Lately I’ve been thinking about perspective. How having three kids has really improved mine. Parenting has grounded me, I think, on a basic level. Made me realize how completely frivolous so many things in life are. But also, just the fact that there’s more than one of them has given me perspective too. I think it would be harder to have this if you’re parenting only one child. Because that child defines “kids” for you. And your relationship with that child defines “parenting” for you. And that can be tricky.
Lately the three of them have seemed like 20. I don’t know why this is…maybe they are all three very needy at the moment…maybe I’ve felt pulled in too many directions lately…who knows. But I find myself frequently interrupting what I’m doing with one kid to deal with another kid. And that has irked me. I’ve had that feeling that none of them are getting enough attention from me lately. I don’t know if that’s true…that’s just the feeling I’ve had.
But on the flip side of that, I’ve also been thinking about what a better parent I am with three kids than what I was with one. Because of the whole perspective thing. Having other kids gives me something to think about, to compare to, when I struggle with whether or not something is a big deal. And it also just simply makes me busier…making everything seem like less of a deal than it is. It gives me perspective.
A friend of mine, who is a mother to one child, calls me frequently to ask for advice about this kid’s learning life. And as we talk, I always think, “She is making such a big deal about nothing.” No matter how many times I say the words, “Don’t worry! That’s normal!” She still worries. And some of that is normal parenting stuff. My kid is writing letters backwards – Is he dyslexic? The teacher part of me knows that almost every parent asks that question at some time. But with her, it’s like every day. Every day she is wondering if something about him is normal. And it always is. (And frankly the stuff about him that is not “normal” seems to slide under her radar all together.) And I always hang up the phone with her and think, She needs about 4 more kids. That will help her to relax.
Isn’t that weird? But it’s true. I’m a much more relaxed parent now than I was when I had an only. I’m not trying to say that all parents of only children are obsessive and tense. That’s not true at all. I wouldn’t even describe her as being that way. But I do think it’s harder, when you have only one, to have perspective. That thing that helps to guide you on what is important and what is not.
I think it’s harder to neglect an only child versus a kid who has siblings. And I think a little neglect is a damn good thing when it comes to raising kids. Neglect fosters creativity, problem-solving, independence, and self-sufficiency. It can be very healthy for kids. And many kids I know need more of it.
I think I do a good job of neglecting my kids. There’s time every day that I tell them to get out of my face and go play. And I ignore about 75% of the screams and cries that I hear. Because 75% of the time, they will work it out themselves.
I get plenty of kids at my house who are not neglected. Who come here for a playdate and look at me, expecting some entertainment. Who run to me every time there’s a small tiff over a toy, or a struggle with sharing. And I look back at them and say, “Go work it out.” Don’t get me wrong. I listen in on these negotiations. To make sure no bullying takes place. But it usually doesn’t. Kids have to be taught how to “work it out.” But the great thing is that once you teach your kids how to do it…they can teach others. And you can sit back and sip lemonade while they run around the basement with light sabers.
So anyway. Perspective. I think everyone has to have something grounding them. A lens to view the world through, so that you don’t lose sight of your priorities and your goals. And don’t get too caught up in the day to day crap. For some people, it’s religion. For others, their health. For me, it’s my three kids. Because through them, I’m a better mom and a better person all around.