Lets start this post with a very factual but seldom acknowledged statement ‘Parenting is a tough tough job!’ Despite the universality of this statement, I haven’t met a single parent who will pass on this warning to other expectant parents – “Just a heads up, you’re heading for a lifelong battle!” Of course we won’t say that, the more people suffering the merrier!
One of my favorite parenting books is Jennifer Senior’s ‘Modern Parenting: All Joy And No Fun’. It is not one of those usual books filled with pyschobabble parenting advice with little practical applicability. It’s a book for and about the parents; it describes the evolution of parenting, the modern affliction of helicopter parenting, the travails of raising our bundles of joy which seemed to have missed our parents generation, among other things. She talks about how the word “parent” came into common use as a verb only in the 1970s. Before that, parents just ‘were’, they didn’t ‘do’.
These days we just do. And mostly we are pretty lost as to what we are doing – we are guilt-ridden and we constantly second-guess our decisions. A lot of this is due to the lack of a village. The last few generations have missed out on extended family support, passing of wisdom down generations and stimulation for kids from various adult interactions and relationships with cousins, neighbors and the community in general.
Over the years, I’ve received some great parenting advice, practical advice from moms who have been there done that. I can’t thank these parents enough for these tidbits of information and passing on valuable knowledge to those of us who are a little behind the curve but on the same journey nevertheless. These awesome moms have been my village.
Recently, while discussing morning battles with a seasoned mother of three and a very dear friend, I received another nugget of gold. She suggested I wake up the kids in a very happy and excited manner, singing to them and creating a huge hullabaloo. For someone who wakes up sullen and groggy, staggering straight to the kitchen for a coffee shot in the morning, this was a challenge. I tried – every morning I woke the kids up as if it’s the happiest day of my life while every bone in my body screamed for coffee! Those 5 minutes spent cheerfully talking and giggling with the kids made the start to our day so much better.
Another mommy friend, who also happens to be a fantastic children’s book author told me about the ‘filling a bucket’ method to teach kids about empathy and caring for others. The book Have you Filled the Bucket Today? was a fantastic read even for my then 2-year old. It’s been a great tool for teaching the kids that screaming with hands flailing and body wriggling on the floor is not the only way to describe emotions!
I can’t remember who told me this, but this is something I often use with my kids – lying next to the kids when they are in their sleepy-but-can’t-sleep phase with my eyes closed and just breathing heavily and noisily. It works like magic, even for older kids. One more excellent bedtime advice, coming from a gorgeous mom who is colour consultant as well as a hypnotherapist, was to count down with the older kids, all the while softly talking to them how much you appreciate and love them after each count.
Sometimes I have learnt just by observing others. A very good friend who has since moved out of Singapore, was the perfect example of educaring – I doubt though that she was aware of the term. Magda Gerber’s educaring philosophy encourages parents to be observers and step back from active parenting. As a young first time mom, I remember in my enthusiasm I didn’t let a single teaching moment pass. I was always showing, helping, commenting and mostly just interfering. In the process I may have hindered his natural creative instincts by plastering my very adult outcome-focused manner on our activities. I stepped back a little with my second one, in some ways it was not a choice as there is only so much time you can give to an active toddler and a baby. It may just be a personality trait but my second one is much more self-directed and creative in his play.
Of course there’s always the different set of well meaning but pointless advice moms tend to receive. I appreciate it nevertheless, as what works for one may not necessarily for all.
This lovely community of moms, all in a similar boat as me – expats living away from families, a lot of them juggling work and kids and hubbies with stressful/travelling jobs – have been my lifeline. And now I’m ready to pass on the wisdom!