Archive for January 9th, 2010

January 9, 2010

caution: i’m about to brag about my kid

there have been so many days lately when i feel like screaming, “THIS!!!  this is why i wanted to be a mom.”  my daughter is approaching two-and-a-half, an age which, according to conventional wisdom and cautionary tales of parenthood, should be causing me to question my decision to procreate, but she is just so damn awesome that i can’t help but feel blessed.  i love that we can have real conversations, i love that we can take walks together and hold hands yet she’s still light enough for me to swoop up and carry in my arms, i love that she’s becoming more independent and confident and proud.  i just adore the person that she is becoming, yet i feel like she’s growing up too fast.  i want to stop time so i can just enjoy these wonderful moments.

before i became a mom i worked as a family counselor and i met a lot of people who simply sucked at being parents.  to be fair, some of these families were struggling in many ways and their limited resources and skills seriously impacted their ability to be good parents.  some of them were just shitty parents no matter which way you cut it, and even under the best of circumstances probably still would have been shitty parents.  i learned a lot of lessons about what not to do from these folks.

these lessons have shaped my entire belief system about how to interact with my child.  i think one of the most profound observations that i took away from my work with these families is that children wither under criticism, and thrive with praise and positive reinforcement.   simple, huh?  totally seems like a no-brainer, but i can recall dozens of kiddos who stand out in my mind as prime examples of shriveled, droopy, sad, little souls whose spirits were snuffed out by caregivers who simply did not (or could not) show any sort of positive attention to their children.  these kids would light up with a simple, “good job, today, buddy” or “thanks for playing with me today.  i had a good time.”  it breaks my heart to think that they never got that sort of affection from the people who should be giving it the most.   i make sure that i never miss an opportunity to let my daughter know that i think she’s a pretty special kid.  every night before bed, when we’re recounting what we did during the day, i always thank her for being a good girl, for being sweet, for being a good helper.  throughout the day i make sure to tell her that she’s doing a great job playing with her toys, or that i’m so proud of her for conquering the big slide at the playground all by herself, or that i admire her confidence when she slides headfirst down the water slide.  (side note: she went headfirst down the water slide today, going under the water and then surfacing with a huge smile…all by herself!)  my heart swells with pride when she smiles and responds with, “i know” to assure me that she feels good about herself too.  i pray that she still feels that way about herself when she’s thirteen, and twenty-five, and ninety-two.

i worry a lot about raising a “good” kid.  i know that the parenting we do now will shape her development and self-image as a teen and as an adult.  i worry that i’m not doing enough to ensure that she becomes a happy, healthy, confident, well-adjusted individual.  that’s a lot of pressure.  it also supports the argument that mental health professionals with degrees in human development and child psychology are overly neurotic parents, but that’s beside the point.  it’s hard to just sit back and realize that i am doing a great job NOW and that she’s a happy, healthy, confident, well-adjusted kiddo NOW, and that i have ten-and-a-half years before she becomes a teenager (ten-and-a-half?!  is that all?!) to keep doing what i’m doing and that she will continue to be an amazing person.

in the meantime, i’ll just try to savor these wonderful days that remind me how lucky i am to be this little creature’s mama.  i’ll try not to dwell on all my fears about what could go wrong if i fail as a parent.  i’ll take advantage of every opportunity to be the best mom i can be, and not beat myself up when i have a less-than-stellar performance.  she’s two-and-a-half and she’s incredible.  i wish i could freeze her at this age so that i can enjoy it forever (except maybe after she’s potty trained).  she reminds me all the time that THIS! is why i became a parent.