Parenting in the First World

I read THIS the other day and it has stuck with me. I hate whining as much as the next parent, but as I am ushering my kids through stages I haven't been through yet it seems I have been focusing a little too much on the little things when all along perhaps some of them are just more first world problems.

Both of my kids are going through changes that are developmentally appropriate but awkward nonetheless. I can't help but thinking about the women I often saw long ago on a trip to Cameroon, Africa who toted babies on their hips in the hot blazing sun while their other children ran so far ahead or behind that mom paid little mind whatsoever to what they were doing. Mom walks forward along the dusty dirty road to the next village, hoping for a bit of water and something to eat. There is no TIME to study the awkward phases their children are going through- the child him or herself probably doesn't even wonder too much about it because they are being part of the solution, helping mom find water or looking after the little siblings.

I keep thinking about how those of us in the first world "attack" parenting, much like my own family just attacked a summer break we had- trying to cram as much fun it with a to-do list a mile long, go-go-go. We get books to read about child rearing, mommy/parenting blogs galore, not to mention Pinterest for any number of child rearing solutions, and the more you read, the more confused you can get. It's as if you could micro-manage your child's entire life thereby exerting total control over the people your kids will become. And then there are those who simply need a place to sleep and some food.

In trying to shepherd my kids through these phases, the one thing that I keep obsessing over is "Who are you?"  I don't mean to say I don't know who my kids are. I mean to say that my kids need to discover who they really are, to embrace their essential characteristics and build on them.  As a former teacher, it felt hard to guide a kid to that sweet spot, a place where a kid felt sure of him or herself yet just fearless enough to push out of that comfort zone. At the time, I told parents real growth occurs when that confidence propels you out of this zone. It didn't guarantee success, but it did guarantee growth.  This is all big stuff and yeah for me for wanting to help my kid through this, but what third world parent worries about this?

Maybe I am too glib. I think I could be hard-pressed to find any parent who doesn't worry about their kid no matter what their situation is. 

But I like that the article brought me down from my worries-our first world problems seem at times to be inventions, things we look for and obsess about, when really, if we stick to the basics, respecting oneself and others and being willing to work hard, much of the other stuff just really becomes....stuff.

Thanks for this talk. I feel better already.

Yin to yang

We have a summer vacation hangover. Is there such a thing? We crammed what felt like two summers of activities into two and half weeks.  On the eve of his first week in a new job, we decided to set the alarm for the first time in a very long time. We haven't been sleeping in, exactly, but the go, go, go had finally caught up with us. I also thought out loud about starting the day with a walk, maybe we could make a special breakfast, do this, do that, blah blah blah. All of this was met with silence until Big Man finally said, "Why don't we just get up?"

And there it is folks....the yin and yang in action, except in this moment, he was the bubble-burster, the rain on my parade, the REALIST. A blatant switcheroo in roles already firmly established.

"I think I will make a zip-line!  Would you like a hot tub? All we need is a cattle tank!  I'd like to be a bee keeper! If we get enough bees, I can claim it as a working farm for some tax write-offs!  I think we can add eight more fruit trees and two more beds of perennials so there will be less grass to mow. Guinea fowl are low maintenance, plus they eat bugs. They can wander in the garden...whadya think? Maybe the neighbors could check in on them! I'm just gonna haul this wood from here to there and see if I can't build a...."

Frequently, these musings are met with a raised brow (mine), a skeptical tilt of the head (again, mine) and are peppered with questions (from me) about the realities (general safety, cost, and longevity of said project) and yet, the list goes on for the plans Big Man has. We have no fewer than six books devoted to FUN projects for dads who want to do-it-themselves thereby clearly extolling what a FUN a dad he is. I, on the other hand, feel like this fact has already been firmly established. 

Hey Big Man! You CAN do it yourself! YOU already have! Some things have been more successful (cider press) than others (zip line), but YOU are fun PERSONIFIED! No one is more fun than YOU!

Me? I just wanted to take a walk and get a fresh start to our day with a healthy breakfast and some quality time together.

Another difference, and I am not sure whether this is gender or person specific, is that I will admit the error of my ways. In print, I will declare that he was right and I was wrong.  The alarm went off, he got up,  and I followed .....thirty minutes later. I DID wake up in time to say good-bye.

Oh well.

I walked alone and sipped coffee alone as he cruised off to a new place, no doubt conjuring up his next adventure. I am sure I will have something to say about whatever it may be. I am sure whatever I say will be encouraging, supportive, and will carry the feeling of the wet blanket I am oh so comfortable wearing.