Raising Hope

Honestly, who needs a placenta afterbirth? After the baby comes out, he or she (or they) should be followed immediately by an instructions booklet and a troubleshooting guide.  Wouldn’t this scenario be lovely: What to do when she won’t stop crying, p. 3;  How to encourage sibling problem-solving without letting the fights drive you crazy, p. 264; When to stop enforcing his curfew, p. 805; How to discourage her relationship with a boy you don’t like, p. 1092.  I firmly believe that each child has a different set of rules, mostly because of the child’s personality and genetrics,  but also because of the parent’s, or parents’, emotional state at any given time. 

I look at child-rearing using a trimester schedule that eerily mimicks pregnancy.  The first trimester, covering the newborn to age five period can be challenging but exciting at the same time.  Especially for first time parents, the anxiety over “doing it right” can cause this to be a very stressful time.  I found this description on a website about pregnancy: “The first stage of pregnancy… is often a mixture of the best and worst feelings of pregnancy.” (http://www.pregnancy-calendars.net/pregnancy-stages.aspx) Substitute the word “pregnancy” with the term “child rearing” and you will see what I mean.  All of the information on milestones can drive the most informed parent crazy.  Lack of sleep will do the exact same thing.  Well-intentioned advice from other parents will ice the crazy cake beautifully.  These first five years, just like that first three months of pregnancy, offer tremendous ups and downs.

The second trimester is the best! These are the school years, and can last up to the end of middle school or even into high school.  You are watching, supporting and providing experiences to help your offspring develop into an adult you can be proud of.  You are learning to find joy in her joys and wonder in her wonders.  Seeing the world through his eyes is seeing the world in new ways.  Strengths and weaknesses show themselves, affinities and natural talents grow, tears and smiles take their turns;  it is all a very cool package.  You are getting almost enough sleep and have some routine to rely on.  Even though this can be a busy time of life, it tends to be one that just feels great.  You can introduce the kids to the movies, music, books that you enjoyed growing up.  You can take them on longer and longer trips that you think will enrich them.  They are learning to think, criticize, problem-solve; they say things that hit you right in the belly; hence the saying “from the mouths of babes.”   They are honest to the point of embarrassment, sometimes saying something to someone you wish you could say.  This is the time of their lives where what you say and do really matters, and when you start to recognize your own behaviors or those of family members asserting themselves in these little and not so little tykes.  Just like the second trimester of pregnancy, this is when you feel the best and the most positive.

And just like in pregnancy, the third trimester is the toughest.  You can’t wait for it to be over, and by the time you realize that it never will be over, you have adjusted your entire attitude towards your life.  I kid you not.  They are adults or nearly adults, and they often struggle in that huge transition.  Their anxiety becomes your anxiety; and often after they lay it on you, they feel much better and you lose sleep.  You have hopes and dreams for them, and you watch how that goes- two steps forward, one step (two steps, three steps) back.  Our goal for the kids has been for them to be happy and financially independent.  Sounds very generic, but it’s a tall order these days. 

I’ve heard it said that when you are raising a child, each hour is like a year and each year feels like an hour.  This I can vouch for.  Every day drags by in exhausting infinity with its responsibilities and schedules and issues; and then all of a sudden the child is a year old! And five years old! And going into Middle School! And graduating college!!  I look back and think, how can my children all be adults; when did twenty years happen?

I realize as I write this personal essay that these are strictly my interpretations and my choices.  I am well aware, after teaching for twenty-nine  years and having friends with children for almost as long, that each family’s values, goals, tolerances and daily lives are as different as snowflakes.  Please feel free to share your thoughts on raising babies!

Here are some quotes from famous people on the topic:

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.”  ~John Wilmot

“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.”  ~William D. Tammeus

The source for these and many other quotes: http://www.quotegarden.com/parents.html

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