Thursday, August 20, 2009

Front Porch Friday: Parenting (the second time around)

I recently read a post on MckMama's blog about discipline, and it got me reflecting on my current parenting style and the events that influenced it's development. I grew up the oldest of 5 children. Responsibility always goes along with being the oldest in a large family; however, I will say that I probably had more responsibility than average when I was in high school. My mom was severely depressed at that time, and we all had to pitch in just to hold it together. Some of the things I remember doing are:

1. Keeping a date book to keep up with all of the kids' (that's what I usually called the youngest 3) appointments.

2. Adopting a massive mommy purse (before it was the style) for the calender and other such things.

3. Driving people in the minivan (my mode of transportation) to different appointments and making their return appointments.

4. Taking the kids back to school shopping for clothes and supplies.

5. Taking the youngest girl shopping for her first bra.

6. Either cooking dinner or helping to cook dinner.

7. Helping the kids with their homework.

8. Picking the kids up from school and trying to be there for important functions (with a camera of course).

9. Rounding up the kids at church and making sure everyone had their Sunday School papers.

10. I once got a mug that said "Mom" for Christmas from my siblings and cousins.

11. I remember falling asleep in classes and staying up late at night to finish homework, which had NOT been the norm before.

12. I spent my first Thanksgiving holiday from college making the entire Thanksgiving dinner and part of an Indian costume for my baby brother.

13. I moved back home after my first year away at college partly to spend time with my mother who had improved significantly.

I am sure there were other things, but those are some of the things that jump out at me at the moment. I was not the parent and did not have the ability to discipline, which made it hard to make them do what I needed them to do (like be quiet while I was a new driver in Memphis!). However, in some ways, my relationship to some of the younger children is more like a parent and less like a sibling. It was very difficult when I got married and left Memphis, because I felt like I still needed to be around to "help" them. As they have grown up, I feel less responsible and more able to enjoy just being with them. I suppose like a parent feels when they empty their nest.

As I reflect back, I realize that this experience with my siblings greatly influenced how I chose to parent my own child(ren). I modeled parenting techniques I had seen used and not necessarily with taking their individual differences into account. I was also very tough on them because I did not want them to end up being allowed to fall through the cracks during that stressful time. My baby brother later said that he thought I was very mean and scary but that now he realized that I was pretty cool. I was not all bad. My sister, Kim, and I managed to keep things fairly normal around the house after school: making cookies, doing homework, etc. However, it was a very stressful time, and I lost my temper quite a few times, thankfully with no lasting consequences.

Shortly after this experience, I got married, moved away, and started graduate school in School Psychology. I took a lot of classes on managing behavior and child development, and I learned a lot of new and positive strategies I could use to get desired outcomes. (Parenting that Works by: Edward Christopherson and Susan Mortweet seems to sum up most of what I learned in graduate school, if you are interested.) Much of what I learned lines up with what MckMama wrote in her blog: avoiding triggers, making expectations clear, focusing on what you want the child to do, giving the child choices when you can, acting quickly and calmly, looking them in the eye, distracting, being consistent, and knowing/using your child's currency.

This "second" time around at parenting, I find myself much calmer and more laid back. I also find that I am more willing look at individual differences and be more flexible. Obviously I am enjoying it a lot more, and I have to say that I am glad I got a trial run early on to work out some of the kinks! Each person's situation has its own pluses and minuses. You just have to make the most of what you are given. I feel like my situation worked out very well, and David had a lot to do with that since he walked a good portion of that road with me and gave me the opportunity to enjoy being young!

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