Saturday, December 5, 2009

Paper Parents Pop Quiz

If there’s one thing I remember about the days before I was a parent, it’s how sure I was of exactly how I wanted to raise my children. I was pretty sure I had every detail nailed down, from how much TV they wouldn’t watch to how I would discipline them to how they would treat their friends and family. A part of me knew that I might be jumping the gun since I didn’t actually have children but that didn’t stop me from feeling I pretty much could handle whatever and thinking I had most of the details nailed down before conception.

What an idiot. Reality is that it’s great to be confident about how you would handle different situations and what kind of parent you’ll want to be, but trust me….real parenting is often way different than “paper parenting” as I call it. Before we had our first little girl I remember feeling with absolute certainty that we’d train her as early as possible to sleep through the night in her own room. If she wailed she wailed, so what? This was what needed to be done and heck if I wasn’t going to stay strong. So at six months of age she was transferred to the crib and on the first night she screamed her brains out at 2am. And there it is. There’s your moment of truth. This isn’t a scenario. Nothing drawn up on a blackboard or discussed over cocktails at the bar. Your kid is peeling the paint off the walls and you’ve got a choice….Real parenting vs. paper parenting. What’s your decision going to be?

Paper parenting lasted three minutes that night. It never had a chance. Our daughter was clearly going to take extended parental duty to get her back down and daddy needed sleep. So in a flash I whisked her into our bed and we lived to fight another day.

This is a scenario you will face a hundred times on a thousand fronts as a first timer. How you think you should parent vs. the reality of making hard choices and sticking to them. Do you fight a battle with your daughter for two hours at 2am or do you bring her into your bed? Do you push for her to read a book when she’s crying because she wants to watch another episode of Dora the Explorer? And so on it goes, every single day. You can lose a battle or two, no problem. But if you lose too many, it may threaten the development of your child.

So look for some pop quizzes to come. I’ll throw out a scenario we faced as parents and then tell you how we handled it. It may be very different than the way you would want to handle the situation. BUT remember there are two parenting categories ….those people who are actually living it and those who are paper parenting and guessing. And guesses are often very, very different from reality…

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