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What I Consider a Parenting Win

Parenting is hard! Everyday we're dealing with little people who bring with them their own temperament, thoughts, spirit, etc., and somehow we have to try to guide them into being highly productive, moral adults. That's no small task. The funny thing is that for such a difficult 24/7 job, there is absolutely no manual. Well, I mean there are all of those parenting magazines offering their *achem* impartial advice (courtesy of advertisers), and of course when you go to the parenting section of a bookstore you're presented with the great wall of books,all with conflicting information, all claiming to know the best way to raise your child. Not to mention, once you are visibly pregnant, people, complete strangers, begin offering you unsolicited advice at the grocery store, at the gas station, even at public restrooms. Now, I ask you to go to a playground or to a classroom and observe a group of children. Sure some will have similar playing styles or vernacular but you will notice that each child is completely different; one of a kind. I like to think of them as snowflakes. Each one is so beautiful and perfect in their own way but no two are alike. It's amazing how society tries to squeeze them all into a generic box labeled "children." We want a one-size-fits-all style for raising, teaching, and disciplining them. While that may make life so much easier for parents, unfortunately there's no such thing. Many of you have heard the stories of my son being a VERY difficult baby. He's now a sweet, laid back kiddo but even he still presents challenges. Take food for instance. Who doesn't like cheese? son. Crazy, right?! He doesn't like cheese unless it's on pizza. He is just beginning to eat poultry after years of gagging on it saying how it tasted funny and that he didn't like the texture. He still won't eat pasta unless it's Asian style noodles. There is absolutely no butter or tomato sauce for my little guy, yet he can eat his weight in sushi. Go figure. As you can see, eating out as a family can be a challenge. My mother would tell me regularly that I should force my son to eat whatever we put in front of him. She would say that I should make him sit at the table until he finished everything on his plate. Make him go to bed hungry if he refuses. Here's the thing; there are foods I was forced to eat growing up that I can't stand to this day. I know I have an aversion to them because I was forced to eat them throughout my childhood. Not wanting that to happen to my son, I will put whatever we're eating on his plate. I make sure to include some sides he likes. I ask him to at least "try" a bite of the item he dislikes as a courtesy to the chef and then I leave him alone. Slowly but surely he is coming around to eating certain foods he once abhorred. It may have taken a few years but it's progress. My thoughts are that he won't turn into a criminal just because he refuses to eat artichokes. We all have our likes and dislikes. I'm not a short order cook but I do want him to enjoy meals. It's at meal time that we sit down together as a family, discuss our day, laugh, and connect. Why am I sharing this with you? I'm sharing this because I want you to know that everything will be alright. So many people think they're experts on meals, sleep, discipline, etc, but only you are an expert on your child. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've heard stories of moms feeling inadequate because their boastful friend's child potty trained at two years old over a weekend while their child is still in Pull-Ups at 3 1/2. I see moms wringing their hands over the fact that other preschoolers in their mom's group are reading "War and Peace" while their child would much rather climb a tree or make a craft than pick up a book. I'm exaggerating of course but I do it to make a point. Here's the thing, if you're worried about your child then you are already an amazing parent. Your worries mean you care and that you're taking steps to nurture your baby. I think it's safe to say that none of your kiddos will be going to college still wearing diapers. They will be potty trained. They will learn to read. They will eventually eat foods other than mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, and goldfish crackers. Every time they test your boundaries you're not only teaching them your expectations, you're teaching them how to handle stress since they're watching you and how you react to their zaniness. So go ahead and enjoy your children's milestones and idiosyncrasies. Life is a journey. We all still have a lot to learn. Parenting is probably the longest, hardest, never-ending class we all decided to take on. It's filled with round the clock assignments and homework. We will all fail some tests. There are no gold stars, stickers, or green lights, but for me, if my kid comes out of all of this as a happy, healthy, productive human being who doesn't need therapy, I'll consider it a parenting win. ~HZM

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