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  Parenting Advice Column
  Subject: Single mom and fiancÚ disagree on parenting issues

Question:

I am a single mother of a two-year-old boy. I have always raised my son in the natural/attachment way. Those were my instincts on how to truly take care of him even before I had ever heard of this style of parenting.

About a year ago, I was engaged to a wonderful man. He loved my son as much as I did. The most wonderful thing was that I could watch my fiancÚ' watching my son, and see the love and pride in his eyes. My son would be as his own. What more could a single mother ask for! My fiancÚ was very gentle and loving and was eager to participate in all aspects of my son's life. He was even more protective of my son than I was! Unfortunately, we did not make it as a couple.

I am now engaged again and am wondering if I will do the right thing. We are very in love and he says he loves my son, but he is so different. We have totally different beliefs in childrearing. He is constantly telling me things like: I'm too protective, when is my son going to sleep in his own room, my son needs to act like a "man" (i.e. be rude, dirty, dangerous, etc.). My fiancÚ was raised by two abusive, alcoholic parents. He thinks that he was raised tough and he turned out okay, so what's so bad about continuing (not meaning abuse, but toughness). We have talked about how important my values concerning my son are, and he said that all couples will disagree because of how they were raised, and that the only way for any couple to make it is to compromise. Compromise??? I don't want to compromise on my son's emotional, physical, and psychological health!!!

Am I being unreasonable? Is it really hard to find men who believe in natural parenting? We are in love, but it kills me to see the not-so-good interaction between my son and my fiance. All I keep thinking about is how wonderful my first fiancÚ was, and how if I found someone like that once, I should try again. My son is the most important thing in the world to me, and his whole health comes before me being in love. What do you think? I desperately need your advice!

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter, and hopefully replying to it! I appreciate all of your advice that I find on this web page!!!

With warmest regards,

Tanya


Jan's Reply:

Hi Tanya,

How difficult it must be for you to feel torn between your feelings for this man and your love for your child. However, I think you have answered your own question here, and perhaps just need a gentle nudge to see it fully: "All I keep thinking about is how wonderful my first fiance was, and how if I found someone like that once, I should try again. My son is the most important thing in the world to me, and his whole health comes before me being in love." If you found someone like your first fiance once, you should try again! Your son is the most important thing in your life! No counselor could have put this any better. I suspect that it is the uncertainty of the situation that is making you hesitate. Perhaps you need to have a bit more faith in life. (Your letter reminds me of the song from the musical South Pacific: "If you never have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?")

You are not being "unreasonable" to raise your son with love and compassion; in fact, there is nothing more reasonable that you could be doing! Your fiancÚ, having been raised by "abusive, alcoholic parents", will, unfortunately, find it very difficult - if not impossible - to understand the value of a kind of parenting that he himself never received. If you would like to understand the dynamics of this type of inner conflict, read Alice Miller's articles and books, especially Breaking Down the Wall of Silence.

Though this may not be at a conscious level, it may simply be too painful for him to explore these issues without therapy (for himself or for the two of you together). If you decide to stay with him, it should be only with this type of commitment on his part; otherwise, you are headed for continued conflict on vital issues. However, I do not have the impression from your letter that he would be willing to make a commitment to personal therapy.

I hope this has been helpful. Give Justin a hug, and give yourself a pat on the back for being such a loving and responsible parent.

Jan

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