The Challenges With Parenting
My Struggles and Worries As A Parent
Recently my wife and I had a new addition to our family, a beautiful baby girl. This is our second child. Our first is a handsome four-year-old with a personality that lights up my world every day but challenges my wife and me every second. He was so challenging that it took us four years to finally feel comfortable to start trying for our second. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It is an ongoing 24/7 endeavor, and tests every ounce of your patience. For my wife and me, it did just that and more.
Developing The Love To Learn
My little boy has always impressed me. He is extremely smart, loves to talk, and his talent in the arts amazes me! As someone who has worked with children for over 15 years, I knew what I wanted for him when it came to education. I wanted to give him the love for learning, and to be careful and thoughtful of how we approach the learning process for him. For the sake of this conversation, let’s set aside what research says and talk about what makes sense, what we intuitively know and learn about our children. It’s not that the research is wrong; it’s just that we don’t need research to be good parents. For starters, we need to listen to our children.
Children begin learning at birth, and providing good experiences early on will lay the foundation for how they perceive learning—negatively or positively. For example, if you always provide worksheets at 3 years old and your child hates it but you disregard it and do it anyway, your child will always associate learning as a negative experience. Your child’s academic education should be part of raising a whole child.
The Focus On Social Development
The most important thing for my son was social development and understanding how to deal with people at an early age. Academically, I want him to be balanced, but also love learning and be happy. Are math, reading, and writing important? Yes, but from an early age, for us, it was his overall development and experience with education that has more significance.
As we chose schools for him with less academic focus and more social focus, my wife had some reluctance and concern. As most parents do, I even fell into that trap. At an early age, we were questioning if he should know how to add 1- and 2-digit numbers. And was he reading books yet? Her friends’ kids and my son’s cousin are doing it and they are the same age, my wife would tell me. For me, I have been through it and seen what bad experiences can do in education and refused for my son to go that path.
The questions I always want to ask about my son are: Is he happy? Does he dread reading, does he not want to go to school? At 3 and now 4, if he told me that, I would be, and should be, concerned. If he had a bad experience, we can’t get into a time machine and go back. That experience would be etched in his mind and be the blueprint for how he would deal with problems later on in life.
Listening To My Children
I am learning that one of the most important things I can do for my son is to listen to how he is feeling, how he is doing. I have always known what I wanted for him, but I sucked at being there and listening to him. I fell into the stressful, busy-with-work-and-tired-when-I-got-home parenting trap. The hardest thing for me was being consistently there for him. Limiting electronics has been hard for us. But I learned that if we took it away and not let him use it, or provided a time frame for him to use it, then we had better have something else engaging for him to do or he’d drive us up the wall. Not because he is a bad kid, but because he is bored.
The hardest thing for me was being consistently there for him.
My wife and I both work, and by the time we get home, spending time with him is important, but it isn’t always well thought out and we often get impatient with him. In the beginning, reading was a daily habit that was enjoyable and fun, then it somehow became a task. At times we were dreading it because we were too tired to read to him. Hurrying him to bed would allow us some time for relaxation. Our time with him, for him, became limited and stressful. All these years of consulting with parents, understanding the difficulty of work and family balance finally hit me. I always understood that the task of reading to your child, a task that most teachers advise parents to do, may seem simple on the surface, but can be quite difficult to do consistently and correctly. You see, the reading is simple but the how is difficult.
The Mistakes I Made As A Parent
I will admit that I have been that parent, the one that made reading a chore for myself, giving the message to our son that reading is a task and not a pleasure. I let the day-to-day stresses get to me. I had to readjust my thinking and settle into the moments with my son. If I wanted him to enjoy reading, I needed to set aside the day for a few moments, and enjoy the time myself. I am even beginning to like children’s books! And he is much calmer now when we read. You see, no matter if your child is misbehaving, or struggling in math or reading, there is always a reason why.
When we had our second child, that was another moment that made me reflect deeply on my son and his behavior. Our son never was jealous of our baby girl, but he was calling out for our attention. But dealing with a newborn and our normal day to day, we forgot to hear him. We attended to all his physical needs, but we forgot the most important one. His emotions! How did I neglect that? It really smacked us in the face one day when his behavior and emotions reached a level never seen before by us. His uncontrollable anger and intent to hurt me physically broke my heart. In that moment, as I picked him up and placed him in time out several times, I began thinking to myself how did we reach this point? It was quite simple: I forgot about him and his emotional needs. As my wife and I sat and thought how we had failed, my wife cried, and as it hit me, I cried.
Images of him began to flash rapidly in my head. I could see him lonely, not being able to express it, but telling us in his own way. We were ignorant to it and blamed it on other things and people. I had been selfish and forgot about my son, about paying attention to what he really needed, which was time with us. Just time. You see, no one or thing should be bigger than my children. I failed, and in that moment I finally saw him.
Learning From My Mistakes
I am learning! We are learning. This will be continued in my next article. Give me some comments and thoughts if you have been through similar situations. Parenting is hard and should be done together, as the more we share, the better we’ll all become!