Friday, November 15, 2013

Not-so-natural parenting

I never expected parenting to be this hard. And I don't mean the physical vigors - the sleepless nights, the never ending colds that the kids pass on to me, the running-after-the-toddler, the brute strength that's required to move a tantrum-throwing 3-year old from the road to a sidewalk. All that I can deal with. What is hard for me? Let's see, first would be the sheer weight of the responsibility for the well-being of my children. Then add the constant need to change, adjust and improve the parenting skills to try to catch up with growing and changing kids. Finally, throw into the mix the talking/explaining/teaching - I'll clarify what I mean in a minute.

 The hardest part - the responsibility - involves the decisions that I am required to make - and knowing that these decisions are likely to affect my children's future. Choosing a school district (does it have to be the absolute best? or would something slightly less stellar but with more affordable housing be better for our family long-term?); deciding whether or not the kids should take music/dance/art/sports lessons and finding the teacher; deciding whether or not we should make our kids work hard on music/dance/art/sports even when they don't feel like it or just let them quit; choosing daycare (more affordable but not exactly what I want or the Montessori preschool that I love and that will cost my entire monthly income); to continue limiting movies/computer to the point my kids think watching a cartoon or playing a game is an absolute treat or just relax and make it part of their daily routine. Part of the problem is, of course, that I feel ambivalent about some things (not TV... hate that thing!). There are all these choices that I make for my children while they are young, but I know that soon I will need to let them make their own choices. And then, should I - or should I not - let the children make mistakes?

As if all that is not enough to make my head sping, I have to react - fast! - to challenges in an appropriate, scream-free manner. I have to be consistent and follow through on my promises (and threats). I have to be a parent even when I am absolutely exhausted, sick, under stress... when all I want to do is hide under a blanket with a book and yet - there is this responsibility (or burden?) of having to be a GOOD parent, no matter what.

There is another aspect of parenting I find extremely difficult. Kids grow and change FAST. What works today will no longer work tomorrow. Yesterday's crisis is an absolute non-issue today. It seems that only last week we had a terrible time with our younger daughter biting and hitting us. Nothing seemed to help. These days? Well, she still does, occasionally, hit her brother, but other than that - NOTHING! Magically, it seems, the biting/hitting era has ended. It certainly wasn't anything we did. But does it mean things got easier? No!!!!! Because now she uses "bad" words. And I have no clue how to deal with it. Or, rather, I've tried a few things and all of them failed to one extent or another. On one hand, my mantra is "This, too, will pass". On the other hand, I feel absolutely inadequate as a parent.

Parenting just does not come naturally to me. Experience helps, to an extent. I find that each child is so different that what worked with my first-born is of absolutely no help in dealing with my second. In fact, my second child often puts me into a stupor because the challenges that arise with her weren't even part of my vocabulary with #1. I know there are some parents out there who intuitively know how to deal with many things their kids throw at them, who are intuitively good at holding infants, who intuitively know how to talk to kids...  They are just so natural... My maternal intuition must be taking an extended nap.

Parenting is hard. The kids are always changing, you are always hit with something unexpected, you are always put "on the spot" and have to be fast-thinking. How many times have I done something (punished, not punished, etc) and a few hours later it was crystal clear to me - that was the wrong thing to do! Consistency is hard. One day I might be extra-tired or in an extra-bad mood, so I tend to over-react to little things. Other days, I ignore the big things.

I know I don't talk to my kids enough - I am just not much of a talker. I love watching my kids play. I love reading to my kids. I love taking my kids out on hikes, to the library, apple picking. I love simply watching my kids, letting them do their own thing... But talking to kids non-stop, constantly running a commentary on the world around us, delving into lengthy explanations about why something is wrong or right... I just don't know if I can ever be that kind of a parent.  This is the "talking/explaining" dilemma I mentioned earlier. When other parents talk to their one-year old: " look at this pretty yellow flower! Oh, see that boy's shirt? It is orange - so bright and happy", - on one hand it makes me jealous, on the other hand it makes me cringe. Verbally describing every single object around me feels... unnatural. Perhaps, that's why my kids started talking relatively late. This is a big part why I find parenting to be so extraordinary difficult - it involves so much talking! Way more talking than what is comfortable for me. Yeah, I know, parenting is not about parental comforts :) But I do wish I could just toss some books at my kids and they'll learn the values/colors/calculus with minimal verbal input from me.

What do you struggle with the most when it comes to parenting?

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