Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Short term vs. long term parenting

A fellow mommy recently introduced me to the theory of short term parenting vs. long term parenting. Basically it means doing the easy thing now that may cause issues in the future vs. doing the hard thing now that will make things easier in the future. My goal is to do mostly long term parenting, but it is way harder than it sounds. As parents we must pick our battles and focus on what we find important. It is different for everyone. What matters to me may not matter as much to another mom, and that is okay. I care about Alice becoming the most well adjusted person she can be, while allowing her to be herself at the same time. Therefore, the things I choose to long term parent on are things that I think will go far in helping Alice to navigate the tough patches while being the best person she can be.
I spend a great deal of time saying "no m'am." We are talking about a zillion times a day. The easy thing to do would be to just let Alice do what she wants, but I don't want to the do the easy thing, I want to do the right thing. Therefore, I let her know when she is doing something that is unacceptable in decent society. Normal folks don't screech in public, they don't rip leaves off potted plants, and they don't go through stranger's purses. Yes, I know. She is a baby and doesn't know any better. But I am of the opinion that if I give her boundries now, she will be a better, more polite person for it later. Teaching her what is expected of her now will make her a more adjusted young person. Because this is my first kid I have no idea if this will work, but it makes the most sense to me.
Lady Baby has started emphasizing her demanding grunts and pointing with hitting. I do not like hitting. She is not being mean, she does not hate me, she is not comitting elder abuse. She is simply trying to get her point across. However, I do not believe anyone needs to express their emotions through smackage. The third most uttered phrase in my current life is "no hitting." (First is "good job" and second is the forementioned "no m'am.") I don't hit a sales person when I am asking them to grab a different size for me and I don't think A should hit me when she is asking for more goldfish. Life lesson: hitting does not get you want you want any faster or easier. Unfortunately she also hits when she is excited, to get your attention, in greeting, and when she is playing. Not cool Alice, not cool. When she hits her friends I get very embarrassed. I know, its not like I taught her this. We don't practice a slap in the face along with waving and blowing kisses. But being the mommy is being the one who guides her through the maze of early expression. I don't want hitting in the repertoire, so we constantly practice 'gentle'. Not her strong suite. The baby hulk understands it, but rarely can contain her emotions in order to put it into practice for more than 5 seconds. Long term parenting is what will keep me saying "no hitting" until I want to smack myself in the face.  
Right now her highness does not love the going to bed process. She protests being left in her crib, quite sure she's missing lots of secret fun. Despite repeatedly explaining to her that she is actually not missing anything except for DVR'd Grey's Anatomy, she still complains with loud gasping sobs and the saddest "Mama" you have ever heard. When all of this protesting began I started rocking her and holding her until she was asleep. Two words: big mistake. It was a vicious cycle. The more I did it, the more avidly she refused to get in her crib awake and the more I knew I was doing the wrong thing. I was at a loss because for the first 10 months of her life she was a great sleeper who self soothed and now she was performing a screaming, guttural opera everynight at 8pm. Hence the rocking (and occasional crying on my part). Over Christmas we were at the inlaws, where I had no rocking chair and had to pace around for hours while holding 21 lbs of crying baby. I reached my breaking point and was done being manipulated by a 1 year old. I plunked her down in the pack n play, sat down on the floor and let her cry. I sat beside her and what do you know, she cried for about 10 minutes then laid down and went to sleep. It was like someone had handed me a gift. The gift of drama free evenings. Holy crap, all it takes is me hanging out while she settles down. Since then this is what we have done when she is getting a new tooth or feeling yucky, or when we are somewhere that is not home. For the most part, she is back to putting herself to sleep. At first I was short term parenting, rocking her because it worked and was easy.  I knew that I could be creating a monster, but exhaustion and frustration took over and I didn't care. If it was not for dumb luck and fatigue I would not have been freed from bedtime jail. It did help me realize that my gut feeling telling me I was doing the wrong thing for our family was something that I should have listened to. We all benefitted from breaking the bedtime cycle, Alice most of all because she relearned to self soothe.
My main short term parenting issue is food. Alice has recently been carb loading every meal. I am starting to think she secretly runs ironmans.  Until about 2 months ago she would eat about 90% of what was put in front of her. Now, she has flipflopped and eats 10%. The other 90% gets thrown on the floor. It drives me crazy, because all I want is for her to get a full belly. I know I should care that she is not getting enough fruits and veggies, but not so much. In the grand scheme of important things, it falls somewhere between concern that she watches Tori and Dean with me (low) and keeping clothes on in public no matter the age (high).  I feel like I am really getting it done if she eats 2 items from the fruit/veg level of the pyramid. She was a good eater before and she will be again at some point. For now I will continue to offer her the nutritious stuff and then give her yet another cereal bar while I watch the dog eat the apples off the floor.
We all struggle daily with the short term vs the long term. It is exhausting trying to do the right thing while there are so many different opinions and so much judgement. So I say, go with the gut. Long term parent on the things that are most important to you and short term on things that don't matter as much. Life is all about picking your battles, and parenting is war. And just like in war, trust your instincts and break out the big guns when you have to.

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