Concerning life help information, I'm not an avid reader of books or listener of podcasts or online reader/watcher/liker. I should be better at it. Truly. For me... it's hard to absorb good teaching if I have way too much coming at me. Call me simple or lazy, just stating that's how it is in my life at this moment. Give me some Bible and some hunks of awesome teaching but I'm unable to take loads of teaching from a variety of sources in a variety of mediums without just breaking down in overwhelmed land. It is not enjoyable for me but I aim to change and someday love absorbing loads of good. Disclaimer: I do love that my husband loves this and daily reads, listens, ponders, and absorbs such a wide variety of content in a variety of mediums and I get to glean just the tip of the iceberg of that sometimes.
That said, give me some highlight reel from someone I know isn't theologically cray cray, someone I know and respect, or someone that's life has proven to be done well ions ago or recently. Then let me live it. Because if you absorb all that info and it doesn't change any aspect of you or how you live your life, then it's nothing.
I say all this to say I haven't read a parenting book in full. Pretty sure I haven't anyway. Greg has (all the hallelujah hands here). So I can sort of say that our parenting style comes from some of that knowledge probably. And some from our own superb parents. But the rest of our "style" comes from the grace of God and some trial and error and experience and hope.
And now I'm going to attempt to record parenting insights while I'm in the thick of parenting these three tiny ones. Partially so I can laugh my arse off at myself in twenty years when they are out being adults. I was never really into kids (I was a TERRIBLE babysitter) so me mothering these is all a bit hilariousness. In no real order...
- STRICT and FUN. This is how I described my parenting style to Greg last week.
- I want our kids to respect AUTHORITY. Because we are under the authority of God and they are under our authority. That means when I say their name or tell them "no" or ask them to do something, I expect a response. And quickly-ish. Consistently. But not for outrageous requests on my part beacuse they are kids. But for sure for doing something like "get your snowpants on". Sometimes I am not reasonable and I have to realize my expectations are whack and I hope to just nag when it's truly needed. Early our kids learn they need to listen to authority for small things and big things.
- Parenting is HARD to do well. We do not have the luxury of doing our own thing (for very long) anymore. It's active work. Active. Engaging them. Not just being on my blasted phone or checked out for too long. Much of hobbies and fun and relax doesn't happen like pre-kid Heather enjoyed. So don't pretend parenting won't change you.
- I read an article on SELF-CONTROL being a skill to teach kids and that clicked in my brain. With Eli I can totally see the importance of teaching him how to control his little self. Work in progress here but worth mentioning that I hope to help guide in this.
- SCREENS. I really only want them as a treat. Not as a daily expectation. Kids need to be bored and know how to be bored, to entertain themselves. We go in waves here but overall, our kids are not used to them. Plus they get nightmares easily.
- ANIMATED. I'm animated. They see me living life fully, and hopefully as they get older and see the mundane, American, midwestern, homemaking life I lead and that I'm joyful IN IT, they will know I love life. When I read books I want to be like Greg and be into it. Stories, voices, emotion, goofy.
- FOOD. Way too much sugar. We are guilty of it but thankfully, aren't out of control with candy, soda, and major sugar bombs. Our issues mostly lie with sugar in stuff (ie, our insane amount of processed cereal each morning)! Kids don't need to eat all the time either. So we have a breakfast, 10am snack, lunch, 3pm snack, supper and not dessert every night (which after vacation is crazy hard). Snack times are approximate but lately I'm feeling having a set time works well. Annalee can't whine for a snack at 9am and I give in. Nope, not snack time. Sometimes it'll happen earlier or more often, too, but general guideline helps me.
- They don't get to carry food around the house. Or drinks. Graduate to a real cup sooner rather than later and just don't let them carry a sippy cup. I remind them to drink if I need to but mostly they will just go take a drink or two of water and set the cup back down on the counter and go about their day. My hope as I'm typing this is they learn to "eat to live" instead of needing food or drink at their disposal constantly. Sadly enough, kids, I tend to snack WAY more than you. When you are healthy adults, you'll thank me.
- No drinks late at night. Unless sick or other issue, fluid them up during the day so they don't get used to drinking a crapload before bed or during nighttime. No bedtime cups.
- CONSISTENCY. Oh man this is key. Don't expect them to act a certain way if I'm not consistent in the response. If you give them an inch, they will often take a whole flippin' mile. YET, yet! there is so much GRACE in parenting. Both ways. Sometimes surprise them with grace and let them know it. I need to get better at apologizing to them for my fails and letting them see that process in me, too.
- Be more stubborn. It took me 20 minutes to make Annalee apologize yesterday. I could have given in earlier. But damn it, I'm going to be more stubborn than her. I would have loved to not be doing that for the last twenty minutes. Greg tells her often "You will not win. I am more stubborn than you!" And he is!
- Communicate. We are realists. And we try to keep them informed. Try to help them see other viewpoints. Tell them why I'm asking a, b, or c. I started saying to them when disciplining or requiring of them "in the greg and heather kasowski family, we ____" so they know that we are doing this (and why), but that not everyone does it our way, believes what we do, etc.
- Responsibility. They can often do for themselves what we do for them. We totally dressed Eli way longer than we needed to because his personality lends to being lazy (as does his moms). But they need some sort of responsibility in life. And they may need help (often) to remind them of what they are doing or grace to give them a crazy long time to get 'er done. But make them do it! Eli never zipped his own coat until his teacher told the whole class she would NOT do it after Christmas. And she got that whole darn class of 5-6 year olds zipping their own coats. Love it.
- FUN. I want to have an insane amount of fun with my kids. Impromtu dancing. Joking. Games, Dirt, Sugar. They see me being goofy, see us laughing at ourselves, see us being honest with them and making good out of our day-to-day. Greg is amazing at not coming home from work to sit and veg. He's engaged with them when he gets in the door. He's chasing and hiding and wrestling. I try get down on the floor with them, play or color or watch WITH them. Since I'm home most all the time now, I obviously still need to get things done so this isn't all the time but I want to find joy in being with them. I also want our home to be the place their friends want to come.
- BEDTIME. Best thing us light sleeper parents did was never have the kids sleep in our bed (honestly we wouldn't be able to sleep well with a kid next to us). 8:00 give or take. You are in there and this is it and sometimes it'll take a bit longer but rarely ever over 30 minutes and rarely having to go in there numerous times. THIS IS OUR TIME without you littles. Go the... you know. We COVET this time for us so much. It is hard work when you are dealing with naps as they grow, time changes, sickness, patterns, etc etc but the hard work pays off later when you can have the bedtime routine done, say goodnight and close the door. No kids coming in/out of their room for the next hours, no waking up to a kid in your bed. I'm not sure who told us to work at this but thank you. I love you. I also must say I think sleep is really really really good for kids to grow. I also must say kids are different. Eli needs more sleep than Annalee. He took naps even last summer at five! She's mostly done with naps at 3 and a half. We shall see what Evan, our kid-that-has-to-be-flexible-because-he's-the-youngest, will end up like.
- Manners. I'm not southern awesome and making them say "Miss or Mister" in front of friends' names (sometimes I do though and love it) but they should know how to respect others and how to just be proper. Sometimes I nag Eli and tell him I'm teaching him to be proper. It's not like it's a deal breaker but it's important to me.
- Gratefulness. Along the same lines, we want them to be grateful for the abundance they have. Sometimes at bedtime prayers I make them "thank God for at least ONE thing about/in your day". Simple but effective.
- Greg prays for our kids to have a tender conscious. Such a good hope.
- We tell our kids the most important decision they'll make is who their friends are. We deeply hope they make good choices. Such influence.
- No secrets. We don't have secrets in our family. Just surprises. Nothing hidden. No ugly closet weights to carry. Nothing from friends they shouldn't have to bear alone.
I feel like our HIGH expectations and our strict nature could lead to legalism and resentful kids except that we are also able to be joyful and laugh our bums off and get down to their level often enough to show them our deep love for them. They feel safe and loved.
Struggles we have currently is curbing whining and a sense of entitlement with them, helping them to develop intellectual and emotional empathy and maturity, with Eli for sure dealing with influence from school.
Okay, this was good reflection and processing and motivation for me. Excited to have this down so I can read it and laugh, smile or face palm later.