I try to avoid reading too many books on how to parent, because there aren’t any answers, solutions or magical tools. Parenting is hard and every child is different. Are any of us truly qualified to raise human beings? It’s a scary, wild, crazy adventure. Not that I don’t appreciate little tips on how to better communicate, how to use more positive language and alternatives to the word “No!”, but I try to understand the psychology behind behavior rather than implement a cookie-cutter discipline plan.
We have just entered the early toddler world of “No!” and “Mine”. It’s frustrating to see your easy, breezy babies turn into testy, independent, firecrackers. We want them to be rational and behave like adults, while knowing that this is a silly, unreasonable expectation. I recently read a statistic that 18-month olds are only capable of listening to/obeying 50% of the directions given them. This is the expectation and that’s the trick really, setting reasonable expectations. Understanding what they are reasonably capable of can turn a “bad day” into a learning experience for everyone — your lovely little monsters have suddenly become angels. It’s all about perspective.
This world is full of judgement. I’m no saint. My friends constantly joke that I’m silently judging them — it’s a grammar thing — but I truly believe that every child is different, every parent is different, every family is different. There are no rules, no schedules, no secret ingredients that are universal. We all think we’re doing it the right way and our brilliance in figuring it out should be mimicked by all! The truth is that we’re all just figuring it out as we go along and what’s best for you and your family is based on a rhythm unique to your family.
I like to joke about my #ParentingFails, like the time I let Kayleigh chew on a hot pink penis straw — a remnant from a weekend bachelor party that I found in my purse — because she was having a teething-induced meltdown and I had Nothing. Else. But calling it a parenting fail is really just a self-deprecators version of a high five. Parenting is all about problem-solving. Do I wish I’d thrown a teething toy in my purse that morning? Sure. But, I still managed to avoid having a screaming baby in the middle of the craft wood section of Lowe’s. We can’t be perfect all the time. No one expects that. We just do the best we can with what we have.
Before I had kids, I talked a big game. They will never watch TV. They will never own a plastic toy. I will make homemade baby food for every meal. I will never threaten or bargain. They’ll have a green veggie with every meal. They will only eat cookies and candy at grandmas house. The list went on and on. Being a parent is different than thinking about being a parent.
Parenting is a masterful balancing act. As the adult in the relationship, it’s our job to be calm, to be rational, to be patient, to be pragmatic, to be understanding, to be compassionate, to be empathetic. It’s also our job to be goofy, to play, to laugh, to run, to dance, to sing out loud, to tickle, to chase, to hide, to seek. Parenting is about having a sense of humor, accepting that you don’t know everything, having great successes and floundering miserably. Parenting is setting reasonable boundaries, constantly adjusting, expecting your children to behave, calmly correcting them when they don’t, supporting them through achievements, and holding them close when they fail.
I want my children to know this: You are strong. You are smart. You are brave. You are beautiful. Be confident. You can do anything. But, in order to truly make them believe this, I too must be all those things. NO ONE is perfect. Parenting is hard, hard work and sometimes you just need to stop taking yourself so seriously and let yourself off the hook. So, I try to have a sense of humor. I let them run and jump and yell. I let them pull every pot and pan from the kitchen cabinets and make wildly unthinkable messes. I watch them go headfirst down the slide. I joke about those #ParentingFails while they watch TV, standing on their rocking chair so close to the TV that they will most certainly go cross-eyed. I forgive myself for acting on impulse, because I know it hurts me worse than them. I let them eat cookies, sometimes for breakfast. I pick my battles. And sometimes — sometimes — I let them win.