11 tips on parenting without losing your mind
X is 18 months old today. It kind of freaks me out how quickly the time has flown by, and at the same time how much has happened between now and then. I mean, sure we’ve moved three times and took up in a new continent, but it’s more than that. It’s watching this tiny inert little baby grow into a real live person, with thoughts and ideas (many of which go directly against my own). I still find it amazing.
Over that period of time, I’ve slowly accumulated some hard-earned wisdom on how to parent this little man. He was what is know as an “intense” baby and hasn’t really calmed down in his toddler days. He is stubborn, highly hyperactive and completely hilarious.
This is what I have figured out so far – what has worked for me (although, obviously, not everything works for everyone and we all have different parenting styles and so on and so forth). I still consult this list when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
1. Sleep training – it works. Whether you get there after three months or three years, you will discover the magic of just letting them be … and letting them get back to sleep. And you will be amazed at what a better parent you are when you have energy from a full night’s sleep.
2. Those beautiful wooden educational toys are only brought out when we have guests over. At home, on our own, X would much rather play with an empty tampon box than any expensive toy I bought him. True story.
3. Go away for a night with your significant other – sooner rather than later, preferably. It’s not going to get any easier to leave them for the first time, but it will be really good for your relationship.
4. Sometimes, it’s okay to just turn on a cartoon and let them get absorbed in it. It’s not going to turn their brain to mush, it doesn’t mean you’re a wretched parent and sometimes you just need to keep them distracted while you cook dinner without them attached to your leg.
5. Make sure there isn’t a rug under or near the highchair. If you have carpet, god help you.
6. If they fall asleep or calm down to a song or artist that you think is inappropriate, go with it anyway. Nothing is as precious as something that can get them to calm down, and it’s not like they know what’s going on anyway. My go-to music with X when he was an infant was Bruno Mars – played loud while I rocked him really fast. I’d be singing dirty lyrics at the top of my lungs and I’m pretty sure he’s not scarred because of it (I hope).
7. You’re not always going to like your kid. You love them, but you just don’t, you know, like them sometimes, right at that second. It’s not only okay, it’s normal. Trust that sometime in the next minute, the next hour, the next day they’ll do something that reminds you how awesome they are.
8. No matter how many toys you bring to the park, they are only going to want to play with other kids’ toys.
9. If your kid is really into hiding things, don’t give them important things that you need. No matter how much they want it.
10. Kind of specific to if you’re moving around a lot, or traveling: You are their constant. Even if they wake up in a different place every day, make sure they know that you’re always going to be there as well.
11. And at the end of the day, when nothing else is working, when they are freaking out and whatever it is you’re trying to do just isn’t going to happen: stop, turn on the music and have a dance party. I think our world would be a much better place if people just took some time out of the day to dance.
Last week, X decided to dump my entire recipe box on the floor. He then systematically walked up and down over the recipes, kicking to ensure maximum dispersal. Then he stomped on any that were not lying flat on the ground, picked them up, crumpled them, and threw them in the garbage. What can you do other than laugh. I turned on the music and we had a ball dancing around as I (surreptitiously) picked them up.