Precious Children

Is it wrong to focus so much on your kids?

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Dad's Day 2012Recently, I read an editorial by someone who thought “older parenting” was a terrible idea. I thought I dismissed her characterization of older parents out of hand, but when I could not STOP thinking about it and feeling defensive, I realized there was probably something in it for me. Grudgingly, I went back and re-read the post.

The author was, of course, someone capable of bearing children in the “usual” way. She did not state her age, but I’m guessing she was middle aged or more. Her basic premise was this: It’s better for children to have parents who are in their 20s.

It was not for any of the reasons I would have originally thought: vigor, stamina, health, or fun. No, her premise was that kids need to be ignored more. 20-somethings are still self-centered. They feed and clothe their kids, then basically ignore them. For example, she claimed that when they say, “Go to bed,” the kids go to bed because they know Mom and Dad won’t stop their cocktail party to perch on the side of their beds and hold their hands as they go to sleep. She claimed that kids need to get their feelings hurt and fight their own battles. There are too many “precious” children, she claimed, and wondered, “How will they ever grow up?

Why did this grate me so much? At first, I thought I was offended because of my infertility. That wasn’t it. It bothered me because there was a grain of truth in it. I can tell you that my hyper focus on my oldest child did not make her a more secure person– it made her more inflexible. My darling sister-in-law once said, “Oh, you’re a book parent,” and it was absolutely true. I did my research. I read piles of books and then picked a parenting style that represented a marriage of those beliefs and systems. My first child was perfect. The pressure on her was incredible.

I relaxed a bit with #2, just because #1 was only a toddler, herself. I had my hands full and was also gifted with some health problems in those early years that required I give them a bit more free rein.

I do have a book on preschoolers somewhere that numbers 3, 4, and 5 could probably benefit from if I consulted it. I have moved closer to the “ignore” frame of mind now. I realize kids are full-on, dynamic, unstoppable learning machines, so instead of teaching them to read when they’re 3, I focus on being a good example, spending time with them and saying, “I love you” a lot– and meaning it.

I do not think that author was right on most points, but she wasn’t all wrong either. I could afford to just take a few deep breaths and look the other way now and then. I’m getting there.

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