In the beginning, if you have any sense, you’re nervous about bringing that tiny, completely dependent, bundle of snuggles home. Now, you’re a parent. Some folks continue living life as they did before and add this new member as an aside. Others adopt the new role of mom or dad studiously, committed to doing everything right to the best of their ability. I was the latter, especially given that I’d taught parenting and child development classes for a few years.
If you’re the sort that engages in parenting as a verb, looking for best practices, let me relieve you of stress caused by these expectations you’ve set for yourself. You’re going to screw up. One of my friends was born to be a mom, giving birth at home the same day her husband packed up camping and drove her back to their house on the fourth of July because, heavy in her third pregnancy, she’d been having contractions for a couple days. Most of the parents I know, do not move seamlessly into and through parenting like she does.
There will be stress, a lot of difficult situations demanding you make decisions and take action whether you feel like it or not. At 4:45 on a Friday, you try to convince the nurse that you need to get in now to your pediatrician, not urgent care. Your child screaming in the background doesn’t made a dent and neither do your tears. Maybe you’re in front of your house to check on the kids playing because you’re not sure if what you hear is fun, mad, or injury screaming. Your young child comes running toward you, crying, and then his eyes roll back in his head while he collapses to the street. Imagine getting your teenager to a summer math test following his independent study of algebra 2 and trigonometry, only to find the proctor teacher has a couple friends in the testing classroom, one of them with a couple of young children.
Circumstances will push you to quickly evaluate and respond to situations you wouldn’t have chosen and can’t control. You’re not puzzling on just your own interest now; there is another human being completely dependent on your choices. In an ongoing problem, there may be pressure applied by grandparents, peers, and professionals to handle concerns one way or another.
Constructing an intentional framework, before you’re thrown into challenging scenarios, to assist you in making decisions relieves stress because you know you’ve got a plan. Even if you’re required to act in the moment, you’ve already established priorities. The best advice I’ve ever been given about parenting is to choose your child’s best interest if there is a conflict. Whether it’s convenient, easy, or causes friction with family members or friends, you will never regret putting your son or daughter first. This is what parenting means to me.
Other choices may be your focus or you may choose consideration of a few additional issues to complete your decision-making framework. Following identification of my child’s best interest, I was committed to being consistent and considered, rather than reacting with my emotions. It was important to me to follow through with rules and consequences, so if I’d set a reasonable expectation and it wasn’t being met, I wouldn’t give in to pressure to “let it go.” If, on second thought, I’d set an unreasonable or unnecessary restriction, I didn’t hesitate to let my kids know I had reconsidered. There will be another blog, hopefully not too far into the future, about the blessings of being wrong.
With Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June, celebrate family and love. Appreciate the people you love. In my case, it was my mom who gave me my most treasured parenting advice.
p.s. I’ve never managed to readily assign former vs latter. For me, it requires a quick internet reminder. I admire people who let the correct verbage to roll off their tongues in the midst of a conversation or debate. Whatever the reason, my brain is unable to retain the order. Am I alone in this???