Friday, March 2, 2012

You're Doing Fine

Parenting is not a job for wimps. Before I had children, I was a strong confident woman that could answer any question. In fact, shortly after my husband and I met, we spent one of our dates sitting around his kitchen table asking each other questions out of The Little Book Of Questions. I answered every question without hesitation. He took more time and sometimes said he just didn't know what he'd do...he was already a father. Things that seem simple and black and white take on new gravity when you become a parent. Add to it, all the advice of experts and you really start to second guess yourself. You may mention that you co-sleep to a dear friend and she'll warn you about the danger of smothering your child. You may say you rather sleep in your own bed and you'll be lectured on the benefits of attachment parenting.

The truth of the matter is that you a doing fine. In fact, the more simply you live your life, the better you are probably doing. Do you let your kids have plenty of opportunities for unstructured play? Great! Do you balance it out with maybe one extra-curricular activity (if they are six or older) during the week? Great! Do you enjoy your kids and feel relaxed when you are around them? Great! Do you read to them...even if they are school-aged? Awesome!
You are doing great!

What if you feel you are not doing great? You may feel that you are not doing enough. The problems begin when you start to worry. Does you infant seem distracted when you put flashcards in front of him? Put the flashcards away and engage him in a game of peek-a-boo. Is your child so over scheduled that he often sleeps in the car or bus while traveling to an activity? Stop the activity. Is your child obsessed with video games? Get rid of them! If you are worried about how your child is measuring up, stop, take a deep breath and read on...

I'm talking here about worry in general. There is a difference between that and a genuine concern in particular. If you have a genuine concern, seek out professional help and educate yourself as fully as possible with whatever it is that concerns you. If you have a general worry that your child "doesn't have an edge," or "he's not on par with his peers," or "he's never going to succeed at this rate," then the problem doesn't lie with your child, it lies with you. If you are cranky and running yourself ragged so your 4 year old can take music and karate, in addition to preschool. Stop!

I'm about to make a radical suggestion. If the above sounds like you, take a one month break! For the period of one month cease all or as many activities as you can. If you are working and your child must go to daycare, then just do that for one month. I'm talking about no t.v., no video games, no extra-curricular activities. Nothing but time with your child. For the first week, you are both going to be a little stir crazy. Your child will want to be entertained. You will feel that this is more difficult than running around. This is the time to establish a rhythm, if you haven't already done so. Be strict about your child's bedtime routine.

Now at the end of the month you may notice some changes in both you and your child. Your child's creativity will flourish. His ability to entertain himself will have increased. You will realize that play dough is not as messy as you imagined. You will learn that cleaning up watercolor spills are easier than running all over town with a tired child in tow. You will both be more relaxed and there will be more laughter and fun in your home. In raising your children always keep in mind this quote from Henry David Thoreau:

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”