May 19, 2008

Everything You Need to Know about Parenting: Birth to Age Four

Don't you hate titles like that? You feel guilty if you don't pick up the book immediately and start reading. And it has to be at least 500 pages long with day by day development charts and checklists.

For a perfectionist, books like these are a trap. And I admit it, I read more than one during those nine months before Peter was born. And I kept reading them until I realized I was trying to live a clinical life in a messy world. The people around me wouldn't conform to my books! Good grief. Thankfully it didn't take me too long to realize this.

The deep truths of life are simple. Guiding principles for success are unimpressive. They don't get published because they are too short and too obvious. But when you boil it all down, there are really only two rules you need to follow to succeed in parenting in the early years. Are you ready? I've dragged this out about as long as I can. Here's what you REALLY need to know about parenting the first four years:

1. Stay married.

2. Keep your child alive.

Now let's all enjoy a big sigh of relief and get to it.

Stay married. Resist the urge to run away. There is so much emotion and pressure on a woman in those first few years, that it's a miracle any of us stay married. But just remember, half of your entire to-do list is to maintain your marital relationship, so be sensitive to him and his needs as best you can, and hold your tongue as much as possible. These truths struck me one night as I was doing dishes. Ten years from now it won't matter if you had the dishes done every night, but it will matter if your kids' dad is not around. Find like-minded women to encourage you on this journey and pray a lot.

Keep your child alive. This one really helped me lower my parenting expectations and enjoy my child. Forget about teaching him to read and play an instrument before he's two. Just make sure he's had enough to eat and his diaper is clean. Keep him warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and keep him away from dangerous people and life-threatening situations. I think if you focus on these basic things, you'll relax and be a better mom. You'll smile at your child more and take each day as a blessing. You'll have more emotional energy to think of fun things to do and places to go. And you won't beat yourself up for days when you can't seem to find time to get dressed.

Then once your child turns four, rejoice! He's alive and hopefully his dad is still around. Now it's time to add one more thing to your list: purposefully focus on his education. But I bet you've done a lot in that area already.

Here's an interesting study about how mothers influence how socially adept their child will become.


Unknown said...

Re keep the alive:
feed when hungry,
change (diaper) when wet or smelly
don't drop on head, or scald

(most other injures are usually not life threating.)

those were my parenting tips to my DIL.. (that our family tradition about names: the person who carried the baby for 9 months get final say on said baby's name(s). NO ONE ELSE. (she liked that rule, and i like the names she chose!)

Anonymous said...

Who needs to read 500 page books with lists that make you feel guilty? Not I.

I'll take your two tips and look forward to using them one day!

So glad you are writing these wonderful insights into your blog. IT will be oh so much easier for you when you write your book :)

with love and appreciation,

TexasMintMama said...

I have been (and trying not to be) that perfectionist person/parent...our second daughter may rival your Missa one day!!! So my expectations have lowered a lot too, but now I can let out a big ol' sigh of relief that I'm doing okay for now. Thank you.


Unknown said...

Thanks for publishing this. :)

Amanda said...

LOL, this is SO TRUE! I was one of those perfectionist parents, too -- on the AP end, not so clinical, but plenty of judgment nonetheless. I'm afraid my marriage suffered, too, but we got through it. Three times! :)

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