Parenting in the first world


I read THIS the other day and it has stuck with me. I hate whining as much as the next parent, but as I am ushering my kids through stages I haven’t been through yet it seems I have been focusing a little too much on the little things when all along perhaps some of them are just more first world problems.

Both of my kids are going through changes that are developmentally appropriate but awkward nonetheless. I can’t help but thinking about the women I often saw long ago on a trip to Cameroon, Africa who toted babies on their hips in the hot blazing sun while their other children ran so far ahead or behind that mom paid little mind whatsoever to what they were doing. Mom walks forward along the dusty dirty road to the next village, hoping for a bit of water and something to eat. There is no TIME to study the awkward phases their children are going through- the child him or herself probably doesn’t even wonder too much about it because they are being part of the solution, helping mom find water or looking after the little siblings.

I keep thinking about how those of us in the first world “attack” parenting, much like my own family just attacked a summer break we had- trying to cram as much fun it with a to-do list a mile long, go-go-go. We get books to read about child rearing, mommy/parenting blogs galore, not to mention Pinterest for any number of child rearing solutions, and the more you read, the more confused you can get. It’s as if you could micro-manage your child’s entire life thereby exerting total control over the people your kids will become. And then there are those who simply need a place to sleep and some food.

In trying to shepherd my kids through these phases, the one thing that I keep obsessing over is “Who are you?”  I don’t mean to say I don’t know who my kids are. I mean to say that my kids need to discover who they really are, to embrace their essential characteristics and build on them.  As a former teacher, it felt hard to guide a kid to that sweet spot, a place where a kid felt sure of him or herself yet just fearless enough to push out of that comfort zone. At the time, I told parents real growth occurs when that confidence propels you out of this zone. It didn’t guarantee success, but it did guarantee growth.  This is all big stuff and yeah for me for wanting to help my kid through this, but what third world parent worries about this?

Maybe I am too glib. I think I could be hard-pressed to find any parent who doesn’t worry about their kid no matter what their situation is. 

But I like that the article brought me down from my worries-our first world problems seem at times to be inventions, things we look for and obsess about, when really, if we stick to the basics, respecting oneself and others and being willing to work hard, much of the other stuff just really becomes….stuff.

Thanks for this talk. I feel better already.