“Before I married, I had six theories about raising children and no children. Now, I have six children and no theories.”
Oh, pre-kids self, you were so very naive! I know it’s been said a thousand times, but I cannot emphasize enough how actually raising children myself has taught me how very little I know about parenting. You see, everything is so neat and tidy in those parenting books. Naps are at 9:30 am, noon, and 3pm. Bedtime is at 8. No white sugar. No raised voices. Everything seemed so easy before I actually brought my babies home from the hospital and you know, started parenting. Even childbirth itself was an education in how little I knew! Easy, medication-free birth with instant nursing and bonding? HA! Bring on the epidural and weeks of nursing struggles and pain! Six years into this gig, and I’m slowly accepting that while I can control how I react to things as a parent, I really cannot control (nor should I!) everything my children do, or don’t do, for that matter.
One thing I held firm to before actually having children, was that giving children control and choices in their life was the surefire way to avoid tantrums. After all, tantrums stem from toddlers (and preschoolers, and ahem, kindergarteners…) feeling like they lacked control over their own life, right? I held so firm to this belief that I spent years trying to offer my kids choices: “Do you want to wear jeans or khakis? Spider-man shirt or Bat-man? PB&J or a cheese sandwich? Juice or milk?” However, in the past year or so, I’ve realized that while this worked well for my older son, this simply doesn’t work for my younger son. The books were wrong, at least for him! Choices do not help him– they overwhelm him!
My second born is a relatively easy-going kid. He’s three, so you know, there’s that, but in general, he’s the kid who follows a very predictable schedule, eats anything under the sun, and goes to school tear-free 99.9% of the time. As I thought I should, I offer him choices during the day when appropriate. I’ve noticed recently that for him, choices are a nightmare! For example, if I make waffles for breakfast and announce “Your waffles are ready! Yum! Come eat breakfast!” he will happily run to the kitchen and eat. If I ask ahead of time “Would you like waffles or eggs?” it will be an almost certain back and forth of “Waffles! NO! eggs! NO, WAFFLES!” followed by sobbing and refusing to eat what he finally decided on himself. Not worth it!
So again, for the millionth time since having children, I’m admitting this is a learning process. All kids are different. There is no one-size-fits-all method of parenting, and certainly no one “right” way to do this job of being a parent…something I try to keep in mind when I see parents making different choices than I might make myself!