Thursday, December 31, 2009

10 Questions to Encourage Engaged Parenting in 2010

A great set of questions from, worth pondering on a rainy New Year's Eve when I'm stuck at home sick, listening to the pathetic wheezing of my 1 year old and the coughing of my three year old. Here's my run-down. Anyone else?

Parenting Personality
1. How do you think your children have experienced you as a parent in 2009?
I’ve been something of a roller-coaster parent, I think. There have been high points of patience and new understanding, as I’ve begun to decipher my three-year old’s temperament, but there’s been low points of anger, short-temperedness, and annoyance. I think this year has been a jumble, with a lot of changes in our home (two moves) and a lot of changes in our lives (a baby who went from a little sleepy bundle to a walking almost-talking, almost-toddler), and my parenting is jumbled as well.

2. How do you want your children to experience you as a parent in 2010?

If Gabriel-and-Peter-as-adults could remember me in 2010, I would hope they would describe me as:
  • Prayerful
  • Smiling (ah, the mother's smile, so hard to find some days!)
  • Constant (a constant loving presence, engaging in constant routines, and calmly enforcing constant limits--even if difficult)
  • Giving (to my husband and to them)
Hit the Highlights
3. What aspects of parenting brought you the most joy in 2009?
Making time to be in nature with the boys during the week, and spending our free family time hiking or camping.

4. What are you looking forward to with great anticipation in 2010?
I don’t really have anything in mind... maybe this means we need to make some fun summer plans to look forward to.

Strengths and Challenges
5. As you survey your parenting toolbox, which tools do find to be working well for your family, and which tools could use some sharpening?
Sometimes I feel like nothing is working well with Gabriel, my three year old. He takes so much energy, it is like I can only do a good job with him when I am 100% rested, 100% present, 100% on top of my game. However, there has been a very important thing that has helped me more than anything else: make a connection before giving a direction. This idea--from Hold on to Your Kids-- is so good for Gabriel. If I call down the stairs "It's lunch time, come up and wash your hands" while he is playing in the basement, he will literally scream because he is so flustered at being interrupted in whatever he is doing. If I walk down the stairs, play with him for as little as 30 seconds, admire his work, whatever-- and then say that it is time for lunch, usually he will cheerfully bound up the stairs. The latter scenario takes more effort, and sometimes I stubbornly don't do it, thinking "he should just obey me." This usually has an effect of spiralling awfulness-- screams from Gabriel, more commands from me... the connection is really worth it.

That being said, I think the tool that needs most sharpening is the spousal help-tool. I think Michael and I need to talk more about how to approach parenting. We can learn a lot from one another, it's just a question of sitting down and talking about our parenting in an intentional way.

Building Connections
6. How have you pursued your children in the past year?
After hearing somewhere that the human psyche needs 5 affirmations for ever criticism made, I've tried hard to affirm Gabriel. In particular, the last moment before he goes to bed, I try to make a point of telling him something positive-- that he did a good job with his brother in a particular situation, or that I had a really good time baking bread with him, etc. Usually this evokes an incredibly positive response. A big smile, an "I had a good time doing that with you too, Mommy," and a hug. I hope that's what he drifts off to sleep thinking about, rather than the tears or the hard moments.

7. What actions will you take to be more engaged with your child in 2010?
I think both Gabriel and Peter need "special Mommy time" and "special Daddy time." When we have the chance to be one-on-one with them, I want to make the most of it, and intentionally do a special activity with them, rather than just trying to get more things done because there's one less child in the picture.

Mending Missteps
8. Is there any aspect of your relationship with your child that has been strained by unforgiveness or regret?
There are so many things that I regret about the last year, so many ways I wish I had done better, so many times I wish I had been more patient, more creative, more understanding. If there's one thing that's beautiful about Gabriel, he is very seemingly very forgiving. I know he's not quite at the stage where he can comprehend what that even means, but he doesn't seem to be one who holds grudges. It's more a question of me needing to forgive myself.

9. Is there an unresolved issue for which you need to offer your child forgiveness, or do you need to ask for forgiveness from your child?
Even though he's only three, there have been times when I have been so unreasonably impatient and short-tempered I have apologized to Gabriel. I think I need to just forgive him for being himself sometimes... he just lives life at a high-octane and sometimes I start to wish he were different. That's certainly not productive, and it doesn't take into account the fact that someday (please God) these difficult-to-handle bursts of energy and willfulness will be used for productive purposes!

10. What actions will you take to nurture a healthy connection with your children in 2010?
I think the number one thing I would like to do is focus on quality time at home. We can be so busy during the week--groceries, playdates, errands, library, Atrium, playschool--that our home time can be so filled with cleaning and tidying and moving on to the next outing. I want to have the time and space at home (or outdoors near home) to do quality activities with the boys.

1 comment:

Linda Schnoor said...

Dear Carla,
Parenthood is:

--ever-changing, ever shifting: moment to moment, day to day, season to season, age to age, child to child.


--consistent and constant: a two-person responsibility to constantly reinforce reasonable and consistent guidelines and limits for your children that are not too strict, not too loose. You will always be parents, no matter how old your "children" are. It is now a constant part of your identity. But only a part of it. Don't lose yourselves in it totally.


--satisfying and life-changing: one of the deepest pleasures in life.


--self-illuminating: our children indeed have some of our good qualities, some of our 'bad' ones, but they are each their own person in so many ways. Help them to understand their strengths, and, as they get older, to deal with their 'weaknesses' also (a much more difficult task for parents)


--Wonderful: we see our wonderful world (and our own faith) in a new way through a baby's eyes and growing understanding. Soon your children will be in school for a good part of the day and you will really miss these wonderful days...and look forward to summer, as I always did! Don't overschedule your life already, when they are still young. Soon other adults in charge will be putting new ideas into their heads, challenging them in new ways to learn and be good children. And other children will put ideas into your children's heads. That is the way of the world. But your home life will always be their foundation from where they can reach out into the world.


--FUN: Remember that your children will be more fun if you laugh and have fun with them. It can be as simple as rolling around on the floor with them. Or watching birds and squirrels in the woods. Laugh often in your house!

--Did I mention challenging?: one of the most difficult tasks in life to do well. Don't be so hard on yourself, Carla! That part of you has not changed as you have moved into adulthood and motherhood. Parenthood is God's plan to help you continue HIS plan through you and Michael. Put your best effort into it, but remember that God did not create any of us perfect. We thank Him for his creation, just the same, for we are each one of us wonderful, complex creatures who try to do the best we can in a complex world. And we should not ignore that big world that swirls around us...we must learn to prioritize our life to do His will as in integral part OF such a complex world. By staying open to the world we can see where we can work to improve things for others, and teach this to our children as well. Their world will only be increasingly more complex than ours, and we can only imagine the many skills that they will need to be able to navigate along the right path during their lifetimes.

I love our grandchildren so much, and you and Michael are wonderful people and wonderful parents. Those little boys are lucky to have you for parents. Keep up the good parenting, but remember to enjoy it all as well.

Love, Mom