A Culture of Parenting
What does it mean to be a parent? For many of us, myself included, it is a time to hit the books, the internet, and research articles. To read, research, and plunder through articles that tell us exactly how to handle situations with our children and adopt our parenting style is, for many of us, what it means to be a good parent. The what to say, how to say it, how to react, how to utilize time-outs, how to shame ourselves for thinking time-outs were ever a good idea, how to make our child apologize, how to shame ourselves for ever “making” our child say “I’m sorry” when he didn’t mean it! We, like no other parents before our time, live in a world of a wealth of information, opinions, scripts, groups, and philosophies – at our fingertips thanks to the internet’s never ending source of information. Most are well-meaning and actually do help us become better parents, which no doubt serves our children well.
I recently purchased a Time Magazine Special Edition entitled “The Science of Childhood.” Different from other reading materials I’ve read to help me be a “better” parent, this magazine is about the child. That’s it – growth and development of the child. In the introduction, Bryan Walsh gives a description of our society as being one that is “obsessed over how to raise our children, warring over our strategies…yet in focusing on parenting, we sometimes risk losing site of the children and the extraordinary adventure they live each day” (p. 4). That was the only mention of parenthood in the magazine, and what a giant and important point the author made.
We are a culture built on success and it has gotten us far as individuals and as a society. Therefore, it’s not surprising that we have placed such an incredible focus on “succeeding” in our relatively new roles, now as parents. And, yes…I know that by focusing on bettering ourselves as parents, we are focusing our goals of raising a child. But, is it possible to become so caught up in our parenting philosophy, we can’t see the forest for the trees? If we become so detail oriented as to how we are going to interact with and respond to our children – and I’ve done it and still do it – is it possible that we may miss the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the splendor of childhood, with them?
But, how do we put parenting philosophies, rules, and approaches aside? Should we throw them out the window and just wing this, the most important thing we’ve ever done and will ever do? No. Of course educating ourselves on the thing we are doing every day is a smart move on all our parts. I’m talking about intentionally putting it aside – for a moment, for an hour, for a day and jump into childhood with our kids. Just play and enjoy – whatever it is they’re doing. It doesn’t have to be something that’s pre-arranged or carefully planned. Create something wonderful with sidewalk chalk (you, all by yourself), have a race, jump on the trampoline, fetch rings at the bottom of the pool, do a cannon ball, slide down the slide, swing on the swing, play house, build something out of Legos, play a video game, climb a tree! And, for crying out loud phoneless, by the way!
As Ralph Waldo Emmerson once said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Through play, we join into and become a part of our child’s childhood. Through play, we might become distracted by nothing and purely enveloped in imagination and fun – what a privilege and something we are able to do at two short time periods in our lives. We did it as children. Now’s our chance to replay and relive that experience through our own children – what a gift and an honor to do it again – not only for our children, but for ourselves too.