parenting choices to be good, intelligent, and the best for our awesome kid, and not try so hard to "keep up with the Joneses".
At least this week.