My parenting journey is a long, long way from being complete. But, even though I know I have a lot to learn, I do feel wiser than I used to think I was. Huh? Yeah, I have (finally) learned some things that make my parenting life easier.
One of the most important things that I have realized is that my children keep my worry chest busy enough. I don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about how little Johnny’s parents handle Johnny. And I can cross my fingers that Johnny’s parents won’t have an opinion about my parenting – but that is simply a waste of time. As a parent you will be criticized by other parents. Don’t take it personally. It is just your turn. Someone else will get a turn soon enough.
As a parent, you only have to follow your heart and intuition and do what you believe is right for your kids. Even if it is in direct conflict with what other parents are doing or not doing. Trust your gut.
Along those lines, trust your kids instincts, too. It’s definitely hard when your kids don’t necessarily want to play with the children of your friends. But forcing friendships isn’t any easier. It makes for stressful play dates and stressful mommies. And moms can be friends even when kids aren’t.
Sooner than you can even imagine, your little munchkins will be in school all day and you can connect with your friends over lunch. Steering clear of uncomfortable friendships will be much more important for your kiddos later in life. A little practice at articulating how they feel is a good, good thing – even if it makes us uncomfortable because they might not come across as being “nice”. Allowing them to trust their instincts will help them to follow through on those feelings when you aren’t right there.
Teaching kids to be gracious is extremely important but being nice at their own expense might not be such a great lesson to learn.
Another little tidbit that I personally learned the hard way is that words don’t taste so good going back down. Never (yep, never) say “I would never ……… ” Or even worse, “My child would never…….” Because guess what happens next? I will give you one guess. 😉
Yes, my youngest child has a cell phone and has played the Xbox game Call of Duty (maybe even more than once) – and she has seen almost all of the Harry Potter movies. Are you asking, “isn’t she only 9?” Maybe.
Are you now asking if I swore that Harry Potter was way too dark for my son when he was 9 and that 9 was ridiculously young for any type of personal electronics? Maybe. Possibly. Burp. So sorry, please pardon me.
And seriously, you simply cannot make your child faster, taller, smarter, funnier, prettier, or any other “er”. But the good news is that they are fabulous just as they are. Most children learn to read. Most children talk. Most children walk. When they hit about third grade, it has pretty much leveled out. The rock stars aren’t rocking as hard and the average-to-slow kids are catching up. The early readers are reading, but so are the late bloomers. Pretty much everyone has given up diapers and pacifiers. And hard work begins to matter as much as, if not more than, natural ability. And don’t go bringing up the likes of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. You know what I mean.
And speaking of reading. It is important to read with your children because it is fun to do it. They love the attention you give them when you share a book with them. It does help them learn to read. But it is not so important for you to stress out about teaching them to read. They will learn to read. (If you don’t believe me, reread the paragraph above. Oh yea, that’s me talking too. Sorry. Ask a parent of an older child. Oh, you don’t know about that yet? Please keep reading.)
It’s also extremely helpful for you to have adult friends with older kids. They have a better perspective on what is really important to worry about with smaller children. And they will tell you what is important to know about school and classes and teams and all the stuff you will be dealing with in the next phase of parenting. They will be gentle with you because they have been there but they might laugh a tiny bit – don’t worry, they are not being critical – it’s just that they are remembering when. And their kids can babysit for you. Bonus.
I personally feel (and no, I am not a teacher, doctor, or educator – so this is just my opinion) that the single most important thing you can teach your kids is confidence. If your kids feel safe trying something new no matter how it turns out, they will always be successful. If they are not intimidated by people, places, or activities, they have a tremendous advantage. Tremendous. Children who are smart but are afraid of failure will face more challenges than those children who are “average” but brave and confident. Children need to know that their parents will love them no matter what. And parents, we need to love our children no matter what. Home should be a safe place to fall. And get up and fall. Again. And again. Always. Every time.
When our children are learning to walk, we encourage them to stumble and tumble. We let them go boom on the concrete and bump off of coffee tables. Even when they fall and cry, we say “get back up, you can do it.” We don’t say, “why didn’t you walk better?” We are proud and we smile and we hold out both hands and we hug them tightly. That should never, ever change.
Not too long ago I read a passage that went something like …. intelligence is not measured best when children know what to do, it is measured best by how children respond when they do not know what to do. (Yes, I wish I knew who said it – but I don’t -sorry.)
And when you are proud, tread lightly on the bragging. If you believe you have an exceptional child and you are sharing how fabulous your child is with another parent, please keep in mind that they most likely feel that their child is (at least) equally as exceptional as your little superstar.
Hey, I never said this parenting stuff was easy. It’s all a tricky balance.
I actually had a parent try to convince me that her child was better at the dentist than my child was. I started to defend how well my child handled the dentist when I quickly realized how nuts the conversation was. Seriously? We are competing over who handles the dentist better? Really. I am quite sure there are more important quandaries to tackle.I don’t know like civil unrest in Libya – Tsunamis in Japan – poverty anywhere – the civil unrest in my laundry room. Blah Blah Blah.
Parenting will probably be the hardest thing you ever do. You will bleed love for your kids and, at some point, one of your beloveds will stand at the top of the stairs and scream at the top of their lungs that they hate you. And they will mean it. For a little while at least. But not forever. And you will cry and laugh and love and fear and rejoice more than you ever have before. Put that seatbelt on. It’s going to be a fabulously bumpy ride.