Saturday, June 11, 2005

A message to new parents

Sometimes at night when you lay your kids down to sleep there is nothing better than being a parent.

Sometimes, the only thing harder than being a parent is tolerating the advice people give you.

With three kids in our family, in that regard we have some advantage (finally). The disadvantage of having three kids is about what you would expect, mainly logistics. The advantage is that while it is possible that you are an awful parent to one kid and a great parent to the others, most likely you can tell by the average that you are probably at least doing a reasonable job.

So many parents with an only child get so worried that they will make the wrong decision and ruin their child's life forever. With three, you soon realize that you have to make a lot of decisions and that all options come with their own consequences.

When you have a few kids (or when I was a teacher with 180) you quickly learn that a little discipline is not going to irreparably harm anyone's self esteem. Most of the things new parents obsess about will probably be fairly meaningless in the long haul.

Sure, breasfeed your kids as long as you can (if you can at all). The benefits are real. Don't hit your kids, even in a very stylized way on their buttocks. The consequences are real too. As much as your can, keep your kids from junk food and junk TV. The consequences are pretty well known now too.

But mostly, find out what works for you and yours. Don't just do what everyone else does, and ignore most of the advice you get from people. You don't have to accept it (and mostly shouldn't) but you will act just like your parents did when you are under stress. If you must, make automatic routines for yourself that are second nature to rely on. As silly as the time out may seem, it is a good start if your first instinct is to spank or slap a child who is really being horrible. (not my sweet child!) (just for the record, my parents didn't so I don't have that baggage to deal with)

You will not be a perfect parent, and for the most part that is just fine. Don't be afraid to get help, and find other parents to talk to.

Kids will eventually eat. Sometimes babies will just cry. Most teens will pout for extended periods of time no matter what you do. Your daily routines will matter more than the right summer camp or preschool. Two of the only memories I have of my father are the way he we went to bed when we were little and reading the paper on Sundays. I also remember him driving his work truck home at dinner time.

I'm not telling anyone this from some pinnacle of parental bliss. I've got one that got sent home from school in trouble this week. I've got one who behaves a lot better for teachers and sitters than she does for me. And I've got one that everyone thinks is just darling, but he's the baby. They are all pretty great kids. But they get in trouble and make me hopping mad and lose my tools and papers and all the other things you might expect. So I guess for all that we seem like vegan hippies and left wing lunatics, we're a pretty normal family too.


At 8:44 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Nicely articulated. My two kids are the center of my life, and I'm thankful every day that I get to be their dad. I'm also always aware of what an awesome responsibility it is - and at the same time how little influence what I SAY has on them in the long run. As I've heard it said before, "it's more the music you play than the words to the songs" - by living our lives as examples of healthy and loving people, then perhaps they will learn these lessons over time. This gives me peace and hope (most of the time).


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