What are we really doing, anyway?

Last night, my friend Susan said this:

"So much of parenting is guessing if you are doing the right thing, isn't it?"

Ohhhh, yeah. My response to her was "What's maddening to me is knowing that my kids won't remember the stuff I agonized over, and will be really affected by the stuff I never noticed."

I think about all the stuff my mom and dad were so tied up in knots about, and how I don't even remember so much of it until they bring it up now. And then about the little moments that I know they didn't put a ton of thought into that have been so big for me. I wish I knew what to spend time caring about with my own kids, and what to just let go.

I was so struck by this that I asked Susan if I could put it up here to talk about. What's your response to Susan's question?

85 thoughts on “What are we really doing, anyway?”

  1. I suppose the pesssimist in me would say that BECAUSE I really thought about all possible outcomes and came up with a very measured response, the response is naturally good. But if I just react, it will scar them for life.Of course, the fact that I am super-stressed at work has NOTHING to do with my gloomy outlook (ha!) so pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain…

  2. I am so aware most of the time that the images he will bring forward will be random and without context.I just hope that if I can teach him to be articulate and compassionate that when he is 30 and saying “remember that time …” that I can apologize and he can hear me.

  3. I’ve felt so guilty for so long about how my husband and I have fought in front of our son, who is 4. May as well start a Therapy Fund for him now, I’d joke! The joke was on me, turns out. Because in preschool the other day, he proposed to his fav little girl-friend there, saying to her,”I want to get married because I want to share a good thing like that with you.”! lesson learned!

  4. Mama p, as someone who’s divorced, I think it’s REALLY important for kids to see you fight AND THEN see you resolve the fight. My kids never got to see that until we got a divorce (because we could never resolve anything). Your son is lucky because he gets to see that people who love each other disagree and then work it out.

  5. I don’t have many memories of being really little, and it makes me sad that my 2.5 yo son might not remember all the sweet little moments that happen day to day.Unfortunately kids do not come with a manual, so we’re all just taking a shot in the dark and praying they turn out okay in the end. I also think this is the reason we end up comparing ourselves to other families/moms out there who appear “perfect” to us. In reality we all struggle with something at one point, but it’s the elephant in the room.
    I’ll admit to reaching the end of my rope and screaming at the top of my lungs. Scary for me and the kid, but it happened and it’s life.

  6. I agree with Moxie about letting them see you make up.My (then 6yo) step-son “married” the little girl next door and then a few weeks later I caught the kids playing “divorce court.” They said they were getting divorced because they had had a fight. It totally broke my heart.

  7. I try to “bathe” the children in a happy, loving childhood. Even if they don’t have specific memories of sledding or the museum, I hope they come out of childhood with the idea and memory that it was a happy time full of love.

  8. I try to do the best I know how to do at the time. I think my parent’s did the same. That is not a perfect model. Mistakes will be made. Eventually, my kids will come to know that. I think as long as my husband and I show them love, respect and pay attention to them, they will be okay. That does not mean there won’t be hardship and pain. There will be and there ought to be. They need to learn how to overcome pain and sadness as well.

  9. “So much of parenting is guessing if you are doing the right thing, isn’t it?”Absolutely! There is no one ‘correct’ answer or way to raise a child. At the end of the day all you can do is say “Dear God, I did the best that I knew how to do; I hope it was good enough.”
    Does it really matter how we potty train our kid; how we handle sleep issues; how long they have a pacifier? Eventually they will learn to use the potty, they will sleep, and so far I haven’t seen one walk down the aisle with a pacifier in his/her mouth!
    If we make mistakes, we move on, perhaps our ‘mistakes’ make them stronger.
    I am the parent of an adult child, and like all parents, we did some ‘good’ things and some ‘bad’ things in her upbringing. She seems to have made it to adulthood pretty much intact!
    So, ladies, do the best you can; love them with all your heart and for the most part the rest will sort itself out.

  10. @Moxie – “And then about the little moments that I know they didn’t put a ton of thought into that have been so big for me.”What did those little moments look like for you?
    The little moments in my childhood that were so big for me but didn’t even register for my parents were my mother’s rages over insignificant things like differences of opinion over how my father cleaned the house vs how she did it (when really she should have just been grateful she had an equal partner in the 70s!). My mother freaking out over a B on my report card in 8th grade. My dad confiding in me that he thought my mom was crazy and was thinking of leaving her and then not doing it. I was 13.
    So I think really if I can just avoid obviously crazy things like that in the lives of my kids then I will have done ok. The goal is not to have kids who don’t need therapy; rather the goal is to raise kids who can see the need for therapy and pay for it themselves!

  11. Guessing if you are doing the right thing…that’s parenting and that’s life! You can do your research and be guided by common sense, but ultimately, the outcomes are unknown.Learning to grapple with constant uncertainty is one of the toughest things about parenting (at least for me). And I think it doesn’t matter if you have one kid or six – you’ll always be guessing because every kid is different.

  12. @hush- ouch. I want to go give little you a hug.I like to think that all of the research and agonizing and discussing best approaches that my husband and I do will build the happy, secure foundation from which the little moments that my kids will remember can happen- making the happy moments routine and buffering the hurt of the inevitable bad moments.
    That said, I’m 100% sure that 90% of the freaking out I’ve done over Pumpkin’s eating habits is wasted. Once we read Ellyn Satter, did a little thinking, and settled on a strategy all of the other obsessing and worrying has been a waste. If only I could remember that when she’s refusing to eat the pancakes she liked the week before!

  13. SarcastiCarrie says something that’s been on my mind. I was talking to a wise-beyond-her-years friend who said that creating a safe and lovely (or lovely enough) childhood is a big thing. I mean, it’s not to be overlooked. Just creating a nice world is a pretty awesome thing. I was thinking this last night after dinner when we had a candlelit musical performance by the girls. There’s dishes to be washed, and the living room looks like a shanty-town because we’re at day 3 of an elaborate fort… but—it’s a nice little world. I doubt the kids care about the dishes. So, maybe, to Susan I would say: it helps to squint a little. If you know what I mean.As for the fighting, I absolutely agree that it is healthy, even necessary, for our children to see us disagree and then resolve the disagreement. My parents NEVER showed any conflict in front of us—they had a very clear policy on it, in fact—which resulted in my being totally freaked out by difference in opinion or even any displays of general crankiness as I embarked on my own relationships. It was not cool. So, no, we don’t fight as in screaming and tears, of course not (we don’t fight that way privately, either) but we do display discord and hug and kiss at the end. I think it’s awesome to show kids that you can love someone and get mad at them, too. And that it doesn’t mean you don’t love them.

  14. @Hush: “The goal is not to have kids who don’t need therapy; rather the goal is to raise kids who can see the need for therapy and pay for it themselves!”Freakin’ awesome.

  15. Hush, I love that so much, “see the need for therapy and pay for it themselves!”I’m definitely adding that to my parenting philosophy.I don’t think there is one or more little things that affect a child deeply; it’s a matter of several of those things built up over time. My mother was an insane rager too and I was ALWAYS wrong, whether it was my fault or not. My father can say assy things, but in general my interactions with him always left me feeling loved and cherished. My mother, on the other hand, can be great but she is just frickin’ vicious when she is on a tear. There’s no one action that made me realize I can’t trust her (and I only came to that in my 30s), it was a lifetime of crappy behavior. I can point to a bunch of things, both little and big, that my own parents did that were huge for good or ill, but no single one of those things stands out as a defining moment. I’m not sure if I am making the slightest bit of sense here
    I can’t help but think that if I can keep my temper in check, apologize when I go over the line, respect them, allow them to have their own feelings and needs and take them seriously, and monitor my own behavior so they don’t end up getting the bill for my own unhappy childhood, things will probably work out fine. The overall relationship is my guide, not how I handle any particular moment. Those moments add up to a relationship and that’s what I am focused on.

  16. I’m the Susan who asked the original question. I love that Moxie borrowed it for this blog and now I’m getting the benefit of even more people’s perspectives.

  17. Yes, yes, yes on the guessing! One of the great benefits of having more than one child is that it’s easier to see the things that don’t really matter, even though we agonize over them anyway. My kids are little so for me the things I agonize over that don’t matter are: all things sleep related, all things food/weaning related, potty training, getting rid of paci, hitting developmental milestones, etc.For me, the #1 thing that matters in parenting is creating an atmosphere of respect in our home. That’s the fundamental feature of love for me – respect for others, respect for self. All good things in life flow from having those. I think as long as I engage my children with respect, they will grow up just fine. Everything else – guess work and accident!
    I also want to say that I had a childhood on the difficult side – a lot of screaming parents, feelings of rage and self-loathing, didn’t have a lot of friends – basically, I was a sad and lonely child in an unhappy household, with dysfunctional parents (or rather their relationship with each was dysfunctional and that made everything else the same). And you know what? My parents pulled it together eventually, my sibling and I turned out great, I’m a happy and well-adjusted adult who recognized her own need for therapy (though my mom still paid for it!!!! I was too poor in my 20s).

  18. My mom said to me that parenting genius is trying 19 ways to solve a problem and getting it right the 20th time. As long as you are resilient, keep trying, keep working for your kid’s best interests with love, your kid will absorb that. That was the second-best parenting advice I ever got (best was “this too shall pass” — the good and the bad, it all goes by, my god it all goes by.)

  19. This is a great conversation. I think it’s one that all parents have at one point or another. There is no right or wrong on this one, that’s what makes life the challenge that it is.Moxie wrote: “What’s maddening to me is knowing that my kids won’t remember the stuff I agonized over, and will be really affected by the stuff I never noticed.”
    IMHO These are the two wounds of family.
    The stuff *you* agonize over is the parenting challenge. We all want to get the *big* stuff right and we should, that’s what good parenting is all about. So as good parents we focus on it, we really focus on it, we focus on it to the point of agonizing over it.
    We forget about our ability to use our intuition to guide us. We forget that time and waiting has a place in parenting. And we forget that our own childhood wounds may be coloring our viewpoint. Then, for whatever reason, we force ourselves to deal with the *big stuff* right now. That puts pressure on us, causes intensity, and causes doubt about what we’re doing. It can also be the formula that causes emotional wounds for the kids.
    “will be really affected by the stuff I never noticed.” The stuff that’s never noticed is the child’s wounds. That’s the stuff that shapes who your child is yet to become. You get it right as much as you possibly can, but you won’t always get it right. No parent can always get it right, no matter what they present to the world. Being a human being and parenting a child is about mistakes and what you do once you make them.
    IMHO, you’re not supposed to *always* get it right. We want life to be perfect for our children, but life isn’t designed that way. If there were no childhood wounds there would be no personal challenges for people to overcome and feel triumphant about.
    If you reverse what Moxie said, you’ll see that if you stop agonizing, and let faith, time, and intuition help guide you, the stress and tension of trying to get it right diminishes. Since the stress has been diminished you’re able to be in the moment with your child. When you’re in the moment with your child you‘re able to notice the stuff they need you to notice. And the wounds of life are less.
    Just my two cents.

  20. I have a similar philosphy to @hush’s: My kids are going to need therapy. It’s just a matter of how much and how expensive. My goal is just to keep it on the low side.Many of you already sum up what I try to do. Just provide a loving home, be forgiving, try to model the behavoir I want them to immitate, and provide the example of what to do when you mess up.
    My husband and I do argue in front of the kids, but they also see the resolution. And we just argue in a respectful way, too. We also hug and kiss in front of them. And the expressions of love and appreciation outweigh the arguments and grumpiness.
    But yes, I question myself all the time. And the things I think I’m doing right, I worry that they are the things that really will screw up my kids! My latest worry is the warnings I give my daughter that I’m about to get mad or getting mad. I do it because my dad never warned–he just suddenly exploded at you. But now my daughter will say to me, “I’ll listen, Mommy. Don’t get mad.” And I worry that I’m actually threatening her with my anger, and that’s going to be damaging, even though I’m really just trying to warn her that I’m about to get mad so she doesn’t have to walk on eggshells like I had to do at times.
    But I also know from my childhood that feeling loved and appreciated can really overshadow some of the smaller things. It’s easier to look back at some of the things that used to upset me so much and realize that they were little things and that my parents overall really did a great job. That’s the end goal for me.

  21. Moxie, you’re awesome. I’ve had a hard week, this one has been on my mind. I finally found a better solution for dealing with tantrums of an almost 4 yr old boy and now I feel like an idiot for not realizing this is what he needed long ago. With each parenting victory, there seems to be guilt about why I didn’t know this already – I know my kids so well. I hope the effort and love are what matters most in the long term. Thanks for the thoughtful posts.

  22. Heather, I love this: “I just hope that if I can teach him to be articulate and compassionate that when he is 30 and saying “remember that time …” that I can apologize and he can hear me.”That is exactly the kind of parent that I want to be. Thanks for giving me a motto!

  23. I’m currently agonizing between preschools for next year (this, after the preceeding agony of weather to send her to preschool in the first place), and feeling anxious to the point of near-catatonia after observing each school’s 4-year-old class. This is probably the ONLY time when I’ll be able to actively choose the school she attends, it’s her first introduction to formalized education, it’s surrender of control for 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for me …My gorge rises even typing it out …
    But I was sharing my myriad anxieties about preschool with my own mom, and she reminded me that when I was 3 (a year younger than my daughter is now), my Dad’s work situation made it so that my Mom also had to go back to work full time and I had to be in daycare. She said she agonized similarly about it and sympathizes with my feelings, especially since the center was not as ideal as she would have liked.
    And yet.
    And yet, at 35 years old, I am STILL in touch with my favorite caregiver from the 2 years I spent there. She came to my wedding. She has held my babies. I remember fondly when Mr.Greg taught me how to braid and Miss Sue brought her horse (in a trailer) to walk around the parking lot. My kids both have worn my tiny, thin, and well-worn tshirt from 1979, advertising the name of the center.
    My point is, my mom tied herself in knots about this life-altering and monumental step she chose for me. I am doing the same to myself about preschool. The place my mom sent me wasn’t perfect, and the schools I’m looking at aren’t perfect, either.
    I learned how to braid. DD will learn something great, too.

  24. caramama I, too came from a household with no warnings. I retracted in fear when I was hit with my parent’s reaction, it seemed to come so out of the blue.Because of that I tried to give warnings to my children too and found that those warnings felt like I was threatening them with my impending anger. I came up with this.
    I’d say, “What do you need to change right now, because I’m starting to get frustrated? You know what it is, don’t you? Then please change it.”
    There’s a warning in that statement, there’s support and empowerment too. Just thought I would share.

  25. What I remember from my childhood that my parents probably don’t is my mother’s rages, the unpredictability of our life, the obvious distrust my parents had for eachother and how totally mismatched they were.What I also remember are the holidays and special occasions (my mother was *very* good at holidays and birthdays), the family ski trips, etc. It’s a complete mishmash of terror and love.
    My first priority with my kids is to create a peaceful, stable home that they can be proud of. To be present, to really see them and know them. I felt unseen for my entire childhood.
    I don’t succeed at this every day, but it’s my goal, always. My kids still see my impatience at times, my temper at times, but that lets them know I’m human, too.

  26. I used to ask my friends and their parents what the worst thing the parents had done was. (Yeah, now I realize that could have been dangerous turf. I was lucky.) They never answered the same thing, and it was always eye-opening — and luckily funny — for them.

  27. @Sharon – Thank you so much! That’s exactly what I needed to hear, both that I’m not the only one who’s done it and felt I wasn’t getting it right and a good way to rephrase what I want to get across. Really, truly, thank you!

  28. This is from my blog almost exactly a year ago – and I still think about this almost every day…————–
    Here’s what most of my so-called ‘parenting’ decisions are based on:
    1. what I think is the right thing to do – based on opinion, advice, research or gut instinct
    2. what I have time for in any given situation
    3. the amount of determination available in my weary body
    4. the amount of tenacity that Lily Ruth has for her own opinion
    5. the quantity of sleep that I have had
    6. the current hour of the day / night
    Is this what you’re doing too? Do I stand a chance of raising her to adulthood, or will she be better off in a wolf pack?
    Seriously. Days like today have me convinced that not only do I NOT need another baby, but the one that I have really might be better off with the wolves :-/

  29. @Sharon, what a great idea!I remember telling my mom (I think when my son was maybe 18 months) that I was terrified of making a mistake that would send him to therapy. My mom laughed and said, “Honey, he probably will need therapy, because we all do. But it won’t be one single thing you do, so do the best you can and don’t worry about it.”
    No one thing I do will screw him up for life. There is no decision I can make that is so irredeemable that he will never recover. As long as I get most of it right, he’ll be okay. As long as he knows I love him unconditionally, will always listen to him, and do the very best I can do, he’ll be okay.

  30. I mean, obviously barring accidents causing bodily harm, and assuming that I TRY to make the best decision each time. I don’t mean to minimize parents who HAVE screwed their children up–I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s the pattern of behavior that I think makes or breaks a childhood, not the one time you lost it and screamed that if they asked you ONE MORE TIME if “you happy, mama? you HAPPY, mama? You HAPPY, MAMA?” you were going to go to your room and never ever come out.

  31. @Hush and @AmyinMotown, sounds like our mothers could start a club. My mother raged, lied, manipulated and humiliated… and she did it all without a second thought. She still thinks she was a great mom. Even when I, in my 20’s, confronted her with some of the things she did that were truly awful, she couldn’t/wouldn’t acknowledge that she’d made mistakes. Ditto my step-dad– whatever it was, I was always wrong. Disagreeing with them on any subject results in them calling me crazy, ungrateful, wrong, stupid, even monstrous. Sadly, she’s still the same; luckily, a healing marriage and therapy have helped me realize it’s not my fault and learn how to establish boundaries with her.@Sharon: exactly. Because of my childhood, I have a tendency to get a little obsessive over “getting it right”. But then I realize that being obsessed with getting it right might be the single most damaging thing I can do to my kids– because it places emotional pressure on them to validate my parenting and, in effect, makes my parenting all about me, not about them. I’ve finally realized, I am getting it right, even with all the mistakes I make. I can’t completely spare my children from pain, fear, anger and conflict and, frankly, I’m not sure I would want to– the only way to do that would be to shelter them from life, and I want them to grow up resilient and strong, ready for the challenges they’ll face as adults.
    Sometimes I think the best approach is to think of parenting in terms of creating the conditions for them to develop the life skills I want them to develop, rather than what outcomes I’m looking for. Because the outcomes may or may not happen– all I can do is create the conditions. I heard an amazing ‘This American Life’ story about a couple that adopted a kid from Eastern Europe who ended up having Reactive Attachment Disorder and being very disturbed and violent for several years. The Mom in particular persevered and persevered through some truly harrowing years and now the kid is a teenager and doing great. The interviewer asked her, “Do you think your son loves you?” She said something along the lines of ‘I don’t know. I think he does. My goal was never for him to love me– my goal was to create the conditions for attachment to occur so that he could develop normally and have a good life.’ How amazing is that?

  32. Hush, as usual, you rock my world and our similarities keep shining through.I would like to think that my mistakes will be outweighed by raising my kids in a loving, supportive family on most days. I do have issues at times, but I don’t have much to compare it to.
    My mother was a single parent who raised us in a hippy, free-love kind of way. Sounds romantic and cool, but really it just boils down to vague, hands-off parenting. Usually it’s just lame wishy washy answers to practical parenting questions like, “Mom, what did YOU do when we refused to brush our teeth?” She responds with, “I never really made such a big deal about it.”
    Guess I can do better than that without trying too hard… And, thank goodness, I can afford the therapy. : )

  33. I was once told that our job as parents is to prepare our children to be adults.Unfortunately, part of the preparation is teaching them to deal with disappointment, conflict and the fact that the world is not fair. Yes, we should create as an environment that is as loving, and stable as possible, but we cannot and should not shield them from all unpleasantness. And if they are exposed to conflict, it is not the end of the world!!!
    My personal feeling is that those of us who grow up and need therapy, probably would need it regardless of our childhood situation. (Clarification: I do not think therapy is a bad thing.)

  34. Thanks caramama, bluebirdmama, wealhtheow. I agree with enu, therapy is a tool. This post does get to Moxie’s topic, just in a round about way, keep reading.For some reason today I was hesitant to put a tip out there. Probably because I’m going through some big changes.
    For me, going through big changes are when old wounds surface. Mostly I begin to second guess myself. Why? Because I came from a family where needs weren’t really met, parent or child’s. That was how parenting was back then. I grew up like my parents did, never knowing when the yelling would begin or why. So I grew up expecting to be punished, it was easier that way.
    Today I was second guessing myself about this weeks VLOG. I asked DH, was it okay? Was it too preachy, will it offend? Translated, will I get punished for it? I’m fascinated by how unmet needs weave their way into an adult’s life!
    It never ceases to amaze me how the inner child can rule. How the inner child and the wounds of the inner child can surface and over take the adult. My parents were good parents and did agonize over decisions. I also know that I never paid attention to their agonizing, just like Moxie said! Since I was a child, all I thought about were my unmet needs.
    As an adult I’ve come to appreciate the wounds of my inner child. Looking back at my childhood wounds and seeing how they were resolved amazes me.
    My wounding caused me to seek other ways to talk to my kids. It caused me to find my calling, and create other ways of saying things to help others.
    My up shot here is, no one is perfect. Sometimes the wounds parents unconscious produce in children are exactly what they need to direct them to who they will become.
    Parenting isn’t perfect, wounds happen. Parents agonize over doing the right thing. Your children will feel like their needs weren’t met, it’s how it’s supposed to be. After all, we do the most growing when we have to resolve our wounds. Not saying you should go create some wounds for your children! LOL! I am saying, give yourselves a break. No one here is a bad parent or you wouldn’t be reading this blog!
    I know your curious now, the VLOG is @ proactiveparentingblog.com. Be kind, but be honest! I can take it, I’m a grown up—most of the time! LOL!

  35. I think that if you are doing it ‘right’ then your children won’t notice it. That’s the point, isn’t it? To help them be responsible, accountable, confident people we need to support in a way that places the power in their hands. Maybe that’s why the things your parents agonized over didn’t seem like much – because they DID agonize and tread carefully and, from the sounds of it, they did it well.A year ago I would have said breezily that if you stay in tune with your children and let them lead the way the guess-work becomes clearer. But today I left my son in the kindergarten playground on day 6 and watched as other kids excluded him despite his earnest efforts and saw his eyes well up. The guess work for me is figuring out how involved in his life I should get. At what point do I intervene to protect his sense of self worth and at what point does intervening itself negatively impact his self-worth?
    Feeling fragile today.

  36. @hush, that is freaking brilliant @AmyInMotown, @BlueBirdMama, yeah…my mom could be in the club too. I just spent the weekend with her and she hasn’t changed. Luckily I have but I’d rather my daughter needed less intense therapy than I did.I think the most important thing for me to keep remembering is that it’s not my movie. It’s Mouse’s movie. Doesn’t mean I have to cater to her all the time or anything, but does mean I have to listen to her and not create big preconceptions around what she should do or what she should like or be like. She’s already who she is, my job is to help her make the most of this one lifetime as Mouse.
    (Which all requires questioning myself pretty constantly, so yes.)

  37. Jilly – I feel your pain. I had a wee one who had those experiences too. I wanted to rush in and protect him. What I did do was rehearse with him at home.First I asked the teacher what she thought would help. When she said give it time, I said okay AND I want to give him some ways to join the group. I want to practice with him at home, what do you suggest?
    You want to get him comfortable with saying things like “hey guys want to play tag?”
    It’s been a while so I’m a bit rusty on what to say. The teacher should have some handy one liners or at least know her class well enough to know what will help your child join a group.
    The other suggestion I have is to ask the teacher if she would be willing to make this a class discussion, without using your son as an example. Something like, “what do we do when we see someone alone on the playground? Do we ignore or include? How do we get to know our friends? Do we wait for them to approach us or do we approach them first because they may be feeling shy?”
    Hope that helps.

  38. @Jilly- I know exactly how you feel! We’ve been dealing with a “situation” with a little girl at my daughter’s day care who is exhibiting some bullying behaviors directed at my daughter. This is the hardest thing I’ve done yet as a parent. Far harder than the years of not sleeping… and I thought that was HARD. And the scariest thing for me is that my daughter is only 3.5 years old, so I know that this is only going to get harder!Anyway, I’m reading a book by Barbara Coloroso on bullying (The Bully, The Bullied, and the Bystander). It has some tips about how to help your kid “fit in” and how to give your child the foundation to deal with playground situations on his own which might be helpful even if you aren’t dealing with a full on bullying situation. I find that I’m really glad I’m reading it. It specifically addresses your last question- about when to intervene and how to intervene without making things worse. (Short answer from what I’ve read so far: the most effective intervention at this point may be roll-playing with your son and/or talking through his feelings- but she also has some really good points about how to encourage kids to tell you what’s going on without tattling, and how to teach kids the difference between bullying and teasing, etc.)

  39. First, @jilly, sending you warm thoughts. Moments like that are so, so hard.I have so much to say that I’m having a hard time sorting it out coherently. So I’ll just share a story from my own childhood. My father is a silent, loner-type. He grew up in India, and his childhood couldn’t have been more different than mine. I’m an only child, so spent all of my time with my parents. Over the years, he said very little, didn’t play with me at all, didn’t talk to me about the things that were happening in my life, and spent most of my childhood at work, or in the garden. He was at work before I woke up, came home in time for dinner, and spent the evening doing his own thing.
    I NEVER doubted that he loved me, I always felt close to him, and the small moments when he smiled or did something kind (which he did all the time, without fanfare) always stayed with me. He taught me about discipline, quiet humor, and values. To this day, we love spending time together, and it’s usually silent.
    What this teaches me is that the best thing we can give our children is our love and our authentic selves.

  40. I guess that’s a universal parental feeling–you just never know what is going through their little heads. Your connection only goes so deep, and they are always, always separate from us no matter how bonded we feel. I’m starting to think we worry for ourselves and not so much for them. I’ve noticed that when I’m agonizing out loud over all the ways something could go and reviewing options, my daughter will just wander off mentally or physically. I wonder what she’ll remember of me and these times.

  41. I so totally agree with the previous poster who talked about respect. I want BabyT to grow up respectful *and* respected. I grew up in an house that was all about kids being *respectful* but not so much about respecting us (that’s a cultural thing, for sure.)So I am working hard to make sure I respect her, even at 16 months, when I know I could just yell, or pick her up and move her, etc.
    As she gets older, I want to make sure I respect her ideas and thoughts and not just dismiss them out of hand because she’s just a kid. I perceived that happening to me a lot (not sure if it was intended that way) so I’d like her to grow up feeling like her opinion matters too.
    I try to keep that as my overarching goal, and try not to sweat the small details as much.

  42. I think this is a great conversation, and I LOVE hearing some of my own convictions being said out loud by others — makes me feel validated, so thanks! :)And on the philosophy side, I try to keep it simple (complicated means more little things to trip on and worry about and control, etc.): There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a great one. That quote (Jill Churchill, I think) has made me feel SO much better during times when I wasn’t living up to MY OWN expectations of being a Great Mom.
    I choose to meet my kids “where they are” and ASK what they need. Our son is learning to “use his words” in a way that I think a lot of boys weren’t taught to do; and I think our daughter is learning that the screaming/crying thing doesn’t get her what she wants as quickly as calming down and using HER words to tell me what’s wrong and how I can help. That doesn’t mean she gets her way, but it DOES mean that she feels listened to and she knows that we talk over things rather than yelling at each other.
    I hate to go all Dr Phil/Oprah on this, but I also have adopted the mantra, “when you know better, you DO better” — which means that I allow myself to improve and change/update my techniques as I go along. I think of myself as a lifelong learner, and parenting is just another thing you keep learning how to do, every day.
    In the end, I think that kids, like most adults, can tell when your intentions are good and when you are a force for kindness, consideration, civility, responsibility, and love in their lives.
    If you try your best to be a good person, your kids cannot help but notice. And odds are, they’ll try their best to be good people, too, especially if you TALK about your efforts and how you are continuing to work on your own weaknesses and learn and try new things. And isn’t that what we all want, anyway?
    PS: Therapy has saved my entire life, I swear; I’d be a wreck without it. (I’m a charter member of the My-Mom-Was-Batsh*t-Crazy club, too. Ugh!) And my kids know I go and that it helps me talk through things I struggle with and helps me make myself a better, happier person. I handle it that way to convey that there is NO SHAME in therapy or meds, only good sense and self-care. And if I screw up, I think, “Well, they’re going to go to therapy anyway — might as well know why!” 😉

  43. Lots of great insight here.I think that the fact that my kid won’t remember the stuff I agonized over is the payoff. Yes, the agonizing is hard and worrisome, and perhaps not necessary. But I kind of think that if it doesn’t even occur to my kid that it’s something I agonized over then it means whatever I did, I did it right. Or at least I didn’t get in the way of my kid as they figured it out themselves. Of course this is all speculation on my part as DS is only 2.5. All I can do now is to be observant of DS, and react accordingly. And try to get my own issues out of the way so I can trust my gut about what is right for DS.
    Of course the question of what to spend time caring about is a whole other thing. I think I’m probably focused on the things that have an impact on DS being healthy (mentally and physically) as well as the things that will help him self-actualize (is that really a verb? not so sure…). I’m not so sure I focus on things that *I* think will make him happy. That’s not to say that I don’t try to live with happiness and create a warm and loving atmosphere for DS. But I figure if I do my part for helping him be healthy and to be his authentic self and to ‘make the most of this one lifetime as DS’ as @Charisse says, then I figure the happiness will follow. Or the wisdom to have the therapy, for the happiness to follow.
    @Heather, Well put.
    @JudyB, Start videotaping now! You obviously won’t get everything on film, but what you do get will be priceless. I’ve been making more of an effort to do this (with my phone) lately and I’m happy I’ll have this to show DS when he gets older (as well as to play back for myself). I also started taking pictures of both of us together (i.e. with an extended arm) and I’ve captured some really sweet moments on (digital) film. And yep. Been there a very select few but awful times with the reaching the end of my rope / screaming at the top of my lungs.
    @EmJay, I think you make an important point when you say ‘There will be and there ought to be [pain]’. Of course, we don’t want to be the source of that. But there is something to be said about learning how to overcome difficult things with the people that love you.
    @Cloud, Good to read your comment about eating. We’ve been more or less following Ellyn Satter’s approach (with moderate to significant success). But lately, DS has stopped eating vegetables and will pretty much only eat bananas on the fruit end of things. I play it cool at mealtime sticking to ES’ approach. But I must admit that worry is creeping in through small holes in my confidence about this. I’m sure it’s just a phase. But the longer it goes on, the bigger those holes are getting!
    @MrsHaley, Oh how I feel your pain! I’m also currently agonizing about pre-school for DS. After the whole daycare nightmare of late last year, then switching DS to a new daycare which, for the most part, seems to be decent so far, we just got a call that he was accepted into a Montessori pre-school for September. 1/2 hr drive from our house. In the opposite direction of work. Of course there are a million details to agonize about weather this is the right place for him or not (commuting aside). I know it will make me crazy until we make a decision. And even after we make a decision until I see some ‘proof’ it’s the ‘right’ one. Hopefully DS will learn how to braid or something as great whatever we decide.
    @Sharon, LOVE your solution regarding anger and warnings. Totally stealing that. 🙂 Oh, and another stroke of brilliance “Sometimes the wounds parents unconsciously produce in children are exactly what they need to direct them to who they will become.”
    @Rachel – YES! That’s totally it. An equation with many parts. I would also add 7. the importance of the issue or decision
    @Jilly, I fear we will eventually live what you are living now as DS is ultra sensitive and I’ve already witnessed his mega tears when he offers a friend a puzzle piece (his favourite thing to do) and they ignore him or don’t want to do it. They’re all around 2-3, so I know it’s developmentally related. But when he’s older it’ll be a whole other ball game. And I will be as conflicted about what to do (if anything).
    @Cloud, OMG, you’re scaring me with the ‘far harder than the years of not sleeping’. What?!!! 🙂
    @Asha, “What this teaches me is that the best thing we can give our children is our love and our authentic selves.” Yes. This is so good.

  44. @Jill, This is so great:”Our son is learning to “use his words” in a way that I think a lot of boys weren’t taught to do.”
    Just tonight I told DS to please use his words when he was crying and saying something incoherently. My motivation was purely because I had no freaking clue what he was upset about or what he wanted. Amazingly it worked and he said ‘read cards’, so we read the cards. Problem solved.
    But, asking for what you need and learning how to communicate (without screaming etc.) when you’re upset are such important things (esp. for boys). Thanks for bringing it up from this angle. I know this will stay with me and will be more incentive for me to encourage DS to express himself & communicate when he’s unhappy. Since he’s ultrasensitive I think it will serve him well to develop this ability to balance what will likely be strong and deep emotional responses.

  45. I don’t know, I came to motherhood as a stepmom to teenagers whose parents had split only 4 years previously (and only 1 year before their dad and I started dating) — so they were navigating a lot of pretty big changes in their lives (as was I, but of course I was (a) an adult and (b) doing so by my own choice). Fortunately they avoided many of the real horrors of teenage/young adulthood, but I/we (including their mom) had plenty of worries about them, as one does. The year their dad and I married and the older of the two started college, a kid at the (different) college where I worked died tragically (and not immediately, so there was a week of so of press coverage of how he was doing) of the sort of stupid alcohol-related accident that college kids sometimes die of (pneumonia caused by aspiration while passed out drunk), and I found myself giving my stepkids advice like, “Just don’t drink so much that you pass out and choke on your own vomit.” (Also, though this didn’t work when they were away at school, “You can always call us to come get you if you don’t have a safe way to get home [i.e. if no one is sober enough to drive].”).Which isn’t to downplay all the stuff leading up to that age, but I do think I’m more blasee than many first-time mothers would be because of having parented teenagers. Or maybe the years between preschooler (my son now) and about 14 (where I started with my stepkids) are a lot harder than I realize and I’m just not there yet.
    Also, my mother has always told me that “Kids survive [cope, thrive, succeed — insert your favorite positive verb here] in spite of their parents, not because of them,” and I believe she’s right.

  46. I’m always second guessing. Seeing what my friends do to raise their kids makes me second guess. Reading a parenting book makes me second guess. Listening to my Mom makes me second guess. Argh!What I hate most of all is the potentially good moments that I choose to second guess, like waking up with S next to me in the morning, and hubby still on the floor in baby’s room. I still think “have I ruined her sleeping? will she ever sleep on her own? when will this end? I’m so tired I could gouge my eyes out!” Meanwhile, shes up and smiling and saying “Mama, kiss! Hug!” and patting my arm while covering my face with her wet lips. What will she remember when she’s older?
    What will I?

  47. Oh, and for me:My sister and I were just discussing how we did a lot with other people in our childhoods. My parents were very loving and caring and involved, but they were homebodies–anything we did had to be carefully planned, way ahead. So we travelled with grandparents and friends. We went swimming with cousins. We went camping with my parents’ church friends.
    I wish they’d have let loose a little more. I never doubted their love, but I wish those fun, spontaneous memories involved my parents.

  48. Oh, and on a light note for the therapy angle, last night I said to my preschooler, “If you don’t get into bed I am going to go crazy!” (said in good humor — at the time I was lying in his bed waiting to read him his bedtime stories). His reply, “Mama, yes, you ARE going to go crazy. But it’s OK to be crazy. Isn’t it?”

  49. @the milliner- here’s why I think this bullying stuff is harder than the sleep stuff: with sleep (in our family), it has always just been the adults who have a problem. Neither of my girls have ever shown signs of sleep deprivation- they manage to get the sleep they need even as they are depriving me of mine. But with the bullying incidents at day care, the problem is now my daughter’s. And that is just so much harder for me to handle.Also, with sleep I always knew that if I just waited long enough, the problem would probably go away. So there was always a fall back plan. Not so much with the bullying- we HAD to do something, but I wasn’t at all prepared for it and had no idea what we were supposed to do.

  50. Unfortunately kids do not come with a manual, so we’re all just taking a shot in the dark and praying they turn out okay in the end. I also think this is the reason we end up comparing ourselves to other families/moms out there who appear “perfect” to us.

  51. I grew up in a family with covert abuse. really sneaky dysfunctional gaslighting. As a result, I don’t trust other people or my intuition, I find myself overreacting or underreacting. I have PtSD, and I get triggered a lot by my kid. He’s 5.5 and having a really hard time with kindergarten. He’s a perfectionist, and has a hard time starting things socially. He has difficulty tolerating intense emotions, and had a playground incident in October that he held in for weeks, all the while striking out at me more & more at home. It’s exhausting & incredibly painful for me. The school has been pretty ham-handed in their efforts to help. We’re seeing a psychologist who does play therapy, and we’ve seen improvement, but I am burnt out.It’s hard to believe that he’s going to be ok when we’re seeing signs that he inherited anxiety, and when I feel like I’m acting like my mother, and I know the impact of growing up with her. It’s hard to find the gifts in my wounds these days and see the silver lining. I’m working my ass off in therapy, and it’s still so hard.
    Intellectually I’m hopeful. I know the only way out is through, and I have this sense that he’s my great teacher, that I have to reexperience & integrate the painful experiences of my childhood. Spiritually I’m angry, frustrated, and having a hard time being hopeful, if that makes any sense. I’m really sad & tired.

  52. anon, i’m so sorry. *but* – love the phrase ‘sneaky dysfunctional gaslighting’! great old movie reference!the thing i want to give my son that i didn’t have is the feeling of really being heard & my thoughts explored. my parents loved me, they are great parents, but there are lots of things i wanted to do or try that i never expressed because i thought they couldn’t be honored. as an adult, i see they could have been if i had asked. (i’m talking about things like tap dancing lessons – not available in our tiny town, but available an hour away. or summer sleep away camp. would i have gotten them? who knows, but you definitely don’t get what you don’t ask for.)

  53. @Cloud, totally makes sense.Part of me thinks (probably incorrectly) that when DS gets older and communicates more that I’ll have more to work with in terms of problem solving. We can talk through things.
    But I know better than to think that it’s that simple. As you said, the fact that things like bullying becoming the kids problem, not our problem direclty, and not something that will go away on it’s own, is so hard. Especially when we see it hurting them.
    All I can figure out is that the challenges become different. Harder in some ways. Easier in others. The other week I posted on FB that I think that going through your first labour is probably the scariest thing you’ll ever do. But parenting is the hardest. What I can see so far is that it’s hard because the parameters and the dynamics keep changing. (Well, that and the fact that we often can’t help but bring our own baggage into the equation).
    Hope your daughter (and you) find resolution and relief soon from the bullying situation.

  54. @Hush: “The goal is not to have kids who don’t need therapy; rather the goal is to raise kids who can see the need for therapy and pay for it themselves!”Please have t-shirts made, bumper stickers pressed and your own talk show! That’s a lottery ticket you’re sitting on there!
    Freakin’ Awesome, indeed!!!!!

  55. I’m lucky that I had a wonderful, happy childhood with cousins, grandparents, aunts & uncles all around. I’m still close with my entire family, and it pains me that we live far away from them. It was, as someone posted ealier (Caramama?), a house of love and warmth, and more than anything that’s what I want the little ones to feel/remember. But that puts an intense pressure on me to always be creating this magical happy environment, when in truth, DH and I have far more financial and work stress than my parents did, and we don’t have any family nearby to help out. I don’t want to be an illusionist in front of my kids, always pretending things are HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!!! For the most part, things *are* happy, but I struggle to balance what I want for them with my own limitations — to be authentic, as Asha said. I hope the result is giving our kids that baseline of love and and optimism and possibility, but not hiding the “real us” (i.e., sometimes light-hearted and fun, sometimes stressed about work, $$, etc.)@Jill and others, we too are struggling with the social minefield of kindergarten. I want to teach Big Girl to be a good problem-solver, but she just wants me to step in and solve it all for her, and I wish I could!

  56. Thanks, @the milliner! Things do seem to be improving, but it is so hard to tell when your source of information is 3.5 years old. I need to get Hubby (who’s been doing drop off AND pick up since I was laid off) to ask some more questions. Or, since it is looking likely that I will be back at work soon, I can just wait a few weeks and ask questions myself.To clarify on the sleep/playground issues hardness spectrum- my overall life is far easier now than it was when I had a baby whose sleep was terrible. But the parenting aspect of my life is harder, if that makes any sense. Not sleeping enough made everything in my life hard, but the parenting response was pretty straightforward. The playground issues don’t really impact on the rest of my life, but the parenting response is hard for me- hard to figure out, hard to implement, just hard.
    OK, done over-analyzing now.

  57. Here is a great quote from my daughter’s pedi:”Trust your heart. Your instincts have evolved over millions of years. You can probably trust your feelings. If a mistake is made as a result of following your feelings it’s unlikely to be a serious one and not nearly as dangerous as the mistakes we made ignoring our instincts.” Mark Vonnegut, M.D. (http://www.gotomvpeds.com/about/your-are-the-parent).

  58. My son just started to say I love you mama and he says it with such joy it makes my heart explode. I want him to grow up really independent so my whole philosophy is provide him with some boundaries but let him figure lots of things out for himself. When he runs into consequence, help him understand it. And most of all, I just plan to be there for him. I remember so much from my childhood – and from so early on. Many early memories are impressionistic, like I know that I was often in my parent’s bed in the morning and that I like mummy’s side better. And I remember a game I used to like playing with her where I leaned over backwards while sitting on her lap. And I remember clearly what drove me bananans… that they’d forget to pick me up after activities and that I always thought they were being unfair to me (in the context of siblings). I also look back and relish the amount of freedom they gave me. And that is something I have to pass on to my own.

  59. I think that what we remember is really individual and depends on a mix of things. For instance, for some reason I have strong memories of when my turtle died. I wasn’t particularly attached to it, though I was I guess sorry to see it go.Mostly I remember how my parents drove all the way to our favorite park and buried it there, complete with a ceremony.
    On the other hand, kids do remember plenty of fun things that parents do with them; we just can’t choose which ones 🙂

  60. I worried about what my kids would remember a lot in the beginning (3 boys ages 8,6 and 3.5) I agonized over birthday party details and bedtime routines and Christmas traditions, because I felt growing up that we had none of that.My mom had major self esteem issues, body image issues, always stressed about money and never put any effort into her appearance, which for some reason really bothered me. Today, my sister and I have a very hard time having a ‘real’ relationship with her, although it doesn’t seem to have any ill effect with my brother’s relationship with her.
    When I graduated from high school at 16 (I had skipped a grade and fast tracked through high school) I wanted to do a foreign exchange and my parents wouldn’t let me because they said I wasn’t mature enough to handle myself.
    So, I got a boyfriend who was leaving our small town on a baseball scholarship and left home, lived with him, worked at the mall until they decided to pay for me to go to University despite my rebellion.
    Fast forward, my boyfriend and I broke up, I got educated, married, had kids and that’s when my mother and my relationship really blew up. I guess she wanted me to apologize for leaving home, and I wanted her to apologize for failing to meet my needs. She still considers me very self centred, and I consider her very, i dunno.
    I love my mom, but I wish she could have understood who I was, and the freedom and opportunities I needed to grow.
    I parent very differently from my parents, who were extremely religious and deeply involved with the church. I bring my kids to church, but I am liberal in my philosophy. My husband is an athiest and the boys take turns staying home from church to hang out with him individually. I tell the kids that I like to go to church because I like how it makes me feel inside and they may or may not like it – but it’s up to them.
    I’ve really learned to listen to my intuition, it feels right so far. I pray all the time for their needs to be revealed to me.

  61. I would like to think that my mistakes will be outweighed by raising my kids in a loving, supportive family on most days. I do have issues at times, but I don’t have much to compare it to.

  62. Parenting is all about trial and error and making the most of the time that you share with your little one or little ones espcially if you work all day. I love seeing my daughter smiling and laughing but she seems to grow up more and more each day and she is only 6 months old! Its amazing to see what they react to like adverts on telly or brothers and sisters arguing lol.

  63. Well children and parents both have expectations from each other! on part of children i would like to say that they only want is parent’s love and understanding!parents must be friendly to their children..

  64. Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood…it should be done at the best efforts on the part of parents…and the children should have good experience and memories!

  65. Louise Locas:I absolutely loved it. It had my full atinetton right from the beginning. I was really looking forward to the next episode and was very disappointed when I discovered there were no more episodes. Please, keep them coming! I don’t know how the writers do it, but you can’t help but like Jack.

  66. Left comments over at the post on What To Expect! Thanks for shanirg! Got to show my kids I am not the only Mom who expects her kids to get off the couch and contribute to the household!! We pretty much run our houses the same way it sounds like. Just recently my kids started being responsible for doing their own laundry. I highly recommend it! They need to know how to do it and it took a huge load of me!! I had to set a few rules. The main one being no starting a load after 8 pm and no leaving your clothes in the dryer for me to deal with while you are gone at school etc…

  67. If you owned grazing land,you could psrpooe the idea of letting other herders graze on your land for a small fee. If they don’t have the money ,then psrpooe the idea of protecting their herds on your land for now and in the spring they give you half of all the newborns in their herds.

  68. Well – I didn’t say that I baked them from scratch. 😉 I “made” them, by docntriog cake mixes and frostings. Maybe one day I’ll tackle becoming a better “from scratch” baker.

  69. first off, where are you going to be in switzerland? socned, how much do you plan on spending for travelling? if you already have an idea where you want to go, then go to ryanair.com and buy tix, because their airfare is the cheapest you’ll find, and buying asap could seriously cut down on expenses. but otherwise, if you would like to go skydiving, paragliding and all that good stuff, go to interlacken (i think i spelled that right). it’s awesome. geneva is also a good place to check out. munich is not that far away and in the heart of bavaria. lots of sights to see there. great food and beer. but those are just off the top of my head right now. vienna is not that far away either, and it’s beautiful in every sense of the word anyhoo. send me a word and i have lots more stories about where you can go.

  70. Not relatively true. There is no prove to back up this arlcites. Only naive people would believe that arlcites. Those who haven’t seen what is going on around would not say such things. To be honest not all bloggers are like that. Some do it for fun and some post ads on blogs just for show or just for fun or whatever the reason may be. There are many reason not just only 10 reasons. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. That is it.

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