The Guide to Perfect Parenting (Brought to you by a non-parent.)
(Psst..you should read to the end of this one.)
One of the benefits of waiting a little bit to have kids (32 really doesn't seem that old to me, but by the way some people ask "Are you guys EVER going to have kids?" you would think we were in a nursing home planning to start a family), is that you get a lot of time to observe parents. Not only have we watched our friends parent, but we have watched plenty of other people parent - and I've nannied for Christmas money, for several families in the last 10 years.
I've seen a lot of parenting, very good and very bad. One of Ryan and I's favorite things lately is to sit down at dinner and try to figure out what kind of AWESOME parents we will be. We are reading parenting books, talking to parents we admire, noting things that we like that other parents do, and talking to our own parents.We are suddenly parenting EXPERTS.
It's our own little list of "Oh, I like that!" or "Maybe that's a bad idea."
So far on our list of Do's:
- DO make our child call adults "Miss or Mr. First or last name". The little girl I nannied did this, and I thought it was SO adorable. "Miss Colleen" was what she called me, and I loved it. The parents explained it like this: "We don't like her calling adults by their first names, because that implies that she is equal to them. We want her to respect that adults are an authority to be listened too and taken seriously." I liked that. Of course, there will be exceptions, but Ryan and I both loved this idea.
- DO have Naptime into quiet time. In one of the families I nannied, the little girl had gotten too old for her nap (4 years old). So, instead she had two hours of quiet time in her room. She could sleep, read, or play quietly. She could go to the bathroom if she wanted, or if there was an emergency, she could come get me. But she never did. She seemed to really like her quiet time, and often put herself to bed for a short nap if she was tired. The parents explained that this encouraged "Down time, individual play, and imagination". We agree!
- Do read our child a book every single night. (from our parents, who installed such a great love of reading in both of us!) Do encourage reading in every single form.
- Do have a time-out chair, AND if there is any fussing during the time-out, the time grows. Also, they sit on their hands.
- Do encourage our children to play outside as much as possible. We are both really big on imaginative play and how much it shaped both our childhood's, and hope to teach our children to use their imagination whenever possible. Fresh air is NEEDED for childhood. I want my child to run through the backyard, playing Peter Pan or She-Ra until I force them to come in.
- Do expect our children to sit through church moderately quiet (When they are of an age when this is possible) until the sermon, then they go to children's church!
- Do have mystery rides, a pass-down from my father, who would plop us in the car and take us somewhere fun where we didn't know the destination. It was Mcdonalds, the children's museum, the park, the zoo, Grandma's house, a restaurant, national park and one time to the airport, and then Vegas. I love this tradition.
- Do make birthday's a big deal. Birthdays are such a special memory for me, and I want them to be for our children. I'm not talking ridiculous levels (blow up castles, rentals clowns, NO CLOWNS EVER), but a cake, a party, a poster board with nice things written on it and special lunches, YES. Our birthdays were a big deal in my house, and one of my favorite memories was how my Dad would bring us lunch on our birthday to school - and did so every year, EVEN through high school. Ryan will do that for our children.
- Do have our child have chores, and DO teach them at an early age to divide their money into saving, spending and sharing. Thrivent has a cute piggy bank for this, and I WANT it.
- Do give our child so much love, affection and positive encouragement, while still being stricter parents.
- Do remember that our child's concerns are huge to them, even if they are stupid little things to us. A broken doll IS then end of the world to them.
And, which sometimes are even more fun, THE DON'T S, or the WE WON'T S of parenting:
- We won't let our children totally run wild at other people's houses without supervision (until they are old enough and responsible enough to do so.)
- We won't let our children jump on other people's beds, couches, dogs, tables or desks. Or disrespect their house in any way.
- We won't let our children make noise in church for more than two minutes without taking them to the narthex. Our children don't need to affect the worship of 500 other people.
- We won't let our children leave the house with dirty faces or looking like homeless children.
- We won't let our girls dress like Prosti-tots. I plan on dressing my children like it's 1910.
- We won't let them be the center of adult conversations. Kids can hang out with kids, adults with adults, and when the adults are talking, they need to wait.
- We won't assume that our friends without kids would love nothing more than always babysitting our kids for free.
- We won't treat people without kids like they are some sort of disappointment or pariah, or that we should have pity for them. (In truth, they are probably having more fun than us!) We also won't assume that our friends without kids want nothing more than to hang out at the playground with OUR kids while we only talk about OUR kids.
- We won't fear getting a babysitter. As far as we know, no child has died from having a babysitter for the evening.
- In the same vein, we won't let our child stop us from traveling just the two of us (once they are old enough, of course, to stay with Grandma and Grandpa, who will LOVE it.)
- We won't have those kids who have no respect for adults these days or talk back. Ryan and I find this to be an alarming trend.
- We won't push our 8 year old in a stroller, or carry around a 6 year old at the mall.
- We won't have our kids screaming like crazy while we are trying to talk on the phone.
- We won't be those parents who, when their child is causing problems at school, insists that "the teachers have it out for him" or "It must be that she just doesn't understand his LEARNING style".
- We won't have our kids stressed out and over-involved. A one year old does NOT need to be learning French or the violin, or be in college prep-classes already.
- We won't let our kid have a meltdown for a toy or at the grocery store without leaving. When we say "If you don't stop, we'll leave" WE WILL.
- We won't plop our child in front of a TV or video games for long hours everyday because it's easier than parenting.
- We won't be the parents who are constantly excusing our child's bad behavior. "He's just having a bad week. That's why he lit your cat on fire."
- We won't be the family who eats at a restaurant and everyone is looking at their own phone, ipod, Nintendo DS or ipad. Our kids won't have phones until they are 13.
- And most importantly, we WON'T try to be our child's friend. Our child will have friends. They need PARENTS, and that's what we will be.
Parents out there, do you hate me already? Well, I'm sure before you became a parent, you did the EXACT same thing. As much as we might not admit it, you soak up the parenting skills of those around you. You evaluate and observe silently (and yes, sometimes judge), storing up gems for later, or thinking "I'll never do that." I love that pre-time, where you can stay up late, whispering promises to each other of what you will and won't do.
But here's what changes: I remember when Ryan and I first met with his pastor for our pre-marital counseling eight years ago. He asked us "How would you resolve a fight?"
I remember looking at him and thinking, "You idiot. We will NEVER fight."
Ahhhh, how things have changed. Not that we fight so much, but sure, like any married couple, we have arguments, we have disagreements, we have the occasional raised-voice fight. Before we were married, I told myself I would NEVER nag about chores. Miss a date. Wear pjs in front of him. Not do my make-up before he woke up. Make him worry about anything. Have awkward immediate family moments.
I imagined our life to be an endless loop of running in a park holding balloons and kissing.
In my mind then, Ryan would come home and I would be in the kitchen, making a gorgeous apple pie, wearing nothing but an apron and would start his evening off with ravishing compliments about what an incredible man he was. Poor Ryan. This didn't really pan out.
That was my pre-married view of marriage. And so, this now is my naive, pre-oh-so-wrong view of parenting. I'm allowed to have it just like everyone else, where we can simmer in this wonderful time where we imagine ourselves the perfect parents with the perfect children and that we will never be people who's kid pees on the floor or barfs in our face or embarrasses us at a BBQ or is hauled into the principals office for attacking his teacher.
The poo will hit the fan, but not just YET. We still can pretend it will be perfect, for a few more months, until we are actually parents.
And I WON'T let anyone take it from me, my daydream, my pre-reality reality. Ryan and I and our perfect children, lying on a picnic blanket in the park, while doves sing around us and our children win merit scholarships for being super.
It's a good dream.