Monday, February 14, 2011

How do you prepare for parenthood?



Sunday at church, Walker and I were talking to a very sweet young couple who are serving with Campus Crusade for Christ at a university here in Houston. When Jackie found out how many kids we had, she asked me, "What do you think we could do to prepare for parenthood?"

Huh. I'd never been asked that one before.

My initial answer was, "Not much. Nothing can really prepare you. It's mostly on the job training."

Parenthood is one gigantic test for which none of us have studied enough. You know that dream where you have to take a final exam in a class that you'd forgotten to drop?  I feel that way several times a day. Throw into the mix that every child you have is ridiculously different from the others and it's a constant feeling of What the hello kitty am I supposed to do now?

I had that experience just last week when one of my children was throwing an extreme temper tantrum right before school. A "google exorcist" tantrum. All I could do was sit down, stare at the fireplace, try not to burst into tears myself, and text a mommy friend to please pray. Two minutes later, that mommy friend who texted back that she needed prayer as well as her daughter was pulling the exact same behavior.

"But I haven't studied for this!"

Jackie had a little look of fear on her face. Then I looked at her added, "But if I had to say do one thing, learn as much about child development as you can."

I was blessed to have a little bit of a leg up on most moms. I had a degree in early childhood, I had taught grades PK-3, and I was raised by my momma, an expert in kids. Before I was born she had taught school for years. When she couldn't find a neighborhood preschool she liked, she just started one herself, called Do and Learn. Frequently when my kids were babies I would just think WWFD - What Would Frieda Do - and it would often come out okay.

And yet, despite all my education and experience and good raising, it still was/is stinking hard to constantly try and figure out how to raise these loud, emotional, destructive, spazzy little weirdos.

When I was a Child Advocate, we'd always get the psychological profile of the accused abusive parent. And every single time it would read, "Mom does not have any comprehension of differences in development of children and adults. She expects her child to act the same as someone much older than his chronological age and is frustrated and confused when he does not."

I admit, I thought to myself, this is a socio-economic thing. A bad parent thing. A high school dropout thing. A generations-of-poverty thing.

So I was very shocked to discover that more than one of my upper middle class, college educated, suburban mom friends "does not have any comprehension of differences in development of children and adults. She expects her child to act the same as someone much older than his chronological age and is frustrated and confused when he does not."

Have kids, will talk, and the current theme I have noticed among some of my mommy friends is that their expectations are way too high.

I've seen moms complain about the way that their preschooler is acting, when their preschooler would be a total freak to act in any other way. When moms have said, "I can't believe she's doing this!!" I've often answered, "She's doing it because it's her job. She's TWO."

This is not to say I am the perfect mom. My expectations of my older kids are often too high and my younger two are often too low. But hey, I can't claim ignorance.

(I blame hormones instead. Because I blame everything on hormones. Theirs and mine. Heck, I'll blame yours too while I'm at it.)

So there's my advice, to prepare for parenthood - whether you already have kids or not - learn all you can about child development.


Tomorrow I'll suggest some ways to do that.

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