(I should warn you- I suffer from a disorder known simply as "Smarta$$kinsons Disease." It usually beings around the age of 13 and there is no known cure.)
I was listening recently to some people discuss the "how" of being a great parent. Both talked at length about the importance of ALWAYS being there for your kids. How we should never turn them away, never put off a special moment or brush them off.
At first I felt, well, supremely guilty.
Then my disorder kicked in. My guilt was tempered by the sure knowledge that this task- the ALWAYS taking the time for your kids, is A) impossible and B) dangerous.
Yes, if you weren't paying attention, I just committed mom heresy and admitted that I don't and can't always drop everything for my children. In fact, in the short few years that I have been a parent, I have decided that to do so is actually a great way to screw my kids up.
Let me elaborate.
I actually delved into parenting with the "always available, never too busy for my child" mentality. I am at heart a kind person. I like to please people. (Don't comment on this post if you actually know me.) And so, as I set out to parent my first child, my man child, I strove to be available.
I didn't want to miss out on any of the moments. I wanted to selflessly serve. I tried to be "available". I still think this is a great policy for a baby. But it starts to go awry as the years pass on.
What happened you ask? Well, the children began to expect me to drop everything for them. If I was having an important conversation with their father, if I was on the phone long distance (remember long distance?), if I was in the middle of something that HAD to get done, guess what- the kids COULDN'T WAIT.
Of course they couldn't wait, I had taught them that it was always about them, always their turn, they always came first and were most important.
The sad truth about life though is that nobody always comes first. And nobody SHOULD.
Having a five year old who seriously is baffled when he walks up to interrupt an adult conversation is both frustrating and embarrassing. I also maintain that it is bad for the child to believe that everybody around them should drop everything every time they have a thought they wish to share.
Do I really want my children to grow up to be adults who believe that the world revolves around them? How will they handle marriage? How will they deal with the inevitable bumps and bruises of this messy game called life? Will they throw ugly grown up tantrums? Will I be ashamed?
Yes, I will.
But I'm not done condemning the "always there" parenting teaching! No- there is more!
Not only have I come to believe that this practice is bad for kids, I think it is pretty bad for mama too. Eventually mom will discover that no matter how few or many children she has, all of this immediate "being there" whenever anybody needs them will run her ragged. She will at some point realize that SHE CAN'T DO THIS. It is impossible. She may have a breakdown. She may feel guilty. She may give up. But one thing is guaranteed, she will feel worn out and tired. Then she will need to change her game plan.
Don't get me wrong, I am not actually advocating constant ignoring of children. I am not encouraging abuse or neglect. In fact, I believe that selfless service is how we become the people we are meant to become. But I can no longer believe that answering my child's every beck and call will someday equal a wonderful human being.
I want my children to know that they are loved and matter. I also want them to know that other people are loved and matter. I hope that they respect their own needs and also respect the fact that other people, including their mother, have needs too. I want them to learn to take turns, not get their way, wait for satisfaction, and sometimes put off their own needs.
Of course a baby DOES need mama almost constantly. You can't put off their needs because they are just that, needs. That still doesn't mean though that mama doesn't sometimes need a moment or a break. A wise mother will know the difference as her children grow. She will find the balance between being attentive and teaching respect.
So if you see me making my kids wait while I finish a conversation, please try not to hate me. If you notice me telling them that they cannot have my attention right now, know that I have tried the other way. I have tried to "always be there" and it didn't work. It wore me out and jacked up my kids. (That is why they keep interrupting us.)
Good luck mamas. Of course, as usual, feel free to ignore everything I say. In forty years I will let you know how this all worked out.