When I started writing notes for this blog, I wanted to have a really clear idea of what was important to me to include. I was brainstorming, jotting down random notes for myself, when a really simple alliteration came out.
I don’t know if it’s all my years in childcare that have imprinted on my brain, “Make it into a song! Make it easy to remember! Make it rhyme!” but I definitely think like this, now almost by accident. (Come to think of it, there’s a lot of oddball things I do that probably come from my theatre and preschool background: I singsong things when I’m talking to myself, I narrate what I am doing, and I announce when I’m going to the bathroom… some things are hard to unlearn.)
“Listening, loving and learning.”
Anyway, when I was thinking about how I parent, the words “listening, loving, learning” came out on the page. It seems simple, so let me explain.
- Listening: I think this is one of the most important aspects of any relationship. And for me it’s two-fold.
- To them – “What are they telling me?” From the moment they are born, babies are constantly communicating with us. Their cries can tell us if they are hungry, sleepy or dirty. They give us non-verbal cues where if you really listen, you can catch a cue hunger before they cry. And as they grow, from a few weeks old to a few years and onward, they are constantly improving how they communicate. If I can listen to them, and meet their needs the best I can, they learn how to communicate even faster.
- To me – “How do I listen to my own needs?” Parenting is ridiculously hard. It pulls on all your resources – mentally, emotionally and physically. The only way you can be in a good place to care for children is if you can take care of yourself first. I HAVE to listen to myself and respond ASAP if I need a break, otherwise I’m a hot mess.
- Loving: I do my best to respond to my kids with love, patience and grace. I try to keep myself in check and ask “am I acting out of love?” or “is this a loving thing to do?”. I want to say that THIS IS NOT FOOLPROOF. I lose my temper (especially when I am tired or when I really need a break) and yell. I don’t have the patience that I would like to have. Sometimes I yell and have to take a deep breath and try again. I have to apologize to my one-year-old for yelling and explain again, calmly, what I need her to do. And when I mess up, sometimes I’m the one that needs love, patience and grace. We are all works-in-progress around here.
- Learning:What is developmentally appropriate? This one is my not-so-secret trick to staying calm. I have found that it is SO much easier to be patient when you understand what a kiddo is supposed to be doing in order to grow, vs what they are doing just to be spiteful. For instance, there is a stage in toddlerhood where they CONSTANTLY want to dump everything out on the floor and make a huge mess. This can be infuriating, especially when you have company coming, or you-just-picked-that-stupid-bin-of-toys-up-five-times-in-a-row-and-now-it’s-on-the-floor-again. Well, sorry to say, this is absolutely normal and actually GREAT for their development. Your lovable little one is just experimenting with cause and effect, and their bodies are telling them to do it over and over, so you can either fight it or go with it. I tend to make sure there’s bins of toys within reach that I don’t mind them emptying (and that aren’t too bad to clean up) and then stop stressing about it.
- How do I get them to the next step? I try to be a few steps ahead of my kids (for as long as that is possible) and see where they are at, what their interests are, and then plan for the next stage. For example, Ava is VERY into Frozen right now (more later on how I accidentally created an Elsa-loving fanatic). I know that imaginative play starts when they are around two-years-old, so for her second birthday I added Elsa and Anna costumes to the wish list.
- Play IS learning, so let’s play! Play for me is a huge part of parenting. My best memories are of adults who were willing to play WITH me, and that’s the kind of childhood I want to give my kids.