Friday, September 18, 2009

It's not easy being a parent - understatement of the year...

I don't, honestly mean for this post to sound whiny.

I love being a parent. I sincerely do.

But it is difficult to be a parent, and even more importantly, difficult to be a conscious and aware parent.

There are other difficult things in life. Joining the military, getting a Masters or PhD, passing the bar, rebuilding a motorcycle, putting a roof on a house.

Yet with each of those things, there's a fairly standard way to do them. Typically, you don't have well-meaning family, friends, strangers telling you "UR doin' it wrong" (in LOLspeak).

There isn't an entire section in a book store entitled "How to go to grad school".

And if there is a section about how to re-build a motorcycle, the advice in those books is not contradictory.

I suppose contradictory parenting advice is nothing new. When my twins were babies, we read some of the sleep books - which were incredibly contradictory. Never wake the baby up, wake the baby up, co-sleep, don't co-sleep, keep your house silent, do everything you normally do (don't turn off your phone, etc.)...

I read this article in the NY times earlier this week, and I'm still thinking about it. Because really, I want to be a good mom (don't most people want to be good parents??). That is one of my goals. I want to be thoughtful and loving - I want to raise a child who will be a good, productive citizen.

And I am willing to change canoes mid-stream - I'm willing to re-evaluate what I was doing and change how I parent. I realize I can't control my children, but I can control my self and learn as much as I can.

I also know that each parent is different, and each child is different. Perhaps that's part of the reason for those contradictory parenting advice books.

I believe children need lots of love, but I also believe they need boundaries. Because the world is full of boundaries, which people use to protect themselves.

And the other two irrefutable truths are 1 - you can't always get what you want and 2 - sometimes you have to do stuff you don't want to do. (What that stuff is that you don't want to do is debatable, and a subject for many additional posts). It's not that I can never give my children things they want, or that I have to always force them to do things they don't want to.

So what's a parent to do? There has to be some way of enforcing boundaries. There are rules, like no hitting, that have reasons behind them. Or requests, like eating one's vegetables. So when one of my children hits the other, or calls the other person "an idiot" (both of which have happened) - as a parent, it is up to me to step in. And usually that involves one person or the other apologizing, and possibly sitting in time out. Or having a favorite toy be put in time out.

Which is why the above article was very difficult for me to read. I hate the idea that my children may feel that I didn't love them unconditionally because I put them in time out.

I don't know what we would do as a family (for consequences) without time out as an option to
enforce boundaries.

We (my children and I) did have a conversation about calling people "idiots" the other day. I asked the person who called their sibling an "idiot" how *they* would feel about being called that name. They admitted that they wouldn't like it.

Sometimes my kids get out of control. They're four. It happens. Sometimes I get out of control. Sometimes I just need a minute to myself to re-collect my thoughts and breathe.

So, I'm going to read the book by the author of the article. I'm going to think about it. In the end, however, I'm still going to set boundaries with my kids, and reasonable expectations.

Not hitting your sibling is a reasonable expectation.


carrie said...

thanks for "chatting" about this with me the other day. i totally agree that parenting decisions are hard and often made even more challenging by the conflicting advice (and so much of it!) by experts of all stripes.

Freckle Face Girl said...

You are so right about it all. I think boundaries are important. I like to read all of the conflicting information and take away the parts that might help me with my kids.