Parenting: The Good and The Bad
Now, before you shoot me down to flames for writing this from the perspective of an adult who never had children, know this: I really, really wanted to have kids. My husband and I went broke trying to have them. At last count, we miscarried eight times and tragically never got to welcome any of our children into this world.
With that behind us, we always talked about how we would parent our children. My husband, Mike, came from a large Irish family of six kids with young parents barely out of their teens when the first was born. I was an only child of older, overprotective parents from the U.K. and Asia who never really wanted kids in the first place.
Our upbringings could not have been more different. As with all the large families I know, there’s not time to laser focus your energy on any one child – all you care about is getting through the day with each child intact and alive. Only children –myself included — fare worse to my mind. There’s no one to be a partner in crime with and all the energy is focused on you whether you want it or not.
Growing up in a large family, Mike had the chance to enjoy childhood because of his older siblings. In my case I was a little adult – the one my parents’ friends always said was “so grown up.” And like many kids who want to grow up too fast, it seemed cool. But looking back on it, it really wasn’t.
So, here’s what we have learned about parenting from our vastly different upbringings and our Olympian training to be parents – the good, the bad and the ugly.
1. You can only protect your kids so much. If your son is meant to stick a fork in a light socket when you’re not watching, it will be the fastest lesson of “STOP THAT” he will likely ever learn. As an example, I had a boss once whose life was seemingly carefree and certainly charmed. Apparently his entire family never told him when family members or friends died. At 55, my boss’ father died suddenly. He had a nervous breakdown and never came back to work.
2. Kids need to make their own mistakes to learn from them. You can warn them all you want but the experience is crucial so that they’ll learn. Otherwise it’s all just a fairy tale, something that “can’t happen to me,” and it will leave your child unprepared. To paraphrase the words of George Carlin, “The kids who eats the most marbles is not meant to procreate.”
3. Allow your kids to have a pet or two. It’s important that they understand life and death, even as children. Pets are amazing, healing beings and keeping your kids from experiencing that joy-and sorrow-is selfish.
4. Don’t be Mama Rose. If you failed at musical theater-or baseball, chess club or band-don’t try to relive those hopes through your kids. My mom always wanted to be a dancer. I had 36C boobs and a curvy bottom. It wasn’t going to happen. Ever. She spent thousands on ballet and tap lessons and I hated every minute of it.
5. Listen. They’ll tell you true every time so don’t underestimate them. You might actually learn a thing or two. The best way to shut down a child is to tell him “you’re too young” so don’t ever say that. These tiny humans are wiser than many people give them credit for; and if they’re shut up like this, they may never recover. Think of all that creativity just quashed, potentially forever. Don’t be that parent.
There’s no such thing as the perfect parent. All you can do is try your best. Remember what your parents did that you liked-and that you didn’t like-and adjust accordingly. Your kids will thank you for it.