Sunday, June 2, 2013

I would be a much better parent if... weren't for my children.

It is much easier to know how other parents should parent. And it was much easier to imagine how I would parent before I had my children.  Before having children, it was easy to imagine the perfect scenario: This is what I will do, and consequently, this is what they will do. And then I actually had children. As it turns out, you may or may not do what you imagined based on what you and your children are actually capable of doing. You are busier than in your perfect scenario. You are way more tired than in your plan, your kids more active and less compliant than the ones you parented in your head. And consequently, they may or may not do what you imagined either.

There is a LOT of parenting advice out there; books, articles, seminars. I have found that people are very fond of giving unsolicited parenting advice too. But often the advice they give uses their family as a base line, and doesn't leave room for variation. This can make the person receiving the advice feel like they are doing something wrong if their experience doesn't measure up. Or make them feel superior if they think their experience is better. But let me suggest that maybe it's not better...or worse. Just different.

In general, people are all the same. But individually, they are all... well... individual. And individuals are what make up a family. And that makes each family individual as well. There are parents (mom and/or dad) who have different personalities, capabilities, responsibilities, etc. Then there are kids with different personalities, capabilities, activity levels, etc. Consider how the combination of all those different qualities makes each family unique, or... individual.

My brother's daughter was one who would announce that she was tired, go to her bed and sleep. My daughter views going to sleep as just shy of torture. The more tired she is, the more tortured she feels when I tell her it's bedtime and a 'take-no-prisoners' bedtime battle ensues. Both of our daughters go to sleep, but how they get there is a very different experience. So if my brother were to give me advice on bedtime based on his family make up, I would fall short of living up to his experience. He obviously does a better job than me, right? Sure, I could improve my daughter's bedtime experience. But there is nothing I could do to change her into a person who says "I'm tired so I'm going to put myself to bed." instead of one who says "I shall never surrender!"  In this case, it is not the parenting skill that is the difference, but the personality of the child that is.

I'd like to give some unsolicited parenting advice here. My parenting advice is this: Take it all! Listen to all the parenting advice... and then sort it out. Is there anything in that advice that you can apply to improve your parenting?  Use it! Then set aside anything that does not apply to your family and leave it for the family that it does apply to. Don't let it make you feel superior if your parenting surpasses it. You may have more capabilities and/or easier children. On the flip side, do not let it sit on your shoulders as guilt, thinking that your parenting does not measure up. You can only do what you can do. So if you can do better, do it! If you can't do better, then you may already be doing your best parenting. Your kids are blessed to have a parent who is doing their best. Just let parenting advice be what it is. Advice.