Time is a funny thing. Somehow I remember an era before having a child as if it was yesterday yet in the grand scheme of things it also feels like a lifetime ago that I was not a parent and responsible for the well being of another human life. Another thing that feels like forever ago was talking to parents about how I would raise my child and hearing nothing but pessimistic doubts as if my vision of how being a family would look was more of a hoop dream than a reality.
Sure, I might not have had kids yet, and those with kids felt like I had no idea what I was talking about, but there was one very important thing that they were forgetting…I was once a child myself that had a single mother raise me, and two siblings, the only way she knew she could if she wanted to make something of our lives.
See, I didn’t have delusions of grandeur, I had experience from how I was raised. When I tried to explain to people that my thoughts, on how I would parent, were perfectly founded in that my mom raised me the same way, the conversation always ended with them saying, “Good luck with that.”
Fast forward to our first pediatrician appointment and I remember the doctor telling us, “Do what makes mom and dad happy and child will be happy. Do what only makes child happy and mom and dad will be miserable.” Some people might disagree with that but I’m here to tell you that he couldn’t have been any more right and I’m glad that I had someone with years of experience and education back up what I always knew…I can parent exactly the way I always wanted to.
This isn’t meant to feel like a ‘Holier-than-thou’ article, because it could come off that way if you haven’t had the same outcomes I have, but instead this is meant as a testament to the wise words of Marty McFly, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything!”
One thing that was a major factor growing up was being disciplined. In full disclosure my mom was raised in a household where punishment went too far and she always knew she would have to break that cycle but luckily for me she found that balance of doling out discipline and distributing disappointment. That really stuck with me not only as a kid but it followed me all my life and I knew that first and foremost this was the one place I needed to make sure was accomplished because I love my son and there’s nothing more important than a healthy mix of punishment combined with a much needed teaching experience.
Whenever a subject came up about some kid getting out of control or doing something unacceptable I would usually comment with something like, “I don’t think I could let my kid get away with that,” and even though it was never said about that person’s kid specifically it was usually met with an eye roll and an expression of “we’ll see”.
Luckily I can say to this day that I’ve kept my word and my son is never allowed to get away with anything that we all wouldn’t let any normal human being get away with. That’s not to say kids can’t act like kids but it is saying there’s a time and place for everything and if my child is specifically told not to do something, and yet rebels, there will be consequences.
Hobbies is easily the one place that I was told was going to go bye-bye after having kids. Yet, I knew that if my wife and I wanted to keep our sanity, and not become spiteful, that we would have to figure out how we could still do the things we loved. Going back to what the doctor told us, we needed to do the things in life that kept us happy and our hobbies especially fell into that.
As I’m sure you know by now, from articles like ‘Do Video Games Make You a Better Parent?‘ and our ‘Build an Arcade Machine‘ series, my wife and I love video games and use that time to unwind and have fun. However, also discussed in those articles we’ve found fun and easy ways to include our son into that video game time that we typically either did alone or with each other and because of that he’s found enjoyment in not only playing video games but watching us play video games as well.
Even with all that, he goes to bed most nights around the same time and that leaves us hours to do whatever we want allowing me the time to play the games that might be unsuitable for him to see at his age.
My wife especially, and I, enjoy gardening and, using the secret of getting him involved, our son has really found an appreciation for watching plants and vegetables grow into something tangible. Not only has it become a fun family experience but also a learning tool for him.
My wife, who works a full-time job, was hesitant to go to yoga after work because she wouldn’t see our son for too long before he’d have to go to sleep but that’s when I had to remind her that we’re the parents and we could let him go to bed a little later so that she could get more time with him.
Sure, some of you might say, “If my kid goes to bed later than their normal time everything gets messed up,” and to that I would say, “Then you need to do that more often than most of us,” because life is full of unpredictability and things out of our control and if that child doesn’t learn, from you, how to get a grip and push through things when they aren’t within their comfort zone, they could grow up feeling like they’re a slave to needing things one way, and one way only, potentially making things harder on them when life happens.
Thanks to a great wife, and my son’s nap/bed times, I’ve been able to find time to record several podcasts that total five episodes a month. Not only do I record that many episodes a month but I produce, edit, post, and promote that many as well. I’m telling you, anything is possible.
It’s important that we parents get “us” time. We need to be able to go out without any kids and not only remind ourselves but actually live out how much we love spending time with our partners. Not only will this recharge our batteries but a lot of studies, and logic, would tell you that it helps to keep relationships healthy.
That said, we don’t have a lot of family where we live, or babysitters in the Rolodex, so we can’t always get that alone time we desire so we bring our son to a lot of places other parents wouldn’t feel relaxed or excited to bring their kids. However, thanks to the discipline discussed earlier he is in overall very good behavior and when he’s not it’s a learning experience on how to act like a civilized human being which he otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to learn said life lesson.
On top of that, our pediatrician told us to let him eat as if we were back living in Brooklyn where most food establishments are ethnic and not everyday American meals. Thanks to that our son now enjoys going with us to restaurants that don’t only have cheeseburgers, fries, and mac ’n’ cheese and he’ll try anything we ask him to try.
Well, well, well. Here we are. Perhaps the most sensitive subject in parenting. I know there are a lot of horror stories out there but thanks again to a very wise and experienced pediatrician, I never witnessed the horrors that myths and legends are made of. The doctor told us as soon as we came home from the hospital with our son that, “If you only let him get a level 1 or 2 sleep during the day he will get level 3 and 4 sleep at night allowing him to sleep heavier at night.”
Then when we got to five months he told us, “You can stop feeding him his one bottle in the middle of the night now.” I remember being like, “But he wakes up screaming wanting to eat.” That’s when I was informed that it’s become a routine and that we need to go in and rock him, pace with him, sing, etc, so that he gets through the screaming, eventually falling back asleep, and that we would need to do this for three nights to start that as a new routine but after that he should start to sleep through the night…and guess what…he did.
Not only did he do exactly what the doctor said but he loves to go to sleep and in his own room because it’s become his place for his down time.
Between having family in Florida and Georgia, and friends all around the country, we knew we would need to be able to travel with a little one in the form of flying or long road trips. This was always something that was a must and we knew we would have to power through it if need be.
In order to achieve traveling, where at the end we all make it there as one happy family, we knew we would need to think through how to make this work for everyone.
We try to travel through the night so that our son sleeps for most of the trip that way. He’s used to sleeping all night with no interruptions and without needing a diaper change so this is the most ideal situation. Sure, we need to do what we need to guarantee we don’t fall asleep at the wheel (coffee, sugar rush, iPod full of podcasts, etc) but that’s a small price to pay to achieve peace and sanity.
If we can’t travel at night, for one reason or another, we have tools to help the ride go as smooth as possible. First, favorite books and toys are a must. These things always did well to keep him busy and distracted. If that didn’t work we always had one fail safe…the iPad. When you don’t let your child play with technology too often they respond with long, focused, times of curiosity and discovery so by keeping our phones and iPads out of his everyday life it works wonders in emergency cases…and traveling is definitely an emergency case.
But perhaps the most important part of happy travels is a full belly and a clean diaper so make sure those things are always being paid 100% attention to while everyone is en route.
Well there you go. That’s my new normal. Is it always perfect? No. But it looks pretty identical to how I always envisioned it to be. It helps to have a very wise pediatrician and role-model mother in my life, a strong willed and like-minded wife, and that I never had to rely on the “good luck” that was wished to me by all the parents out there.