I recently came across another article where the focus was on re-evaluated recommendations for pregnancy and parenting. The revisions (grounded in current research) range in topics from a change in toothpaste use for children under the age of two to carseat recommendations and regulations. As a parent there is an ever-mounting pressure to properly support children every step of the way, yet how are we to keep up with every bit of information and changing recommendations? In a time when we are directed to limit our own technology use around our children, remain actively engaged in play at all times, and simultaneously provide homemade, well-balanced, meals created with non-GMO/organic ingredients that we got from our local farm-share...how is it that we are to keep in touch and access the most current information?
There is a tremendous amount of pressure put on parents to be just about perfect with every element of the (parenting) job. At no other point in our lives are we expected to be an expert in so many areas and at the same time held accountable to the highest standard in all domains. In our children's infancy we are to nurse or feed the right amount, find the right balance between nurturing and limiting dependency for basic needs such as sleep, and engage in purposeful play all before the milestone of rolling over. These expectations increase as our children begin to walk, talk, and show signs of readiness for potty training. The unrealistic nature of these standards only leaves us to feel insufficient and as though we are never truly doing the job well, when in reality I am pretty sure most of us are doing just fine...actually more than fine.
I was talking on the phone with my son's allergist after a recent anaphylactic reaction when I asked what else I could be doing to help ensure healthy development and overall strength. Without hesitation our caring, supportive, experienced physician said, "These kids always do fine. They are resilient. Your job is to love him, give him lots of hugs, and be there for him." My initial thought was something along the lines of "that's it?!" This wasn't our first encounter with anaphylaxis; it was the fifth time my two and a half year-old's body had decided to overreact to an allergen. Each incident involves administering multiple potent medications, not to mention how limiting his diet is based the long list of restrictions. He hasn't gained weight in almost a year, has endured separate bouts of the flu (H1N1) with a 105 degree fever and pneumonia in the past year, and the best thing I can do is simply love him?
About a week later it hit me. Not only was loving my son and supporting him the most important thing I could do, it was exactly what my instincts had me doing since the day he was born. All of that love and support had turned him into a resilient and thriving toddler, who despite having numerous severe food allergies, was happy and excelling in all areas of development. I will always be the type of parent who thrives in the structure of having a plan, grounding my choices in research, and remaining mindful of various developmental stages and expectations; however, I am learning to see the other side of the coin as well. Maybe we learn to stand back and take a deep breadth as we gain confidence in our parenting role. Maybe our ability to read our children's cues improves as they grow and we understand them as individuals.
One thing I am certain of, the further into this whole parenting gig I get the more I realize the need to find my own balance. There are certainly a few non-negotiables in our house. There will always be a priority placed on naps, bedtime, and the overarching schedule that helps the boys thrive as a result of being well-rested. Mealtime is sacred and the boys are always expected to sit at the table with appropriate manners. We do not eat on the go, while walking around, or in front of the TV. We read every day, usually multiple times, and always at bedtime. I do not believe these are the necessary steps to a future acceptance into an Ivy League University, but I know they are building a foundation that is important to our family.
I have dedicated a lot of time to understanding the research when it comes to my parenting choices. The difference between my actions up to this point and going forward is I now know that ultimately the ever-swinging pendulum will find a balance somewhere over the parenting decisions I am making. I have greater confidence in the choices I make and have begun to let go of the guilt that has grown out of the societal pressures to be the parent that does everything perfectly.
ABOUT CHRISSY K
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families as an educational consultant and parenting coach.
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Based on a work at http://www.strongtots.com