I’m a firm believer in mutual respect when it comes to parenting. My feelings is, if I ask for advice then please give me your honest opinion. If I don’t ask, mind your own business. In return, I will keep my advice to myself unless asked. It’s a “live and let live” approach that keeps my meager toddler-driven social life humming with playgroups and birthday parties.
I do have one friend who is very opinioned about parenting and has a tendency to stomp all over this philosophy on a regular basis. The other day she was giving me unsolicited advice about potty training. We just recently began potty training and are following the advice of nearly every early childhood expert, including our pediatrician, which warns us not to pressure the child. However, my dear friend explains that I’ve not been successful yet because I haven’t stripped away my little gals diapers and forced her to sit on the potty every fifteen minutes. Both of her daughters were potty trained this way before the age of two. Great.
Because she is a dear friend and has many redeeming qualities, I let it go. After all, her input has helped me many times. She’s a great mom with wonderful kids, and sometimes her advice truly rocks. I just try not to let her opinion on this particular matter discourage me, and it won’t sway me, even though she claims success. Yet it has me thinking about the definition of success.
As the parent of a two-year-old, I suddenly realize my definition of success is altered hour by hour. I sat in this very spot (my favorite thinking spot in the house) plotting ways to limit my daughter’s television viewing to one hour a day as recommended by the American Pediatric Association. Yet even as I craft out a schedule and rewards program, I know that my plans could easily go south.
How easily? I can’t predict what might occur tomorrow. Parents of toddlers know to expect only the unexpected. However, since today is almost finished I can use it as an example. My plan for the morning was to take the dog to the vet, then daughter to music class, then home for lunch and nap right on schedule. However, said daughter refused to get dressed. I’m nothing if not flexible so I amended my plan to taking the dog to the vet after music class. Success was still attainable! Right?
After refusing to get in her car seat on her way to music class, draining all the energy I gained from my morning coffee with a mind numbing nerve zapping tantrum, little one attended music class and then refused to leave the playground I once thought so “conveniently” located next to the classroom. Ok, so maybe I’m too flexible, or not enough. Maybe I should have dragged her kicking and screaming from the park or maybe I should have let her play there for the rest of the day. Who am I to say? It’s 11 a.m. and I’m covered in playground sand bribing a toddler to get into her car seat with m&ms—a bribe she is not taking for the first time in her young life. Dr. Sears would probably shoot me on the spot.
See how easily I could have given in and called the day a failure? Yet I was determined. I raced home and picked up the dog and continued on to the vet with renewed optimism. Never give up, I say, but not really out loud because I’m not crazy. No not at all. Not yet.
I won’t bore you with the details of the vet visit. Suffice it to say, it was a disaster by most people’s standards. However, if you have a toddler you have slightly lower standards and would say it was a little hairy. The real problem that caused me to change my entire definition of success was that as I cajoled my daughter into her car seat again I glanced at the clock and realized I forgot to feed my daughter lunch at 11:00. In fact, it was after 12:00.
If you have a toddler, you just heard a dramatic drumroll. If you don’t then you’re re-reading the previous sentence trying to understand what you missed. Afterall, I didn’t say I forgot to feed my daughter. I said I forgot to feed her by 11:00. The timing is significant. Missing lunch time, means missing nap time, which makes nap time questionable at best. Do I let her fall asleep late and wake her up before she’s rested? If I let her nap will she go to bed on time tonight? If I don’t let her nap will I survive the nuclear meltdown? More questions spin in my brain, but you get the point. I successfully brought the dog to the vet, but with what consequence? Disaster.
So my definition of success changed again. If I could feed and change (because she’s not potty trained yet) my daughter and convince her to take a nap at a time other than the appointed and religiously held nap time, my day would be a success. Despite the tantrums, candy bribes, playground sand and dog-fur covered car and my wholly disheveled look and general sense of guilt about things like TV viewing, my day would be a success. And it was. Because she took and nap. And because I say so.
My point is, and if you have a small child I’m hoping you might understand, that if I don’t stick to my resolution to limit TV viewing to one hour tomorrow, my day could still be a success. If I don’t potty train my child by age two, I can still be a success. If I don’t parent perfectly tomorrow, I will do it the day after tomorrow, or the day after that. The point is I’m trying, and I care, and I will succeed to raise a healthy person as a result.
At least that’s my hope and my humble “parent and let parent” opinion.