Monday, June 22, 2015

keeping it real

© amy pang
Right now, my daughter is enjoying some solo time with the Disney Infinity video game. I'm upstairs, writing and winding down from work. I am trying not to feel guilty about not spending time with her. Because we had a quiet dinner together and did an errand earlier. That counts. And now we're being introverted and recharging.

One of the challenges about parenting is dealing with the mindset that you're supposed to be all-nurturing and all-knowing. You are expected to spend quality time, aka your free waking hours, with your spawn. How many articles have we read about the fallout when we don't read with them every day, when we don't have a family dinner every day, when we are not micromanaging everything from homework checklists to whether they're wearing the right socks for soccer?

Being a mindful parent can drive even the most zen-like of souls to fretful self-doubt. It is far, far easier to slack off. How many times can we tell kids to feed the cat, or throw away the snack wrapper, or remember what can be composted and what can be recycled, and not feel like a broken record? It's tedious. Exasperating. I don't like being a nag. I don't like being nagged. Does anyone?

And then when you need to mentally check out just to regroup, there's that sensation that you're neglecting them. You can't win.

I've been working on getting over my guilt. I'm a single parent; by necessity, I need to chill out regularly, or everything goes sideways. Both of these guys are old enough to be functional and independent without me hovering 24/7, and they are learning to make good decisions.

So, here's what we're doing. I keep an open door at all times, literally and figuratively. I may be upstairs and the kids are downstairs, but they know that they can come talk with me about anything and at any time. No question is too trivial, and certainly all questions get answers, even if it's a "seriously???" There are agreed-upon household guidelines that everyone follows, and there is freedom within that framework. Everyone in the household has a valid opinion; I don't believe in an authoritative structure that prevents children from sharing their thoughts honestly. I still am the final arbiter, of course - otherwise we'd be awash with too many video games and endless craft supplies - but decisions are made by consensus and compromise.

I'm hoping that my openness and acceptance will continue through their teenaged years, when the communication lines and our connection will be severely tested. I'll know very soon if my philosophy sticks.

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