I thought I would be better at this parenting thing. It’s not that it is harder than I thought. I’m not naive; I knew it would be hard! The issue is I thought I’d be better at dealing with the difficulties.
I’m a highly educated woman. I can read and google. I thought that anything that came up, I could research or ask around and figure it out.
Also, I had a lot of experience with kids. Babysitting in high school and college. My undergrad degree was child development. I had two nephews and four nieces. I was even a nanny one summer. I had been around a lot of small humans.
Ahh, but that was care giving. That was the what and how to keep children alive. The rub is the why. It’s all the decisions that you’re making consciously or unconsciously.
Not long ago, I made that introductory statement, I thought I would be better at parenting, to a friend. She’s recently rejoined the workforce and her kids are not adjusting to the new schedule as well as hoped. As she told me what was going on, I sat there nibbling on my gyro, nodding, listening, thinking, “I got nothing for her” in terms of advice. Nothing other than, yeah, why aren’t we better at this?
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
The rules keep changing.
My outgoing son who had been in preschool for 3 years and never flinched about leaving me had to be physically drug out of my car every morning for the first month of Kindergarten. Why? Every day at pick-up, he was happy and reported having a great day. His teacher was amazing, and we keep in touch with her to this day. Nonetheless, he went through these fits for what felt like forever when he started kindergarten.
On the other hand, my daughter who quit a music lesson last year simply because she was terrified to be on a promotional video, signed up to be a news anchor at her school this year. I was flabbergasted, asking if she understood that that included being video tapped? She didn’t appreciate the sarcasm.
My point is, every time I think I have something about how this is all supposed to play out, these little turds change the rules on me!
Parenting is a freaking moving target! And now, my little targets are starting to have hormones, you know, the bad teenagery ones. The ones that made my daughter storm off to her room last night and when I went to talk to her about it, made her declare, it’s no big deal.
Ones that make my son impossible to get out of bed in the morning. I resorted to finding the Army bugle call on loop and playing it until he got out of bed recently. He still made us late getting out the door though, by deciding to change shoes at the last minute.
The rules change by child. The rules change by age. The rules change by the phases of the moon. I don’t know why some of the rules change. I just know I keep looking for rules, and I’m getting dizzy!
On a lot of issues, there’s information on both sides.
Trying to research to find an answer is not at all helpful. There’s information on both sides of every parental decision coin. Unless, you are asking should I abuse my child or not, there’s rarely any shortage of information supporting something.
The care giving you can learn and figure out. It’s the parenting that’s hard. In care giving, I learned you promptly change a poopy diaper or the baby gets a rash, but how many extracurricular activities are too many or not enough. There’s no answer for that. It “depends on the child!” That’s the only answer, and what kind of an answer is that? I already said my kids like to change the rules on me!
There’s a terrible shortage of down time in this parenting game.
Workdays and weeks come to ends, but not parenting. Oh, sure they go to sleep, but you never know when they’re going to have a nightmare or a sudden fever.
It’s all so exhausting physically and mentally, and I want to do it so well, and that just makes it feel harder.
I found this study in The Economist, which says parents spend twice as much time with their kids these days than 50 years ago. I would analyse what that means for us, but I’m exhausted. I’ll just say, I’m trying to let those stats relieve some Mommy guilt.
Too many decisions.
Personally, I’ve decided it all boils down to this one. Parenting, as opposed to care giving, just involves an inordinate amount of decision making.
Moreover, we’ve made it harder for ourselves. 100 years ago whether or not you co-slept depended on whether or not you could afford a separate bedroom or whether you all needed to sleep together in the winter for warmth.
Now, we have so many gadgets to hold an infant, people have a couple in every room in the house. We have all these gadgets and now you must decide which ones are good, and hold long the baby can be in the damn thing, and can I put the thing on the counter without the baby falling off (no, the answer’s no, ding dong!).
Once you decide you want a gadget, then which brand? No wonder Ma and Pa Ingalls were so perfect, they never had to decide between a Bumbo or a bouncy seat or how much screen time a 10 year old should have!
We’re spending half our mental energy making decisions about what things to use, what events to go to, how much stimulation should the child get. It makes an already exhausting job harder.
I’ve heard that Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day because he had so many decisions to make that he wanted to cut out the “what to wear” decision. I want to figure out what the “Steve Jobs turtleneck” of parenting is. How can I streamline all these decisions that I have to make? And look, I’ve already quit deciding what to wear, it’s a tank top and leggings or shorts. But that’s a personal decision I’ve cut out. I want one less parenting decision!
Perhaps, the answer is the adage of “don’t sweat the small stuff,” but I can’t decide.