I’ve pasted my article below, for those of you who don’t like to click-click all over the place. But do click-click for this one reason only, there’s a kayoot pic of my kiddies alongside my article 🙂
Plain and Simple
Every so often, I find myself wondering if I’m being the best parent that I could be to my children. Am I making the right decisions for them? Even though I’m coming from a place of love, am I sometimes too hard on them? Do I sometimes forget that they are just little kids and in small ways, selfishly force them to grow up so that I can be less wanted; in less demand? Do I stick to a routine for their benefit or for mine? I often contemplate on how things could have turned out if I had said that differently, or reacted differently or let them “get away” with that. I find myself constantly second guessing myself – even after almost four years on this parenting trip. But what I’ve come to realize is that children really are simple beings who require simple things.
I think it’s us parents who blow things out of proportion, when all a kid really needs is love and fresh air and perhaps a good medical aid plan. Plain and simple. It’s an ongoing process, but I’m trying to eliminate the fluff that comes with parenting.
My children do not have to wear the most expensive diaper or branded clothes only. They do not have to suck a specific bottle or eat from a silver spoon. I do not have to feel pressurized into buying an expensive pram, car seat or bouncy chair. I do not need to buy a bigger house to accommodate ALL their stuff and I do not have to send them to a Montesorri school if I can’t afford it. My kid does not need to have the latest toys and gadgets, and we don’t have to go to places or spend lots of money to have fun together. And I understand that as a parent, we want the best for our kids, but I constantly have to remind myself to go back to basics: my kids really just crave my attention and my love. Their love language is time spent together. They don’t care what bottles they drink from, as long as their thirst is quenched, they don’t care what sneakers they are wearing, as long as their feet don’t get hurt when they are racing on their bikes. They don’t care what school they attend, as long as they are learning and growing (which you as the parent can decipher) in a loving and safe environment.
I used to lay awake at night wondering if I was doing it right. I used to want to sign up for every parenting workshop, read every book and trawl endless sites to get advice, but more so to get affirmation that I was doing it right. I would feel guilty if I could not console my crying child, or if my child ate food out of a bottle instead of preparing it freshly, or if they were not reaching their milestones as per the “book.” I was so desperate to keep to our strict routine that I would turn down invitations and not let people visit if it interfered with bedtime. THEN I would feel guilty about forcing my kids to sleep at 7h30pm when other parents were tweeting about spending quality time with their kids in the evenings. Having two small children in the house was tiring, and I felt guilty for always being tired, for always looking forward to nap time and bed time, for being in such a bad mood, for snapping at my husband and the kids. If I had carried on with that emotional baggage, I would have snapped. I’ve become far less dogmatic in my approach – I still believe in the value of a routine – but I don’t let it dictate our lives. I now know the routine is there to benefit both my kids and I, in that it gives them guidance and direction and an expectation of what’s to come and I know they find comfort in knowing what’s going on around them. It benefits me because I know that at 7h30pm each evening, I can let my hair down, and I most definitely do not feel guilty about that anymore! I don’t beat myself up about snapping now and again, or smacking a naughty bottom, or confiscating toys or rewards – if I want to raise these children to be upstanding citizens, they are going to have to experience some form of tough love. And even on the days when they don’t deserve my harsh tongue, and I feel that stab of guilt straight to my heart, I quickly dust myself off and try harder and thank God that children are like puppy dogs – quick to forgive and easy to love!
I’ve always advocated that you should choose your battles wisely, especially with strong willed toddlers, and I still maintain this stance. I no longer fight over what to wear, what to eat, and how to apply body lotion – if they want to go out dressed as circus freaks, I let them, as long as they are dressed appropriately for the weather. If they want to eat only the green food on their plates, I let them, and we find a compromise whereby they’ll eat two spoons, “ONLY two spoons mama,” of something else. I used to force feed my kids, until I realized that they were at an age where they would not starve. They let me know when they are hungry, and this way works for us. If they want to apply body lotion to their tongues, I let them (I’ve read the label, they won’t die) and they have come to agree that the taste is yukky – but they had to discover that for themselves, rather than I dictate it to them. I get death stares from people in the mall, and even from my own husband, when I release my kids from the confines of the trolley and let them run wild through the open spaces. They know I need to see them at all times, that they mustn’t touch and that they may not go into any stores. So what? I try as much as I can to let them just be kids. It doesn’t always work, in fact it backfires quite a lot. Especially when your two year old daughter goes ballistic when her favourite worn, two-sizes-too-small sneakers are in the wash and she has to unfortunately wear her new pink perfectly fitting ones. Woah, her tantrums have nothing on the blasting of Hiroshima. But we get by.
It’s all trial and error. I’ve learned to loosen up, I know that what worked even yesterday, may not work today. I’ve learned to be more flexible and to accept that I’m going to make mistakes and not to beat myself up over it. The most important thing for me is to know that my kids feel loved and valued, that even when I’m at my worst and I’m on a shouting, grouchy warpath (happens often), they don’t doubt how I feel about them. And not any amount of hi tech expensive gear, or fancy light up toys or potions and lotions that are overpriced because they smell nice, can do that for them. They just need a full tummy and lots of hugs and kisses. Plain and simple.