Be Real: Cutting Through the Noise of Parenting Advice
I think we all go through phases in our lives. Maybe there was a phase where you partied too much and had lots of friends. Then maybe you had a phase where you felt alone and lost. These phases come and go. Often, you don’t realize that it is a phase until it is over and you look back and realize that you don’t want to go back to that phase. Or, maybe you do.
As a parent, I’ve been thinking about phases of our lives lately.
You have the baby phase, where you enjoy simple things – eating, giggling, maybe rolling over, tummy tickles.
Then you learn to walk and the whole world opens up to you – the toddler and young child phase.
Later, you learn to ride a bike or run long distances and the world opens up even more – the school-age phase.
And then, there’s learning to drive a car, your first kiss, heading off to college, and of course, those college years – the teen/young adult years.
Finally, you enter the ‘real world.’ You get your first job, maybe your first apartment, and you learn that bills come every month. You maybe settle down … or not.
Depending on your goals and dreams in life, you might have kids and then you are in it – the parenting years. These are the hardest years of your life. Not only are you responsible for yourself, perhaps a partner or spouse, and a home or pets, but you are also somehow supposed to be responsible for small humans. How can this be? How do you keep them alive and happy? How do you keep yourself happy and living a healthy life? How do you … (fill in with any of your concerns).
The Experts Aren’t Experts on Your Family
I’m an article reader. My husband will roll his eyes, shake his head, and say to me, ‘So, I guess you read another article.’
I can’t help it. I am naturally a researcher. I like to read a broad variety of articles, although since becoming a parent, my reading list is extremely skewed to parenting, self-care, self-help topics! And, since my dad passed, I am now obsessed with learning how to build things. He was a skilled carpenter and handyman and with no one to fill that role now, I’ve decided I need to learn!
There are so many books out there. Each author has their own take on parenting issues. Have a child who won’t eat anything except buttered noodles – there’s a slew of advice books for that! Have a child who seems scared of everything – another slew of books!
So, how do you cut through all the noise and focus on the advice and the books that are best for your family and your kids. My husband would tell me to just put all the books down and figure it out as I go … he obviously is not a Type A personality.
I must know the answers to all the questions! I must find a solution. If this new process or checklist didn’t work, there must be another one that does.
Deep breaths, girl.
The thing about parenting is that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. If there were, then there would be ONE parenting book and everyone would just read that book. It is a blend – learning from books and articles and also learning from experience.
As my kids enter the school-age phase (gasp!), I am realizing more and more that what they need from me is just time and attention. By talking to them and sharing my questions and concerns with them, we can work out some possible solutions.
Their solutions usually involve more alone time for my son and, of course, my daughter just wants more together time with everyone … and of course, more stickers and glitter.
But, we must work together to find that balance. We must all learn our own strengths. Alex is great at constructing with Legos. Jane is great at arts and crafts. We can’t expect what’s good for one kid to be good for another kid.
And, my Type A self, must learn that while my strength might lie in researching, at some point I have to just go with the flow and let us as a family figure it out on our own.
I’ve started setting some intentions for how I want our family to live. And, one of them is to focus on the happiness. Instead of pushing to the next thing and the next thing, I am trying to focus on the moments of happiness and watching their faces as they figure things out on their own.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, we went to a carnival on the eastern shore of Virginia where my mom lives. It was hot. SO HOT. There were rides that the kids had fun doing. Jane actually went on one of the big kid rides with her brother and he told her how proud he was of her for being brave. A great mom moment.
In the evening, a thunderstorm rolled through and they closed the carnival. It was pouring. We were huddled under a small roof at the booth my mom was working in.
I look at the kids and said, ‘what do you think we should do?’
Alex, my son, reaches into his pocket, pulls out a mini flashlight and says, ‘we should make a break for it and run home.’
Jane says, ‘yes!’
And, so we did. Led by my children and Alex’s flashlight, we ran through town in the rain. They were happy and giggling and telling Thor (God of Thunder) to calm down already. All the fun of the Fourth culminated in this perfect moment with my kids, running through the rain.
That’s what I want more of – more of that simple, fun, quality family time – the real stuff that doesn’t come from parenting books.