Monday, February 28, 2011

The no-fail parenting solution that will change everything

In response to my post on davening with young children in the house, the excellent Glad Hatter commented:
Amazing! I have just been living off the hope that all the extra davening I got when I was single is filtering into these years and keeping my average up. I run tot shabbat, but this should hopefully get me a little yom tov davening! IYH it'll keep working for you!
I had to laugh at myself when I saw that last bit—Glad Hatter’s lovely wish that my system will keep working for me. I am not so confident about the parenting enterprise that I often make predictions, but here I am secure in forecasting the following:

It will not keep working for me. I am sure of that. My kids will move on the the next phase, and I will have to outwit them again. Like a shark keeps swimming to stay alive. An ima shark.

I used to be a big believer in what I call “the no-fail parenting solution.” I am a great fan of tips, tricks, hacks and systems. I love victories. In my earliest days as a parent, I tried to establish systems that would serve us well. I adopted an overarching philosophy—based on Rav Shlomo Wolbe’s sefer Zeriah u'Vinyan (Planting and Building), particularly as it is articulated by Rabbi Leib Kelemen. I read about optimal childrearing practices and the sleep habits. As my children grew, I read more books and took classes, especially the excellent Perl Abromowitz teleconference (hopefully more on that another time). I read and listened and asked and got lots of great ideas and implemented them.

But parenting victories are fleeting.

One of my daughters has been going through a difficult phase lately. I have seen that each stage my children enter presents new challenges—teething, social anxiety, throwing food, staying up all night talking to each other, fighting, pickiness, tantrums, whining, dawdling, and on and on . . . Each time we hit a rough patch, I mourn the phase that’s passed. I bemoan the present and project darkly into the future. I walk around in a cloud of sulky self-pity, alternately brooding and complaining to anyone who will listen.

Then I remember to pray, to consult with my husband, to ask my mom and my friends and my mentors for advice, to consult the ideas and wisdom I’ve accumulated thus far. And I find that a solution usually presents itself. And in the past, I would think that solution was the be-all and end-all. Parenting has humbled me. These days, I embrace and celebrate each victory, each good idea. But each idea has its moment, and then the moment passes. The new challenge arrives, demanding its own answers.

Having an overall approach to parenting that my husband and I follow, however, has been enormously helpful. And strengthening myself with new classes and ideas is also invaluable. Those things provide stability and guidance; tips and tricks and solutions are amazing for a while, and then they move along to someone else’s family. Like ponytail holders and umbrellas.

So I know my davening system will not continue to work for me. My kids will get older and we will have to try something new. I hope, after reading the comments on the blog and on Facebook, that my sharing it will help someone else. I am so glad it is working for us right now, and I know that the next phase will be a chance to discover another victory.


Glad Hatter said...

Hehe! That's why I included the bracha, cuz I know how it goes, the song & dance (sometimes literally) we have to do can be exhausting. I definitely see that where it once took a jingle, a bribe, or a threat to see results, now my kids "perform" without my input. That way I have time and strength to tackle the next battle. I laugh when I recall how I thought I was preparing for parenting by attending one class or reading a few books. Cuz that only gets you through one stage before you need a refresh, reread, and renegotiation! Swapping tips with other mommies and reading is great for that. Thanks for the ideas and chizuk!

Chaya said...

Yay Parent Hacks!

Yeah, I totally thought parenting was about "starting right." It's really pretty funny to think how naive I was. There have been so many hilarious (in retrospect) shocks along the way, like when my perfect sleepers started staying up until midnight chatting in their cribs at 2 years old. In that case, I think we just threw up our hands and waited it out for months on end.

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