Monday, June 13, 2011

When I'm A Parent...

Remember being about twelve years old and stomping off to your bedroom, slamming the door and dramatically falling on the bed proclaiming that you will NEVER EVER do that (whatever sin your parents just committed) to your own children?  Usually it was a punishment of some sort?

We'll discuss discipline at a later point.  What's on today's agenda is looking at how you were parented.

Admittedly not everyone experienced idyllic childhoods.  In fact, many of us had a mix of bad experiences haunting our childhood memories.  Build on it, whatever "it" is.  Your parenting style will be strongly influenced by how you were parented - good and bad.  From horrific abuse to the dramatic proclamations of unfair treatment, we are going to use those benchmarks of what will never be allowed to happen to our own children. 

While soap in the mouth isn't even a point of consideration for most people, I am to this day scarred by seeing my youngest brother choking on a flow of bubbles spewing from his mouth.  No matter what bad word could possibly fall out of one of my children's mouths I can guarantee that soap was never in my response possibilities.  Ever.

It seems we all have a few items that supply the "I never" list.  Surprisingly you might find yourself setting that list to the side and pissing off your inner twelve year old when you ground your child for an entire week.  We do that sometimes.  Keep evaluating your list because as you get older you'll start to see the wisdom in some of your parent's choices - are you willing to break that promise to yourself?  Sometimes it may be the best option on the table.

But these are the negative aspects, building the "I never" list, but what about the positive points?  We spend so much time focusing on the negative we seem to act like there aren't any positives to be found.  The truth is there are more positive points to be acknowledged and we tend to unconsciously replicate a great majority of dear ol' mom and dad's parenting styles.  Put some conscious effort into listing those positive traits, what do you plan to incorporate into your own parenting?

Mom and dad aren't the only source of parenting tips from our pasts.  Is there a close aunt or uncle?  Maybe it's your grandparents or a long-time babysitter or your best friends parents?  What memories do they instill?  What did they do that you would want to recreate for your own children?  Maybe you were raised with a close knot of cousins providing an endless stream of playmates.  What if you don't have any siblings or your siblings live far away?  Clearly having other children around is important so you should keep that in mind when you buy a house and keep an eye for children of similar age to your little bundle of joy. 

Keeping that list running will make you more aware of yourself as a parent.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Parenting Plan - Religion

I left the details of a parenting plan rather open ended, as well it should be, but maybe I could explain it more in depth?  I figure I would dice it up a little more over time.

As a reminder, I said everyone should take time to define a parenting plan, hopefully before children arrive.  Don't worry, though, if you are getting a late start it's better than never.  Quite honestly, most people have a parenting plan bouncing around in their head, but never really put a label on it.

A parenting plan is the core of your parenting attitudes.  To define it outloud, especially with your partner, helps bring the both of you to the same page.  It's also helpful to have this defined before you're faced with discipline issues and major life decisions.  This way you're not parenting off the cuff and are equipped with some intentionally set guidelines.  It is very important to remember that your parenting plan is going to morph over the years.  You'll find what works, doesn't work and what needs to be amended.

So what about religion?

This is really a huge issue that requires some discussion with your partner.  Obviously if you two are from different religious backgrounds this will feel like the 500 pound gorilla standing in the room.  How do you meld your differences?  Which belief standard will dominate in child rearing?  Whose church, or whatever, will you attend?  Or at all?

Most people tend to match up with someone of similar religious and moral standards, but this still ought to be discussed.  Even if you met at church and are both very active in its activities you may be surprised that you still have some differing opinions concerning religion and how it should intertwine with your lives.

On top of the logistical issues of how to spend holy days and attending chapel, what about the religious standards of raising your child?  How are you going to dispense information concerning your beliefs?  How are you going to deal with other people's beliefs?

Even for people with agnostic views, religion is going to be an issue.  Other people's religious views are going to be shared with your little tyke.  Other people's religious views are going to surround and even question how you raise your child.  Knowing how you are going to face controversial and inflammatory statements and invasive questions will make it slightly easier when the time arises.

Remember to consider the physical aspects of your belief system (food, clothing, swearing, worship) as well as the spiritual contexts. 

Then you need to consider your families.  What are their beliefs?  How strong are they about their belief systems?  How with the various views impact your daily life?  How will you handle differences of opinions?  And if you dare oppose their views, how is that going to impact your relationships?

All of this is going to address some issues in your relationship with your partner, but it most definitely will impact your children.  Address it and define it early on and you could avert some really ugly confrontations.

All of us have religious beliefs in some form.  Defining those beliefs may even strengthen something that has been lying dormant for a long time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Preparing The Nursery

Despite the bagillion different items offered in any baby store or baby section, you truly do not need a lot.  A newborn baby has very simple needs - eat, poop, sleep.  If you can cover each of those items you're fine. 

Unless you have severed contact with all of your family and friends, your first child will likely be provided for rather amply.  In other words, DON'T BUY ANYTHING!  Spend your time filling out gift registries and let us, your family, spoil your baby properly.

You are likely going to be the recipient of TONS of hand-me-downs.  Babies shoot through clothing and toys so quickly they get very little wear and it is simply criminal to throw away anything.  People don't know what to do with all of that stuff so they pile it up waiting for some sucker in their circle to pop out a baby.  TaDa!  Instant stuff!  Fortunately you can return the favor.

If I were to ever suggest loading up on anything it would be a few empty tubs to house the clothing and other stuff your child has not yet reached age-wise or to dump what your baby has outgrown to pass on to someone else.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Over-Protective Momma

I like to joke about first-timers and uber-over-protective parents.  So do a lot of other seasoned parents.  We really need to stop, it doesn't help anyone, does it?  Since my own son is going to be a first-time daddy and my daughter-in-law has all of the makings of being an over-protective momma, maybe it's time for me to simmer down.

First-timers tend to be overprotective because they're still learning the boundaries of baby's abilities.  When a second child comes along it's virtually impossible to focus our attention on two moving bodies in the same manner.  Three or more kids?  Forget it.  Soon we learn that eating worms, squishing dog poop through their fingers and staying up past 8pm is annoying, frequently gross, but in the end no one is hurt.  Not that I encourage any of those, but it happens.

My sister-in-law insists that talcum powder will not be used on her infant son's bottom.  She's read somewhere that there might be a link between dusting our baby's tushes and asthma.   While I resist the urge to giggle, I remind myself that SIL is abiding by what she feels is important.  I could argue with her standards and point out the century of babies with dusted asses that never developed asthma.  That even though I started my own developmental years in the smoggy environs of Los Angeles, my allergies didn't kick in until my 20's.  Somehow I doubt baby powder caused it.  Yet, she is doing her best to protect her child and I must respect that.

Remember a few days ago I suggested that we develop a parenting plan.  It means defining your standards and they must be YOUR standards, not mine nor anyone elses, YOURS.  And if that means following the advice of an article warning against baby powder or limiting fruit juice or restricting hot dogs, then so be it. 

This is your child and you must raise him or her as you see fit.  What you will learn, what us seasoned parents learned many years ago, is your standards will change and your parenting plan will morph.  As your baby grows and more children populate your home it may be unrealistic or too expensive to hold to the standards you set in the beginning.  But that is for you to learn and for me to sit quiet as you make that journey.  Ultimately children survive the parenting journey taken by the adults in their world.

As a soon-to-be grandma, I want parents to be over-protective.  I want them to pad every sharp corner in the house and to monitor sugar intake.  It shows you care.  I want my grandbaby to be healthy and strong so I must trust my son and daughter-in-law to raise their child in a safe environment and that will only happen if they are in fact, over-protective parents.