When I first met my newborn son, I initially felt that any parenting challenges would settle into a predicable routine. There is so much advice out there about soothing the young baby and disciplining the toddler. While some of the tips and suggestions from magazines, books, friends, family, and online communities have been helpful, I finally realized that some of my parenting difficulties could be helped by what I learned in high school.
The time between comforting a baby to sleep and quietly slipping out of the room can be the most stressful, fearful, and hopeful experience of a parent’s day. As you step away from the bed, you move as carefully as possible, making sure not to bump into a creaking place on the wall or step on a musical toy that might make the slightest or loudest sound. Movement must be precise yet purposeful to make it out of the room successfully. The lurking punishment of a crying baby keeps your fear alive, much like the fear of high school detention for getting caught without a hall pass. If you have any experience with sneaking down a restricted hallway during lunchtime in school, you’ve already fine-tuned a silent tread. In addition, the stress management skills you learned in each second of hallway fear will now help you keep calm when you hear the sounds of your baby possibly waking up, seeing you, and loudly requesting that you remain in the room for a longer period of time.
As your child grows somewhat older, you will enter a stage when you want to enjoy sweet foods and candies that you would prefer not to share with your exclusively organic fed little one. Some of us have better personal discipline than others, but I know I like to experience some type of sugary treat several times a day. The challenge is that children have a shockingly well-developed ear for candy wrappers at an early age. Complicating the task further is the fact that some toddlers can even smell scents such as chocolate on your breath after you’ve managed to successfully fulfill your sweet tooth’s needs. Luckily, those of us who spent years eating candy in class daily already know all the tricks for keeping our sugary secrets private. Unwrapping candy before school was the best strategy for removing the noise risk to eating candy during class. Now, the same concept can be applied by transferring all candy to cloth or zip-lock bags. While teachers weren’t checking the smell of anyone’s breath, they may have noticed the rhythmic movement of gum being chewed. Limit talking after sneaking any sweets to avoid having your toddler discover your secret.
The most desperate moment for any parent can be when your child is frantically searching for a toy that you know for sure is never going to be found. It didn’t seem like it would be missed at the time, but this overlooked entertainment purchase from three years ago has suddenly become the only teddy bear that loved him or the only toy xylophone that will express the music of her heart. Once again, you must search through the high school compartment of your brain and now think of a time when you didn’t have an assignment turned in on time. It’s not that you lied about the reason for the lateness, but you did want your situation to be convincing to your teacher. Perhaps you embellished or even fabricated entire details about what occupied your time when you should have been working on the school project. Now, as your child looks at you with faith that you will solve the case of the missing, loved toy, you find those story-enhancing skills from years ago to be most helpful. Again, it’s not that you completely lie to your child – or maybe you do, but the goal is to keep everyone happy. True, you might not actually know a little girl who had no toys or if she received your child’s loved possession when you donated it to charity, but a personalized aspect about the destination of your preschooler’s now retired teddy bear or xylophone sure helps take the focus off of what she lost.
Parenting is difficult, and we all run into challenges regularly. Though it does seem that solutions to our adjustments to living with children are hidden behind days of research, sometimes the answers have always been with us. Just take a moment to reflect, and you will find some of your own problem-solving patterns from your past to apply to today.