Parenting In Today's World
Updated: Jun 4, 2018
By Anonymous Dad ||
Being a parent in today’s world is about a constantly walking a tightrope. You are likely both too conservative and too lax on any single topic that may or may not have an impact on your child’s ability to live a healthy and productive life. When presented with the prospect of writing a blog post I have to admit, I struggled with what to express on my views in raising my kids and any semblance of wisdom or experience I could share from sheepherding three incredible children over the past six years. Then it hit me. There is a universal notion that I believe unifies the modern parenting experience: guilt.
Quitting jobs and staying at home simply was not an option. No, it’s not because of finances. We could figure those dynamics out. In the first year of our daughter’s life, my wife attempted to leave her job and be at home full time to raise our daughter. The stress and anxiety of being at home were so significant it raised serious emotional and health issues for our family. My wife and I both found we were a healthier family when we were working, than when one of us stayed at home. Then came the guilt of making the decision to put the care of our child in the hands of a daycare. Since then our family has grown, dynamics have become more complex, and guilt remains a background actor on a constant basis.
As a parent of three small children, it’s something that has taken on a new dimension as my children grow older. The other day in the midst of the busy morning rush to get the kids ready for daycare my daughter, the oldest of three, was attempting to help my wife calm her younger brothers before they headed out for the day. In an effort to help, she shared with her brothers that “mom and dad need to work so that we can live in our nice house and eat good food” While this is a sentiment we have shared with them before, the conclusion she drew from this statement was alarming and in a lot of ways a young parent’s worst nightmare. She concluded “so we need to help mom because work is more important than kids”. After picking her heart off the floor my wife and I spent that evening talking through the conclusion of our daughter. We committed together to tackle the existing narrative with all of the love and attention we could muster.
There were three specific commitments we made that we are trying to walk out daily:
1. Being present – In today’s connected world putting down your phone can be tough, if not for work or being entertained, than for staying connected to friends and family. Moments of undivided attention are a rarity and worth their weight in gold. As a working parent there are three to four hours a day I have during the work week where I try to put down my phone, leave it in an entirely separate room, and be fully present. As my kids have gotten older I have tried to be more attentive to the things they choose to share and what they don’t choose to share. People say little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems. I don’t disagree with this at all but the skill of listening to and dialoguing with my children about their fears, challenges, and problems has become a challenge I am trying to embrace early on so that as these conversations become more serious the pathways for dialogue are open.
2. Be patient – Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience”. In a time where everything is instant, patience feels like a skill that is quickly atrophying for my generation. Children have a way of both speeding you up and slowing you down. Technology can actually work to help in this area very well. There is a device call Circle, and others out on the market as well, that can help you control all the connection of all of the devices in your home. In essence it opens the door to be committed to device free time with your family for a set period of time. In all honesty, at this stage of life, this is more for myself and my wife than it is for our kids. It’s incredible how focus and patience grows when you don’t have to respond to email or check the score of a game. We are trying to make technology work for us to be better engaged parents.
3. Be responsive – Dropping things, missing an event or meeting at work, canceling plans with a friend, all come with a cost. Being a human being comes with the responsibilities and consequences of our own decision making. In any given moment “little problems” can be just that, little. As we discussed our daughter feeling like work came first, we felt like the clearest way we can express to her this is not the case is to be deliberate and intentional in making more time. Friday nights have become sacred for our family. It’s pizza and movie night and we guard those evenings pretty fiercely. It’s a time where all else is set aside and we have a tradition and experience together. We have been looking for more opportunities to take our kids out one on one to a place of their choosing either during the week or on the weekend. Nothing revolutionary here, just a commitment to give the time we can and listen as best we can during those times.
Clearly we have not arrived and are a work in progress but we are committed to doing better. Guilt has a way of helping us pay special attention to things we otherwise may prefer to ignore. For us, we are trying to name and embrace the challenge to love our children in the ways they want to be loved.