This is my last blog entry for Fredericksburg Parent. I’ve been dragging my feet writing it because I don’t know what to say (a rare condition for me.) I’ve decided to share two important bits of advice regarding parenting.
1. You must engage.
2. You must not engage.
Easy to remember, right?
Alright, I’ll explain.
Sweet Pea, just hours old.
You can educate your child in whatever fashion you choose, but success or failure hinges largely on your level of involvement. If you send your child to the best school in the area, but don’t talk with your child, don’t know his friends or his friends’ parents, don’t know what is happening in school, and only stop by for mandatory conferences, chances are pretty good your child isn’t going to get the education you are hoping for. If you buy great curriculum, set out the books, hand the children assignments and then head off to your TV, laptop, phone, game or book, your child isn’t really going to get much out of homeschooling,
You need to know what is going on in your children’s lives and in their heads. You have to talk with them (not just at them, as we parents often do.) You need to listen, hear their hearts and share yours. They need to know what’s important to you and why. You need to understand the things that are important to them. Unfortunately, such information isn’t often gleaned from carefully scheduled and crafted conversations. The most important and enlightening information tends to come through impromptu chats that seem unimportant.
A beautiful smile at three weeks old.
Being in touch with your children takes time and we all know we don’t have time. We know because we read on Facebook about this universal lack of time and hear about it on the radio as we drive our kids to practice every day of the week. Yet, if we don’t spend time engaged in our children’s lives now, we will find ourselves with plenty of time for regret later. I know I’m sounding all Cats in the Cradle right now, but Cat Stevens didn’t touch on the half of it. It’s not just that if we don’t spend time with our children now, they won’t want to spend time with us later. The full truth is, if we don’t spend time with them now, they won’t be people anyone wants to spend time with later.
You must engage. Find time to chat with your children, even if it means quitting an activity. Put down the devices when you are with them and interact. Turn off the TV and look at your children. Play a game together, go for a walk, open your mouth to share ideas, and open your ears to hear theirs. Engagement is not a luxury that a few good or lucky parents have, it is an essential that you must cultivate.
First camping trip at 2.5 months.
My second bit of advice is you must not engage. I’m talking about the mommy wars. The mommy wars are characterized, in polite society, by women one-upping each other as they compare the age at which their brilliant progeny smiled, cooed, crawled, walked, and blew their own noses. In less polite society, such as the internet, we see overt and often vulgar public attacks on mothers based on how they birth, feed, clothe, educate, and otherwise rear their children.
I’ve managed to avoid the open battles of the mommy wars. I’m as proud of my darling children as the next gal, but I’m not terribly competitive. I also know I forfeit my Mom of the Year nomination on a regular basis.
I’m not as good at avoiding the polite skirmishes. Those are subtle. I compliment a mother on her daughter’s beautiful hair and five minutes later I realize I’ve been sucked into a train of one-upmanship tales. Why?
Watching siblings play at 4 months.
It’s simple. Motherhood is the scariest, hardest, dirtiest job on the planet. Each of us is winging it on the job, making things up as we go along. The standards for success are only vaguely defined and seemingly unachievable. Furthermore, each of us is running on a different track with a unique set of obstacles, hills, valleys, and challenges. We desperately want to believe that we are doing the best job we can and if we are not succeeding it is because of factors that are out of our control.
The problem is these wars tear us up and our children are the innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. It’s got to stop and there is only one way it will stop. You must not engage.
Heading out to walk with mom at 6 months.
Do not make public comments about how certain parenting choices are stupid. If you must vent about how someone else is raising their children, do so in private. If you find yourself in the middle of a skirmish, the best thing you can do is tell the other mother she is doing a wonderful job and that you admire her choices. At least you will disarm the other mother and you might just help her have a better day. If each of us chooses to carefully not engage in the battles, the mommy wars will eventually die off.
First Christmas at 8 months.
You must engage – with your children.
You must not engage – in the mommy wars.
Try not to get those two confused.
Where am I going? I am now a birth and postpartum student doula. I’m excited to begin walking with women as they become moms. If you want to hear more about that, I'll soon be posting bits on my doula journey and general pregnancy and motherhood stuff on the King George Birth Circle page. I’m still going to be homeschooling my children while managing the needs of two trouble making dogs and one elderly father-in-law. It’s going to be a lot to handle and so, I’m taking my own advice. In order to stay engaged with my children, I’m streamlining my life as much as possible. I’ve kicked myself off Facebook, dropped unnecessary activities, and stepped out of many commitments. I’ll still be around, so if you see a big white van full of redheads bopping along to the oldies, that’s my boisterous bunch enjoying “music appreciation class.” Please, pardon our noise.
Finally enjoying her baths at 11 months!
Our seventh blessing kept us on our toes, but Hubby and I have survived her first year. Whew.
Happy Birthday Sweet Pea!