I’m not always great at heeding advice.
Don’t get me wrong, I am always welcoming feedback and truly am continually working towards improving and learning in all areas of my life.
But when my gut (heart? brain??) doesn’t agree with something, I listen to my body parts.
When our daughter was a baby, the big push was the Ferber method of sleep training. Letting your baby cry it out and eventually “self-soothe” themselves to sleep.
For us? Garbage.
We tried it once and it tore my heart to pieces. So it was short lived, and our daughter slept with us for most of her infant months. She also hated her crib. Hated it. So when she was about six months old, we laid a futon mattress on the floor in her room, and that was her bed. Because the stress of being confined was gone and she could come and go to us as needed, sleep (for all of us) wasn’t an issue.
We always knew that communication was key. My husband is fluent in sign language, so when they were toddlers, we taught both kids some simple signs so that they could communicate before they could talk, which meant fewer frustrations for us all. Before the ‘baby Mozart’ craze, I had a university prof who told us his pregnant wife would straddle a speaker and immerse their babies in music, in utero. I wasn’t quite that committed lol, but believed in the power of music and words, and sang and listened to music with both kids, both before and after they were born. One of the kids’ favorite memories was running around the kitchen island, as I would play “She’d Be Coming Round the Mountain” on the piano, steadily getting faster and faster until they’d slide and crash into the cupboards, then laugh and laugh.
We didn’t spank our kids.
Never swore at them.
Didn’t yell, because I didn’t want to have the day come where they swore and yelled back.
For people who did those things with their kids? You do you. It just didn’t feel right in my gut to do that with my own.
A lot of parenting columns say that you need to take care of yourself first. The whole ‘put your oxygen mask on before your kid’s’ analogy. I get that. Over the years there were things I did on my own, but the vast majority of our activities were tied to our kids and their activities. Which meant our social life was mostly visiting with other parents at the pool and rink! And there was nothing wrong with that.
We made the choice to include our kids in everything. We took every vacation as a family, except for one, and saw 15 states, 6 provinces, and 1 territory. We were fortunate to have schedules where we were able to make it to every synchronized swimming practice and competition, track meet, hockey and football game. But we also included them in difficult conversations. We never shied away from talking about hard family histories that included alcoholism and abuse, or topics like residential schools and estrangement. We modeled that tears were okay.
That tears are okay.
From the time they were babies, we told them we loved them. As they grew and the words caught up, it was reciprocated. No conversation ends without them now.
We were always our kids’ parents, but they turned out to be good humans, and also our friends.
Advice columns will tell you that’s bad too, but my heart says otherwise.
Lest I give the impression that we lived in a laissez-faire utopia, it wasn’t. I love this meme that says: “I never realized how annoying I could be until I made a miniature version of myself and started arguing with it.” Truer words have never been spoken. But I often wondered if we just lucked out and had really easy kids to raise, or whether the conscious decisions we made in our home helped to shape them into those people. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
As we pulled away from the driveway in Calgary, leaving both kids behind for truly the first time, of course it was really emotional. I was literally leaving pieces of me behind, pieces that I have had with me forever.
Sad doesn’t quite do it justice.
(Okay, I looked that one up because, by coincidence, it was in a novel I was reading today!)
But I also was really proud of the strong, independent young people standing there too. I know it would be easier, and substantially cheaper, for them to stay with us here. To go to school locally. To have mom and dad right here to problem solve for them. Lots of families do it. Again, you do you. But I also believe strongly that you won’t learn to ‘adult’ until you actually have to act like an adult. Make decisions like an adult. Feel the responsibilities of an adult.
Be by yourself, and be okay with yourself. Like an adult.
And as we come to grips with the empty nest ourselves, it’s advice I need to heed myself.
I know that a lot of parents are feeling that same stress, as their children move onto different stages whether it’s starting Kindergarten or their Grade 12 year. A lot of those kids will be in my classroom tomorrow morning, their first day in the ‘big school’ in Grade 7. And although there will be sadness as one time period ends and another begins, I hope they feel that same pride and know that I’ll not only be listening to my gut/heart/brain on what is best for their child, but listening to what they know is best for their child too.
Have a wonderful first week everyone! Welcome!!
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