My children have taken after me in how they eat their cereal in the mornings, dry with a side of milk. I’ve upgraded to coffee instead of milk, and since they’ve got enough energy already, they don’t need coffee to add to that. It would be like adding an extra battery pack to an already fast RC car. It would be really cool at first, then an amazing crash would occur, injuries might happen and all that energy would be lost.
They’ve also started enjoying the handheld goodness of Pop-Tarts dipped in milk. Occasionally the piece of Pop-Tart would fall into the milk and they’d have to fish it out with a spoon. On one such morning, after all was eaten and done, I noticed there were a variety of spoons on the table. Plastic baby spoons, small metal spoons and even a large soup spoon for some reason. It made me think of all the different styles of parenting that we all have.
There are those parents who were sticklers for rules and regulations, where doing something not on the approved activities list could lead to raised eyebrows, heckling about your choices and even punishments. There are those parents who want to have their kids like them at all costs, so they try to come across as their children’s pal or the “cool” parent, but that can backfire if their kids then see them as nothing more than pushovers who will let their kids get away with almost anything. Parents who are wrapped up in their own lives that they can’t or won’t take the time to try to be involved with their kids lives to the detriment of their children. Also, there are those parents who try to have a well-rounded approach to parenting; with a dash of discipline, a sprinkling of spontaneity, a bowl full of fun and they never underestimate the power of just simply trying to understand where their child is currently at in their life.
I would like to think that from all types of parenting, the Mister and I are the latter. We are still fairly new to this parenting gig, given that our oldest just started kindergarten this week, but we are trying our best. Which I hope is any parents goal, to try their best at raising their kids. Sometimes parents had good solid examples of what could work, but often it seems as if how they were raised causes them to swing to the opposite end of the parenting spectrum. I came across an article that outlines the four basic types of parenting: Authoritarian, Authoritative, Permissive and Uninvolved. The article explains the types very well, but I was struck by how the four types seem to be opposite sides to a coin, or the variety of spoons available in most kitchens. Which reminded me of that variety of spoons on the table after breakfast that morning.
When cooking and needing to stir things, you tend to reach for a spoon, right? When measuring out small amounts of vital ingredients, like salt for chocolate chip cookies, you don’t reach for a soup spoon do you? No, you get the exact size of measuring spoon that the recipe calls for so the cookies are edible and not so salty the birds won’t even eat them (there’s a story there, but that’s later). When needing to serve the holiday staple of sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, you don’t get a baby spoon, you get the largest spoon you have in your kitchen because the more of that sweetness filling your plate, the less room you have for the brussel sprouts or asparagus that one family member brought. We have a variety of spoons for a variety of reasons in our kitchens and the same can be suggested with parenting. We have a variety of “spoons” to use in our parenting kit; tenderness, understanding, rules, spontaneity, discipline, and parenting uses all of them at one time or another. Often we use two or more in conjunction with each other and hopefully have positive results.
Parenting is like a long-term experiment. You start off with around nine months of the baby chilling and growing in the womb, there’s a fairly eye-opening birth process, then you get to deal with a child (or children, if you have multiples) that have their days and nights mixed up for what feels like an eternity, but then you slowly get into the swing of things. Then they become mobile, they start talking, they start wanting to interact with others, and so on. The list of things that kids do and learn about is prolific, but through all the things that they’re learning and interacting with, so are their parents. We learn what works to sooth the baby when they’re cutting teeth, we learn how they like their lunches to be so that there are minimal meltdowns when having a picnic lunch at a park. We learn that they prefer this show to that one because the jokes are funnier to them on the first one.
We also learn how to parent our children. We weren’t given manuals on how to raise our child when we were discharged from the hospital, nor should we, because everyone is different. What we should do as parents is use a variety of “spoons” that work for us and our families. When Mister and I imagined how it would be as parents we both thought I would be the fun-loving, spontaneous, rule-bending parent and he would be the structured, scheduled and rule-following one. We were surprised to find that almost the opposite is true. I’ve found that having a general schedule for the days help them not turn into a zombie fest of watching TV and snacking all day. He’s found that being spontaneous can be as simple as blowing bubbles outside with the kids while the grill is cooking our main dish for dinner.
So in your marathon of parenting it’s good to remember that; just like many other things, one size does not fit all.