Being a parent in 2018 is a little bonkers. (Also, happy new year, apologies for the unintended hiatus, but life, you know?) We are intellectually and emotionally crushed with information. The recommendations change rapidly and sometimes our pediatricians aren’t even up to date on the latest research.
Safety has become paramount and parenting practices that were considered appropriate since the dawn of humans are now unthinkable (and might get you reported to CPS). For every developmental phase your child will go through you have several schools of thought to research before you make a decision, all of which warn that one misstep will ruin sleep, food, reading, sex, pooping, or emotional connection for the rest of their lives. No pressure though.
Top all of this off with those Facebook algorithms targeting parents with every article out there with titles like, “Want to raise resilient kids? Experts say…” or “Parents who raise successful children do these 8 things” or “Want your child to be an independent adult? Pediatrician says it starts at…”.
Besides creating some extreme anxiety for parents who are just trying to make it through the day without losing their shit on their kids, these articles also treat our children like products. As though we’re trying to ship the perfect product and the results of production are entirely within our control.
I’m not trying to say that we shouldn’t think about the kind of adults we want our children to become. Obviously, that’s the main premise of parenting (and keeping them from putting poisonous stuff in their mouths). But the idea that they are some recipe we can whip together with organic, artisan ingredients for the perfect kid soufflé causes us to look past the kids themselves entirely. The distractions and anxieties of “getting it just right” are probably driving us insane. More insane than our parents or their parents ever imagined raising a kid could be.
We all have different priorities as parents. The things that matter most to us based on our own childhood, our lifestyles, and our values. I’m no expert, but I think if we want to stay sane we’ve got to stay focused on the things that really matter to us and then regard all new information as polite suggestions that may or may not fit into our approach.
For me I have 5 things that I think are important to give my daughter.
- Unconditional love
- A love of reading
- As much fresh air and outdoor time as possible
- Humor and curiosity
To me, if I give her these things then she can find her way to the right path on her own. And that’s what matters to me. For you, it might be a totally different list, but I bet you could probably boil all the things you care about down to 5 bullet points.
And if we don’t stay focused on the things that we really think matter we’ll end up going crazy trying to do all the right things now so they can turn out to the be the perfect Ivy League attending (but oh so humble), money-making, volunteering, home buying, adventurous eating, vegetable loving, carpe diem-iest, empathetic adult with perfectly balanced gut bacteria (what?!).
We don’t really make children into the adults they will become. We give them tools, habits, and the best information we have and somewhere between genetics, environment, and our parenting they become something entirely independent of our efforts.
We aren’t creating a dish or shipping a product. We’re raising people and there’s no perfect formula and honestly there’s no ideal result. So maybe we can try to have a little more fun with this? I don’t know, I’ll report back when I get there.