I find as a mom to be, I’m getting lots of advice. Lots of it. Much of it at odds with each other. I’ve been given books or book suggestions, some which I’ve found tremendously helpful, others where I find myself gaping, asking whether I’m honestly expected to do such things as a parent. By far my favourite book so far is one given to me by my mother, Simplicity in Parenting, by Kim John Payne.
The subject matter really dealt more with children then it did with babies. Since babies are a complete and utter mystery to me, perhaps I found this book so comforting because it was at least something I could relate to. It seemed to very much describe my childhood – parents providing a comfortable, safe environment that I could learn and explore, all the while not overstimulating or over-scheduling me to the point where I wasn’t able to develop my own sense of personality, or curiosity.
Some of my favourite basic components for this “simplicity” parenting where some of my favourite things about my childhood: limited toys, limited screen time and always family dinner. Not to say we didn’t have any toys, but I can tell you our absolute favourite toys ever that lasted until we entirely destroyed them was a large refrigerator cardboard box and a tattered mattress couch. With those things, we built castles, fortresses and empires, not to mention created endless games, some of which in retrospect were super dangerous. (“Sandwich” should have definitely been outlawed.) It’s something I’ll keep in mind when receiving and buying toys for my little one … they will often be more interested in the container the toy came in then the toy itself.
TV was not a big thing for us. I think for the longest time we were allowed one hour of screen time a day – and we got the choice, whether it was two television programs, time on the computer or video games. I’m not saying we didn’t chafe at these ungodly restrictions – sure we did. But looking back, I am so appreciative of this rule. TV was a treat, not the norm, not something that was on in the background. We played outside all the time, and for downtime we’d snuggle up with a good book instead. I think enforcing a rule like this will be even harder in todays world than it was three decades ago, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. For those of you chuckling at my naivety, all I can say is – I’ll give it a go.
Family dinners are a big part of a simple lifestyle, knowing that the family unit takes priority and everyone must make time in their schedule daily to acknowledge that. My parents were pretty strict about family dinners every night. Not to say that we never went out to eat, or as we got older our schedules meant we couldn’t make it every night. But we never went more than a day or two without connecting as a family, with no other distractions. Sunday dinners were in the formal dining room, with candlelight and everything. Even as a child I appreciated the routine, the structure, of this ritual. I knew I had the support and backing of my family above all else.
Even as a teenager, I would struggle with all this enforced family time, but it didn’t stop anything. And apparently, it’s not supposed to. As a teenager, you’re supposed to push back against your family. But knowing that the backing and support is always there means something even more so as you enter the turbulent high school days. More often than not, my friends would end up staying for dinner with my family. As a result, they were more comfortable around my parents, and my parents trusted my friends more, allowing me more freedom than I would have gotten from my otherwise fairly strict parents. So it was a win-win.
A lot of ways to increase this simplicity in parenting becomes a lot easier when one of the parents is at home full-time. This is something Z and I strive for in our lives, but it’s a luxury that certainly not everyone can manage – or want. Who knows? A year from now I might be dying to get back to work. But I remember my childhood with a stay-at-home mom – it was peaceful, calm and supportive. The routine was a great place to grow up and there was no major daily turmoil to add to any childish anxiety. I’m so thankful to my parents for giving me that stability, and simplicity, from the beginning. I’d like to recreate that for my children as well.
So, thanks for the book, mom. And thanks for having done all the right things intuitively, before parenting was inundated with a gazillion books about how to do things better. You did a great job!
Word of the day:
Abstemiously: sparing or moderate in eating and drinking; temperate in diet; characterized by abstinence: an abstemious life.