I always thought my parenting was simply informed by my background in psychology. To a large degree, that’s true. But, one afternoon, I was out to lunch with my family, watching my husband and I interact with our kids while the book I was currently reading flowed through my head. It hit me then: I have a parenting philosophy.
One afternoon, we were having lunch in a restaurant. It was lunch on a weekday, so it was far from crowded. Perfect when there are two kids under 5. We were having a good time with my husband keeping our son occupied with some games on one of those devices that lets you order, pay, and play games, and me keeping our daughter from wrecking havoc on the table and destroying the menus. Then I noticed our son was goofing off while Daddy was playing his game for him. Nope, nope, nope. He’ll never learn to do things on his own if we continue to step in. After all, he’ll be going into Kindergarten in August. As for my daughter? I could be nice and continually fetch crayons from under the table and from her feet, but she would never learn to fetch them on her own.
Courtesy of NetGalley, I was reading a book called After the End by Clare Mackintosh. It’s about a couple who have to make an impossible choice about their terminally ill toddler. With my daughter being about his age, it tore my heart apart to read.
Lunch was interesting. Not only was that book running through my head, but I was also caring for and disciplining my children. And that’s when it hit me. How I parent. What informs what I do.
Love them like they’re going to die tomorrow; teach them like they’re going to live forever.
Hug them, kiss them, snuggle them. I’m all too aware that my babies are growing up fast. My almost 5 year old has already started running and twisting away. Hugs and kisses become fewer and farther between. My love for them will only grow, but the way I love them will change. Gone will be the hugs and kisses. One day it might just be showing up or leaving them alone or wordlessly handing over a treat without asking questions. Whatever it is, I’ll always love them, and try to love them in a way that they know but won’t find invasive.
…like they’re going to die tomorrow;
It’s a terrible thought, your child dying. After all we go through to grow and birth and raise them, we think they should grow to be old and they should be the ones to bury us. But in a world full of school and mass shootings and stabbings, hate crimes and gang violence and domestic violence and more, not to mention accidents and terminal illnesses, that isn’t a guarantee.
My oldest is off to Kindergarten in August. I’m going to spend his hours at school worried, fearful for his safety. There will be no guarantee he’ll come home alive every day. Beyond that, there are so many things that can happen any time and any where to cut a life short.
So, excuse me while I go love my children like they’re going to die tomorrow.
Even though I will spend the rest of my life worried to death about them, I still have to teach them. My husband and I trust their future teachers, but we’re also going to take the reins of their education. But it’s also our job to teach them about life, about right and wrong; to help them develop their values, goals, and morals; to help them learn to socialize and treat people well; to teach them the soft skills; to teach them to be good people.
There’s so much for humans to learn as soon as they’re born. Each thing will build on something previously learned. If I hope for my kids to turn out to be good, contributing members of society, then I have to teach them to be that way.
…like they’re going to live forever.
Even though I love them like they’re going to die tomorrow, I will still teach them like they’re going to live forever, because there’s just as good a chance they’ll live to bury me and live to be 110. Even though I’m afraid of them dying young, I still have to prepare them as though they’ll live forever. They’ll need everything I can teach them.
My Parenting Philosophy
It’s so simple. I must love my kids as though I could lose them at any time, yet I must also teach them and discipline them as though they’ll live long, long lives. It wouldn’t do to do one or the other. I’ll do them a disservice if I only love and cuddle them. I’ll also regret it if all I’ve done is teach them and I end up losing them.
It’s a delicate, daily balance. I look for every opportunity to love and teach them. But there are so many opportunities that can go either way. I can love my kids by fetching a snack for them or I can teach them to be self-sufficient and have them fetch the bag of chips themselves. I don’t intentionally flip between them; instead, I look at the day as a whole and decide if this should be a loving or teaching moment. There are no clear answers, but if I know for sure they can do something and I’ve made them do it or they’ve done it on their own, I’ll choose to love them.
There are no real guidelines to raising kids outside of milestones and what the education system demands they know, so having my philosophy helps guide me. I only stress over whether to cuddle or teach them and not what someone else thinks I should do.