A week or so ago, I had the idea to write down how I would ideally like to be as a parent, should I ever become one. Current parents, go ahead and roll your eyes. Now, I get it’s different when you’re in the situation, but I also feel like it’s worth jotting down things I’ve observed over the years and also advice parents of grown children have mentioned. Maybe, just maybe, I could reference them one day as a reminder of my values or I could get a good laugh at my naivety. Parenting doesn’t come with a nicely organized flow chart and guarantees. It seems to be more along the lines of anything you do has the possibility to screw them up for life, which, of course, probably isn’t stress-inducing at all. Calm down, that’s a joke. As I said, I know things are different in the stands than they are in the arena. Parenting and relationships bear a similarity in that.
On the outside, if you were in a relationship, you’d never argue, never get irritated by anything your partner did, never get annoyed by the sound of their breathing, you’d never have to work at it, never have to compromise because you two are a perfect match, and the spark would never ever die. With children, yours would never smear their own poop on the walls, embarrass you in a public restroom, need to be disciplined for the same thing twice, or need to be told to stop more than once. They would never throw a tantrum in the aisle of a store or break into tears when you told them they couldn’t have the goldfish crackers they discovered at the checkout. They would never claim you were the worst parent ever and that they hated you or refuse to eat the food you made for them. You would never have to worry about them getting the urge to run around a restaurant or be that kid on the plane that makes everyone else’s flight miserable. No, your child would play nice, always share, keep their hands to themselves, and say their “please and thank you”s without having to be reminded. They would never challenge your authority or grumble about having to do chores or help out. You would also never run out of patience or hand over your phone for a chance at a little peace and quiet or the opportunity to finish a conversation uninterrupted. You’d make it to every important event, never dream about locking yourself in the bathroom to attempt to escape the chaos and neediness, and you would certainly never look to the drive-thru for a meal.
My purpose of writing it down is to hopefully remind myself during all the uncertainty each day has to offer of what I want my driving forces to be. Currently dating someone who has two children from a previous relationship, these kinds of things are on my brain a bit more than usual. Without further adieu, here it goes:
- Prioritize your relationship with your partner. Children deserve to see happy healthy relationships. If and when you get a date night, don’t only talk about the kids.
- Encourage and support children in their interests and strengths. Remember they’re all individuals. They’re not you, their other parent, or any of their siblings.
- Help them learn to do things for themselves.
- Let them get dirty. Allow them to be inventive, imagine, create, and be gritty.
- Don’t hover or shelter too much. It’s okay for them to experience struggles or adversity.
- Push for at least one extracurricular activity. If they hate it, let them quit on a good day. For more on that, click here.
- Limit screen time. Encourage real life play over virtual play. Don’t choose your phone over them. Lead by example.
- Help them create their own standard and be their own judge. Example with sports: Did you have fun? Do you think you did your best? What do you want to work on to improve? How can I help you? Of course, compliment them when they did something well and show them you’re proud of them and their hard work.
- Keep spending time with family and giving to others at the center of holidays, especially Christmas. Consider following ‘something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read’ for Christmas. Don’t go crazy with presents. They’ll stop playing with them or forget about most of them within a month anyway. Consider doing praises before presents for birthdays. No idea what I’m talking about? Click here.
- Make earning money possible through different chores worth different amounts. Try to teach them they need to work for what they want.
- Always be willing to apologize and admit when you were wrong or acted poorly. It’s okay to ask for forgiveness.
- Remember to be patient and watch what you say. They’re more aware than you think. If needed, refer to #11.
- Work at providing mostly positive reinforcement. If needed, refer to #11.
- Set an example by taking care of yourself and your health. Include the whole family.
- Be as honest as possible with them about your experiences or struggles along the way.
- Don’t be ashamed to cry if you need to.
- It’s okay to be just an okay parent some days. Don’t beat yourself up for it.
My purpose for sharing all of this is I had a few instances over the last few days that made me realize I need to do a better of job of practicing what I preach. My brother was in the middle of telling us about an idea and my parents and I were all locked into a screen. I personally wasn’t looking at anything of importance that was worth ignoring someone for. Looking at your phone or ignoring me for the TV while I’m trying to have a conversation or tell you something is the quickest way to make me feel unimportant and like I don’t matter to you. You would think that would make me more mindful of doing it to others, but it doesn’t.
The following morning, my cat was wanting me to get out of bed, most likely to give her more wet food although she had dry food in a bowl. Instead of getting up, I put her on the floor for her to find her way and I immediately grabbed my phone and started checking it. I realized I was choosing my phone over her. Yes, she did have some food and if I had wanted to go back to sleep, I might not have felt so badly, but I was deciding to be awake scrolling through my phone rather than being awake and tending to her. I put my phone down and got up to give her more food. I figured if I’m willing to choose my phone over family or my 21-year old kitty, what makes me think I wouldn’t do that to a child of mine?
Sometimes we need to check ourselves and realize we’re talking the talk without walking the walk. My goal is to not only acknowledge the times when I’m not acting in accordance with my values, but to actually do something to change it so that I am. If you’re reading this and know me personally, please hold me accountable (even if I’m not happy about it and pout as a result).