Thursday, January 24, 2008

Phases of parenthood

When I was growing up, the phrase I hated to hear most was, "You're just going through a phase." It just anted up the inner hormonal rage even further.

I'm trying very, very hard not to say the same thing.

However, lately I've noticed another inheritance from childhood that's slinking its way through memory and out of my mouth. Suddenly, I'm commenting on the differences between my children. To them.

Bad, bad, bad. Henceforth, that stops right now.

Back to those infamous growing phases.

I have now experienced several of the parenting phases that my "already been there" friends have so gracefully weathered without patronizing me as I followed along. As a result, I wince regularly at my naivete, over-abundance of concern, and silly focus on events of transitory importance.

To whit:

  • The all-consuming involvement in every breath, movement, and feeling of your baby, toddler, and preschooler. The minutiae of my child's life absorbed me completely. I talked about every drip, grin, and signs of genius/delay ad nauseum with friends who had children of the same age, consulted with the teacher/caregiver involved, and checked in with favorite web-based parent groups and experts.
  • FEAR OF KINDERGARTEN. Hoo, boy. The last year in preschool wasn't about growth for my child. It was about that scary first day of kindergarten. The whole private-vs-public school, educational philosophy, red shirted boys, summer birthday, and emotional/cognitive readiness debate dominated every single waking moment. Now, with 10- and 15-year-olds sunnily making their way through upper grades, I realize just how much I overreacted.
  • GRADES: if my genius kids didn't make straight A's, something was wrong with my parenting. I needed to let them fail in elementary school, when it could be a true learning experience. Even more important, it could be THEIR learning experience.
  • Impatience with the playground, play groups, pool, etc. I really shortchanged my children. I got bored quickly and we rarely stayed more than 15-20 minutes. If only I'd had knitting . . .

Yeah, I've been overdoing things a bit. I need to relax, keep the reins in hand, but not hold them quite so tightly.

I guess it's just one more phase I'm going through.

Some day, when I'm all grown up, I'm sure I'll laugh about this. When I'm not wincing.

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