The smallest thing can set it off. A list of parenting-related books on Goodreads that a friend is reading. An article online about how a child was incredibly successful because his parents made him practice piano an hour a day. My dentist talking about how she doesn’t allow her young daughter to have any screen time at all. Reading a blog post by someone who only feeds her children organic food. Seeing pictures on Pinterest of adorable, creative craft projects that other people are doing with their children. And then the little voice inside my head starts to wail, “What if I’m doing it WRONG???”
(Right now you are probably thinking that I need to stay off the Internet. And you would be right.)
A few days ago, though, I came across this article in the Opinion section of the New York Times written by a clinician who has worked with children for 25 years. I really like what it says about parenting, and finding the middle ground between being a helicopter parent, and being too permissive. The article says, "...the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child's autonomy."
My mom always says, “Never do for your child what she can do for herself.” And the author of the article agrees. She writes, “The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.”
My mom learned this philosophy from my grandmother, a smart lady and great mother, who had no internet and I am guessing few child rearing-related books to consult when she was bringing up her brood. She just did what her parents did, and what her gut told her was the right thing to do. It made me think. My parents were pretty good parents. I am doing what they did, most of which is just gut instinct. And I think I turned out okay, irrational worrying aside.
So here is my goal: now that I have a bit of a parenting philosophy written down here, I am just going to be that parent. I won’t stay off the internet, because really, come on. But I am not going to let everything I read about what another parent or family is doing send me into a tailspin of worry. If it is something that interests me or that I think is a good idea, sure, I might adopt it. But I am doing fine. Clare is a happy, healthy, smart kid, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for taking 10 minutes to look at Facebook rather than play with her, or for letting her watch Sesame Street or eat Easy Mac for lunch. Just because one person is doing things a certain way doesn’t mean what I am doing is wrong. And I’ll just make myself crazy reading everything I can to make sure I am doing things “right.” I know I won’t be a perfect mother, but I will do the best I can. I think Clare will turn out okay.
And here’s to hoping she inherits her father’s calm, worry-free personality.