18 July 2013

Learning to Parent, One Day at a Time

I have two kids and have been at this parenting thing for nearly six years. And I still have no idea what I'm doing. When I was pregnant with Benny, I had all sorts of expectations of myself: breastfeed for at least a year, use cloth diapers exclusively, feed him only organic homemade food, engage him with age-appropriate activities, write a dissertation, run a marathon....

The reality of having a baby, however, hit almost immediately. The adjustment period was long (and still ongoing) and a tough dose of reality. I only breastfed for three months. I mostly cloth diapered, but used a healthy dose of disposables. I relaxed on food a bit. Benny was nearly two when I finally finished my dissertation. And I haven't run a marathon since he was conceived (but I have run a handful of half-marathons).

The problem with expectations is that when they aren't achieved, it can be disappointing.

My experience with parenting a second child is that there aren't as many expectations. I have goals, but I'm not too hard on myself if I can't achieve them. This has impacted how I parent my first-born child as well.

With Benny, I worried about everything. I worried about when he was walking and when he was talking and how he was socializing. I worried about it so much that it made me nervous and apologetic about things that were completely normal. I wish I had read this a long time ago. With Lila, I've taken a more CTFD approach to parenting. And it's made the whole process more enjoyable - for all of us.

I believe that kids should be kids. They should learn to play by themselves and given the chance to play with each other without intervention (not always the easiest thing). They should be praised, but also disciplined. They should be given opportunities to learn new skills, but they shouldn't be pushed to be the best at something. Above success, I want my kids to be happy. I want them to choose their path, with appropriate guidance from their parents.

I want my kids to have empathy. I want them to play musical instruments. I want them to be healthy and enjoy good food and learn the value (beyond appearance) of exercise (like contemplation and peace). I could care less if they play competitive sports. I would like them to experience and enjoy performance as a productive outlet and important lifelong skill.

In the end, I want them to have healthy self-esteems and good friends. I want them to have a good life. And I think I can give them that without stressing about what school they go to and what extra-activities they are involved in. But I'm going to have to do it one day at a time because I'm learning all of these things as I go.