Parents, are you ready for me to blow your minds? Because here it comes. Here is the parenting truth that will absolutely rock your world...
...It's not about you! But it also is kind of about you.
What??? That wasn't life-changing? Hear me out.
Whenever something has to do with your child, your primary focus needs to be on your child, and you have to check your ego at the door. You need to try to look at the world through your child's eyes and act accordingly. This means that you will have to do things you would rather not do, you may need to risk embarrassment, you may have to grin and bear it, all for the sake of your child.
For example, my son was asked to be a ring bearer in a wedding when he was 4 years old. Now this was the third time that he had been a ring bearer, so he knew the drill. But this time, despite stretching his shoes out with tennis balls for weeks, my son felt that his shoes were too tight.
And then he had a major meltdown when we tried to put those shoes on. Tears, snot, flailing extremities, you name it. My son acted like those shoes were full of red hot pokers (while his cousin and fellow ring bearer calmly got dressed-shoes and all). So as a mom, I had a choice. Drag my kid kicking and screaming down the aisle with shoes on, or let him walk down the aisle in socks (we didn't bring other shoes with us).
Selfish parents choose kicking and screaming - because selfish parents either need to save face, or they need to show their child who is boss through force. A selfish parent yells "Dammit I'm your mom, you are going to wear those shoes and that is the end of it!!!". Guess what? That only leads to a bigger emotional meltdown-from both the parent and the child.
Great parents, on the other hand, pick their battles and are willing to lose in certain situations. So on that November day, I let my son do his job as a ring bearer - minus shoes. My face was beet-red, I was sweating profusely, and completely mortified, but at least my kid was calm.
Guess what? Not a single person realized that my son did not have shoes on (except for the bride, but that happened 20 seconds before the ceremony started and luckily she was cool). What people did notice was how adorable he and his cousin were walking down the aisle. And I have the pictures to prove it.
As a parent, your job is to raise your children to the best of your ability. And that means at times you will need to suck it up, feel embarrassed, risk backlash from your child, risk backlash from other parents, all for the sake of the health, safety and happiness of your child.
That does not mean that you should cater to your child's every whim and desire. Nor does it mean that you should ignore your child's negative behavior. And certainly it does not mean that you can blame your child's actions on someone else. Quite the opposite. Your job is not to be your child's friend. You job is to be their parent. You need to teach them to be kind and respectful members of society.
If you let your child "run the show" without holding them accountable for their actions, you will end up with selfish, entitled kids. And that may not bother you while you are raising your kids, but trust me it will be to their detriment in the real life, adult world. It's about compromise.
Here is another example. When my son was a toddler, he hated having his teeth brushed. He threw an absolute fit, night after night (much like the tear-filled, snotty, flailing extremity ring bearer tantrum). That doesn't mean that my husband and I threw up our arms in defeat. We did not tell ourselves, "Oh this makes our child unhappy, so we won't do it anymore."
Every night, my husband would gently pin my son down, and I would brush his teeth. Sometimes I had to pinch his nostrils shut in order to get him to open his mouth. Were we trying to torture him? Of course not! But damn it, the kid needed to get his teeth brushed. By the way, baby teeth are important. But more on that in a different post.
If your primary focus is on the health, development and overall well-being of your child despite what other parents are doing, then parents you are on the right track. Congratulations!
But, if you intentionally keep your child away from social situations because you are afraid that they may come down with a cold, or if you scream at your child when their behavior is less than perfect, or if you have unrealistic expectations when it comes to your child's developmental skills (i.e., if you expect your two year old to get himself dressed all by himself), then parents we have more work to do.
You cannot be a selfish parent and be a great parent at the same time. That, my friends, is an oxymoron.
Are you ready for another mind blowing fact? You can be a "selfish person" and still be a great parent. But you can't be a selfish parent and be a great parent.
Let's break it down. Selfish parents put their needs or desires above the needs of their child. And here is the tricky thing- selfish parents often falsely believe that they are putting their child first, but they aren't.
Here is an example of a selfish parent:
"No, I'm sorry that 4 year old Sally cannot come to her friend's birthday party. She always naps for an hour during that time. We cannot deviate from her schedule."
Really? Sally can't nap at any other time? So she has to miss out on the fun of a birthday party because of her nap schedule?
Here is another example of a selfish parent:
"I am sorry, but Nolan cannot eat anything at your house. He is on a sugar free, gluten free, dairy free diet (despite having no diagnosed food allergies). We brought all of his food for the afternoon with us, and please do not offer him a cupcake, even if all of the other kids get to have one."
Parents, you may not like this, but unless your child has a medically diagnosed food allergy, there is absolutely no reason to restrict their diet. Sugar, gluten, red dye and dairy do not cause hyperactive or otherwise problematic behavior. Dietary restrictions without a properly diagnosed food allergy could lead to nutritional deficiencies as well as a negative relationship with food.
Here is a third example of a selfish parent:
"Lexie is not able to participate in this week's cheerleading activities. She cussed at a teacher, but I'm absolutely sure that the teacher provoked her. I know that it is the teacher's fault. Goddammit, Lexie would never swear unprovoked. That Fu**ing B**ch!".
Let's be honest: Selfish parents often have an intense desire to be great parents and lose sight of their child along the way, because they are too busy trying to keep up with the Joneses. Other selfish parents are just too caught up in their own "stuff" and their kids get put on a back burner. Still other selfish parents are far too worried about what other people think of themselves and of their parenting.
If you want to be a great parent, you need to strike a balance. You need to be a selfish person but not a selfish parent. Yikes, how confusing is that? We've already discussed selfish parents, so let's move on to a selfish person.
Now how can you as a parent be a "selfish person" and still be a great parent?
A "selfish person" gets up at 5:00 am to go to the gym before their kids wake up for the day. They take care of themselves and their bodies without sacrificing their morning with their kids.
A "selfish person" tells her husband that she needs 15 minutes alone after a long day at work to decompress, in order not to take her work frustrations out on her kids.
A "selfish person" tries to get her kids to go to bed early so she and her husband can watch an adult show on TV.
A "selfish person" asks grandma to watch her kids so she can run her errands in peace.
Have you figured out that a "selfish person" isn't really "selfish" at all?
There is a difference between taking care of yourself and being selfish. As parents (and especially as moms) this can be very difficult concept to wrap your brain around.
Ready for an epiphany? Selfish people lack consideration for others. Selfish parents lack consideration for their own children (often unintentionally of course). As such, by default, if you are not taking care of yourself, you are being selfish towards yourself. So cut it out!
In order to be a great parent, you have to take care of yourself. End of story. And to a selfish parent, you may give off the impression of being a "bad" parent. The selfish parent may turn their nose up at you, or try to shame you. Ignore it.
Do you want to be a kick ass parent? Then let's sum it up. First, take care of yourself. treat yourself well. Understand yourself well enough to know when you need help-then ask for it. Then be able to look at life through your child's eyes. Your ego, your desire to be the perfect parent, your need to make sure your child is always happy all have to be put aside.
If your approach is "Will this benefit my child in the long run?" "Will this lead the the physical, emotional, social and/or intellectual development of my child without detriment?". "Will this lead to my child becoming a healthy, productive member of society?". If that is the case, you are on the right track as a parent.
And that is how you absolutely win as a parent.