A Few of My Favorite Tips Part 2
Looking for a few quick tips to empower you to be a more present parent? Last month I started sharing a few of my favorites and I'll wrap that up (for now) today! You can read the first post here.
Tip #4: Look for intersecting interests.
It isn’t very joyful to play in ways we don’t like all day (or in our limited, precious, time with the kiddos in our lives)... and, it’s not necessary.
As the mama of a three year old, I often get VERY specific requests/demands for how to play - “Mama, kick the door to the invisible castle closed”, “Eat your cake slower”, “You be Grizelda, I’ll be True”. It is inauthentic and it misses an opportunity for teaching interdependence and cooperation, and it’s just plain impossible and unnecessary to always play the way our kiddos want us to.
I look for where our interests overlap and use that as a guidepost. This models that we can both do what we are passionate about and weave in and out of doing it together. This also teaches kiddos that they can set boundaries about what they will and won’t do.
For example, HG loves telling stories and I love drawing - so she tells her stories and I write and then we work together to draw pictures. HG loves imaginary play and I love making things - so I make dollhouses for her critters. I have work to do and grocery lists to write, HG loves pretend writing - so HG writes alongside me in a notebook.
What do you love doing? What do the kiddos in your life love doing? What do the adults in your household love doing? Where do these intersect? Sometimes we have to think out of the box! Maybe you love baking and kiddos like science. Stirring things up and watching how ingredients mix feels like (and is) science!
One of the reasons I’m passionate about these questions is because when I taught high school, I asked students to share what they were excited to help with and what they might struggle with within groups for a project. They were all quick to criticize themselves and STRUGGLED to share a strength. I would have too in high school. I would maybe even struggle with that today. They told me, “Miss, that’s bragging” which led to some cool conversations about how we need each other’s strengths, and how if we don’t communicate them, we might miss out on a whole lot of awesome.
Shared passions and interests bring us together, and knowing our own interests gives us space. It lets little ones play in their unique ways while we get to do something necessary or fulfilling for us.
Knowing where our interests intersect also makes it easier to have realistic expectations for each other and it helps us know when to out-source.
Tip #5: Ditch the guilt. You are enough and so much more. One of the things I’ve found most interesting as a family life coach is how often a big thing families need to thrive is simply permission to do what they already know works for their family.
Am I happy to give that permission? Heck yes (within reason 😊). Is it mine to give? Absolutely not.
We are allowed to do what works even if it doesn’t follow some exact parenting model we have in our heads. We are allowed to do what works even if it looks strange to the people around us. We know our families. We (and our children) are the authority on our children. We are the ones who know what we can sustain.
We also generally know 100% of how we’re going to parent until we’re parents. Then...things get real and what we need, want, and do changes. Letting go of what we imagined to be “just right” to embrace what is can come with yucky, guilty feelings because change is scary and it’s almost like we’re betraying our past selves. So often that guilt can be ditched. Guilt is helpful if and when it responds to harm and prevents future harm. We yell, realize we HATED IT, and that informs our response next time. Guilt about meeting standards we set for ourselves or believe other people around us are magically meeting does no one any good (and might actually be more shame-y than guilt-y, 20/10 recommend checking out Brene Brown for more on those differences).
The most impactful piece of wisdom I ever received about teaching and parenting is an adaption of the quote “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to accept the life that is waiting for us” from Joseph Campbell. Switch “life” to “student” or “kiddos” and you’ve got the daily reminder I’ve used since 2011.
Give yourself the permission to live the life in front of you, to love yourself and the family in front of you as you are. And, do what works, not some nonexistent kind of perfect, without the burden of guilt. Give yourself the permission to slow down and change what you’re doing if things stop working. And, if you want some external permission, I’m here. Find me on IG, Patreon, or shoot me a message here or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).