Monday, February 6, 2012

vous etes un bon parent

i've been to france.  twice actually.  
i've heard all the stereotypes about the french being snooty american-haters.  i didn't find that to be true.  
i don't speak a word of french {i looked up the translation for this blog title on-line...there's no telling if it says what i meant for it to say!}  during my trips i walked around paris with a gigantic backpack on my back as i checked in and out of hostels...  

i was clearly american.  

no one appeared to behave in a prejudiced manner towards me.  i don't remember getting any intolerant glares or tight-lipped looks of aggravation. {but maybe i missed them because i was too busy gawking at the sights along the seine or sticking my nose in my 'let's go: europe' book planning my next move.}

over the weekend i read an article from the wall street journal entitled why french parents are superior.  the description of this article read - 
secrets for avoiding tantrums, teaching patience and saying 'non' with authority
...so of course i read on!  for heaven's sake...why would someone keep such knowledge a secret?!

before i get to the part where i tell you what i took away from this piece let me ask a question.  please tell me that i am not the only one who finds myself reading parenting books and articles 'on the defense'.  {ok...that was more of a pleading than a question...but are you with me on this?}  seriously...i find myself throwing on some chain-mail, pulling down the faceplate of my supermommy helmet, and securing my hand on the plastic golf club weapon on my hip at the first mention of something that seems personally convicting to me.  if you say something that makes me feel like i am doing something wrong as a parent you better duck and cover cause that weapon will be drawn.

having said all that, the fact remains...i am a knowledge hoard.  i love to learn new things, gain different insights, challenge my thinking.  i have just learned to limit myself on such things when it comes to parenting.  not because i don't want to be a better parent but because i've learned that there are a gazillion different approaches to parenting and if i read all of them 1 of 2 things happens...
(1)  my head starts spinning and i feel completely and utterly confused which translates over to multiple-personality-parenting because i start trying all kinds of new stuff out.  chaos for my poor kids.
OR
(2)  my heart sinks into discouragement and failure.  my mind goes wild with all the ways that i am potentially screwing up my kids for the rest of their lives.  this translates over to guilt and fear and hopelessness. again - chaos for my poor kids.
so...in an effort to keep the chaos to a minimum for my poor kids...i limit my reading on parenting.

but this article intrigued me. 
{and it was relatively short so i could read it while i was sitting on the side of the bathtub waiting for some little unnamed person in my household to 'take care of business' on the potty}

in the end i didn't feel as yucky as i thought i might.  

the main points {that i gleaned} from the article were...
1 :: teach your children the concepts of patience and delayed gratification.  in other words - not giving into the 'i want this right here and right now' rantings.  good one...i like it.  this is actually a value for me as a parent...that my kids wouldn't become whiny little brats who expect others to drop everything for them.  do i always stand firm on this?  no.  but i try.  sometimes i'm tired or i'm sick or i'm busy and in my laziness i give in.  instead of feeling bad about that i am choosing to let this be a reminder and an encouragement to me.

2 :: encourage playing alone.  this is a tough one for me simply because i really enjoy hanging out with my kids and i find the things they do fascinating.  however...i know the value of them learning to do things on their own and i want to encourage that.  i don't want them to grow up thinking that i exist solely to do crafts and play princess make-believe games with them.  so what's my solution for this?  my original idea of having 10 kids {so that my attention was so divided that none of them would ever feel like the center of the universe} didn't go over well with my husband so instead i work.  i have a job that i love that requires my time and attention which means sometimes the kids have to wait {hey...that helps out with #1 too!}.  i also make sure my sweet husband gets at least some of the attention that he deserves which means occasionally shooing the kids off on their own so that we can have some quality time.

3 :: speak with authority...let them know who's in charge.  this one is huge.  it's also a delicate balancing act for a passionate person like me.  i walk that fine line {and sometimes fall off} between speaking with authority and yelling at my kids.  it may be one area that i have grown most in as a parent.  before i had kids i wielded my authority like a master around the kids i worked with.  i did it in a composed and effective way.  pulling that off with your own little ones is slightly different.  there is something about looking into the eyes of a human being that you are solely responsible for and for whom you perform sacrificial acts on a regular basis...man...there's some emotion there.  and in the instances when a mommy roar comes out of me, the anger behind it is usually directed at myself for some perceived failure in my role...oh boy...i've just crossed into an on-line counseling session with you...let's save this for another post shall we?  

so today...the day after my reading and my self-evaluation as a mommy i chose to feel encouraged.  encouraged that i am doing a good job...the best that i can.  and encouraged to renew my commitment to some important values as a parent.  
and this monday...at home all day with my two little ones...was one of the best days we have ever had...seriously.  no monster mommy, lots of patience {on all sides}, time together and time alone...all with minimal moments of drama.  i think that's what happens when we choose to be encouraged rather than discouraged.  so go give yourself a pep talk...you've got this thing.

{for those of you wondering how our february experiment is going...it is not a complete failure but it is definitely not going according to plan.  this may have been the worst possible month - besides december - to attempt this thing.  i have already decided that i will carry much of it over into march.  i will say that cutting out some of my wasted web-surfing time and window-shopping has allowed for more time for things like reading the aforementioned article.  we'll see how all of this shakes out in the budget too}