Friday, November 13, 2009

"I imagine parenting is fairly intuitive."

This was told to me by someone who is not a parent.

I guess the statement itself would make that obvious. All I could do was stare at the person. Really? Intuitive? That would not be the first word that comes to mind when I think about parenting.

Your child has just rammed the shopping cart into a complete stranger. You put him in the shopping cart and he promptly flings out a package of tortillas, which hits another stranger in the head. What does your intuition tell you to do?

Your baby has not stopped crying for three days. You've been to the pediatrician, and everything is "fine." The crying has made it so you haven't slept for three days. What do you do?

You go running upstairs in response to a loud crash to find a dresser has been toppled over and the culprit has locked himself in the bathroom before he can be interrogated. 15 minutes later you run downstairs in response to another crash, to find another child climbing up a bookshelf and the globe in pieces below him. What are your instincts in this case?

(All of these represent true, first hand accounts of parenting. Ask me how I know.)

I feel like most of parenting has been about overcoming my instincts. I want to scream, yell, spank somebody, or just turn them into the customer service desk and say that someone really needs to keep an eye on this child. I've done more than my fair share of screaming. There have been occasional spankings. As of yet, no one has been left at a store. Maybe I'm a bad parent, but nothing about parenting has been very intuitive for me.

Well, other than thinking that my kids are cuter than everyone else's kids. Even with above mentioned stories.

I've run into people that have very well-defined parenting styles. I don't think I've been doing this job long enough to have good sense of exactly what it is I'm doing. For one thing, I knew that I was never, ever going to raise picky eaters. Because picky eaters are one of my pet peeves. And wouldn't you know it. Bug is the pickiest eater ever. He does not eat food that is red. Or things that he hasn't already had. Or things with milk. Which leaves us at French fries and....yeah.

As someone who has only been doing this for 7 years, I'm still a novice.

I listen to other people. Half the time, I feel desperate for advice. I'm still waiting for someone to tell me to please control my children, just so I can ask them earnestly, "I would love to. Please tell me how!"

Parenting styles come in more varieties than there are parents. There is no right answer. Finding a system that works is a delicate balance of multiple personalities, schedules, and plain old trial and error. There are some things that are definitely wrong. And there are things that almost always work.

One person once shared their parenting style with me. "I don't raise children. I raise adults. Just like you don't raise puppies, you raise dogs. You don't raise chicks, you raise chickens."

At first I liked this. That my parenting should be focused on instilling in my children the skills that would be most beneficial to them as adults.

But my children are not dogs or chickens. They are children. They have value in what they are right now.

I hope that I do prepare them to be amazing adults.

But I am also going to allow them to be children, and I'm going to enjoy every moment of that time I can.

Maybe it is all more intuitive than I thought.


Karen said...

Despite not being a parent, I find that I'm pretty good with children. Maybe it's because I've been around them since I was one. Maybe it's because I spent most of my teen years and up to now as the Number 1 Babysitter for many of the families with whom I attended church. I don't know.

Even though I'm good with kids, it frequently happens that I'll have a child in my arms that just needs something and I'm at a loss. And Mom always seems to know exactly what it is. Even after I've tried everything.

I don't think parenting is all intuition, but that definitely fills in the gaps where knowledge can't reach.

Bonnie said...

Parenting works because it is usually the parent who sees the child as he was, as he is, as he will be and what he can be. Over arching all that is a sense that in him is the seed of the explorer, the musician, the scientist, the reformer, the king of our age. It is the sense of possibility and the unknown which dares us not just to dream, but create, encourage and breathe life into all his possibilities. I'm not sure this can be called intuitive, it certainly isn't know how or even experience, maybe visionary--but it is that thing that gives us the great people of all ages and each of us gets a chance to set burning a flame that others will carry into the future where we will live only in the greatness of those who know how to carry the lamp. The heart teaches us things that our heads never reason and it is always the safest place for a child. Oh, and you are good at it, Katherine