Protect Your Peace of Mind
As a parent, one of the most valuable things you can have is the feeling of having done your best at the end of each exhausting day. Since this peace often comes with herculean effort, it should be guarded as a precious resource. Here are some ways that parents of young children can protect their peace and enjoy their children right where they are.
Avoid the Comparison Trap
When I had my second child, there were many ways I felt I was amply prepared and downright chill. My friend put it this way: “You’ve learned that babies bounce.” This parenting savoir-faire did not last, however, as my darling baby began falling off her growth curve and answers eluded us. With our doctor’s help, we found a solution and our petite (but healthy) baby course-corrected. Our fears settled, though her smallness continued to worry me for years. (To this day, she is still petite, still eats like it’s going out of style and still meets all developmental expectations. Turns out, some kids are just small.)
During this time, we had a playdate with friends and their little one, a boy two weeks younger than my daughter. I was struck by the comparison before me as two healthy 7-month-olds played side by side and charmed everyone in a 10-mile radius. He was in 12-month clothes, crawling competently and pulled to standing, but did not sit himself up. She rolled all over the room in her 3- to 6-month clothing, sitting up proper and dainty as she reached her destination. Her posture would make the Queen blush. He easily weighed between 15 and 20 pounds, while she hovered around 12 (hard-fought) pounds.
Both children were breastfed on demand and ate solids off and on throughout the day. They were each robust and joyful, meeting milestones and behaving as only well-nourished and well-loved children can. Before I could remark with admiration over the boy’s crawling or size, his mother chimed in. “Look at her sitting up so prim and proper! I love how she rolls to get around. I wish my son would sit up. He has me worried. And he’s so big!”
Later, musing about this moment, I posted the following on social media: “Take a deep breath. Enjoy your baby for who they are. Enjoy other babies for who they are. Don’t let the scale, the charts or the expectations of others color your enjoyment of your baby.”
The moral is, if you want to protect your peace, don’t fall into the comparison trap. Comparing yourself or your children to others often robs us of a true appreciation of what we do have.
Don’t Miss the Fun in the Challenging Stages
Parenting often comes with mixed blessings. Mobile infants are happier and get less frustrated when you aren’t available to transport them, but they also have a knack for getting into shenanigans. We all eagerly wait for our toddlers to speak, only to be massively overstimulated by the explosion of chatter that comes between 12 and 18 months.
Each stage is rife with changes, challenges and joys. Try not to get so caught up in surviving a particularly taxing developmental stage (like night terrors, sleep regression or separation anxiety) that you miss the happy moments (new skills, silly moments and the thrill of accomplishment on a child’s face).
Be Choosy with Advice
The most readily available and often the most dangerous feature of our modern day and age, in my humble opinion, is bad advice. It’s incredibly easy to state something simple and completely mundane about your life, your child or even the weather only to be bombarded with the most audacious and frankly bizarre suggestions for fixes. This is a particularly tricky area for parents of young children, who are often sleep deprived, struggling with performance anxiety and looking for a golden ticket to smooth sailing.
When asking for or offered unprofessional advice, take what you receive with a grain of salt. If the suggestion seems drastic, overly simplistic, far-fetched or plays on your fears, set it aside. Sleep on it and take it to your trusted sources for feedback. Even the most well-meaning offering of advice can rob you of so much peace and rest.
If you’re not the “up at 5 a.m. for a family hike” family, don’t feel you’re depriving your children of vital experiences. If you cringe at the thought of planning monthly family photos in matching outfits, accept that you’ll find your own way to preserve memories that does not give you an aneurysm. If you see a parent out in the wild, wrangling a gaggle of children and improvising elaborate play scenarios with quality voice acting and clever props, know that you can still be a fun and engaged parent if you’ll never be able to function that way.
Getting lost in “shoulds” robs everyone of what you’re already doing naturally and easily. Life is messy, complex and full of variety. Your kids need you, not someone else. We want our children to grow and become who they are, so model that for them by accepting the authentic ways you make the world better.
Even Superheroes Rest
No one is meant to do everything alone, all the time and without error. Each of us needs a village of sorts, full of people to step in and contribute when we’re coming up short. Make time to nourish your body and your mind so that you’re pouring into your children from a full cup. This often requires the uncomfortable act of self-reflection, asking for help and accepting that the help you get may not be the exact form you’d anticipated. Sometimes it’s hard to find a village, but keep searching. Someone out there is looking for you, too.
Protect your peace and protect your view of yourself. You’re capable and irreplaceable, especially to the tiny humans in your life.