This last weekend, we went to a homeschool conference. My Hubby, my mom, and my mother-in-law were able to come with me. It was an encouraging, inspiring, sharpening time. There were moments of laughter when a speaker described my son and oldest daughter to a tee, and moments of tears when I spoke to a speaker, sharing issues I have been facing and getting wisdom from one who has been there. All in all, this weekend was exactly what I needed. It has made me think about things in a different way and remind me of things that I have already established in my heart.
One of the things that I love about homeschooling conferences is that 75% of it (I realized lately that I like to make up percentages! Just go with it) is about parenting and 40% is about education (see what I did there!). Since, as homeschoolers, we spend a lot of time with our kids, it’s a necessary thing to get encouragement as parents. Yesterday, I started thinking about some of the best parenting advice I have received, which might have been brought on by the fact that I have had many friends having first baby’s lately. Often, when a new mom has a baby shower, the ones throwing the party encourage guests to share some kind of advice. Or just the fact that she is clearly a new mom, anyone and everyone feels the need to share a tidbit of their own parental knowledge even without prompting!
I have personally had plenty of people share their own parenting stories and advice. Some have been very helpful, others maybe not so much. The three best pieces of advice I have gotten, though said in slightly different words, were OUTWIT, OUTLAST, OUTPLAY. You thought that those were tagline words from the show Survivor, and in a way it fits here too. How do you become the ultimate survivor as a parent?? OUTWIT, OUTLAST, OUTPLAY. (Yes, I know it’s actually outwit, outplay, outlast, but I like to say it the other way).
Kids are smart. Smarter than some people think. They remember things that you barely have any recollection about from when they were only 2 years old. Like when my son reminded me the other day that he colored a pumpkin coloring sheet at the bank, which was three years ago (he’s 5!) They understand more than you think. Like when people try to talk baby talk to my niece, who we will call Songbird, and who, at not even two, can remember and sing back more songs from musicals than you might have even heard.
Now if you look up synonyms of outwit they are not very nice like deceive, swindle, lead astray. Not exactly what we want to do to our kids, but there are a couple words in there that do fit: circumvent, outmaneuver, and sometimes even trick.
One of the meanings of circumvent is “to surround or encompass, as by strategem.” YOU have to surround your kids. YOU be their world. YOU hold on to them on purpose. You feel like your child is pulling away from you, and you, however that looks for your family, you hold on even tighter. You outmaneuver them.
My example for this working, is that for awhile this year, Ninja Boy seemed like he was pulling away from me. He kept telling me that he liked daddy better, and more often than not, tried to avoid giving me kisses. Now, I’ve heard people say that it’s normal don’t worry about it, but it affected me. I promised myself that I would do everything I could to make sure that boy loved being with me even as a teenager. I didn’t want to start losing my son at five. So I took him to breakfast. I made special effort that week to get closer to him before it got any worse. And you know what happened? He started hugging me longer, grabbing me for a kiss, and telling me on his own that he loved me. I circumvented his pulling away from me by maneuvering to bring him back in. All he really needed was my extra effort to be close to him.
And as far as the tricking goes…I think that is directly related to getting them to eat, bathe, go to bed, etc by being clever. Like I did with the zucchini. Ninja Boy now eats it like a champion, no complaining! To outwit our kids, we have to tap into our creative ideas that will work.
This piece of advice was given to me by my dad when we had Ninja Boy. He liked to fight going to sleep, and good ol’ Pa would rock and rock and rock until he didn’t have a chance. The boy would go to sleep. Whether you are doing the cry it out method, the cry a little method, or whatever other methods there are, you have to outlast. In my experience, day 3-4 are the WORST when you are trying to train in any way, sleeping, taking away pacifier, potty training, etc. Those are the days that often make you want to give up. But you have to outlast. They will eventually eat, they will eventually fall asleep, eventually start going potty in the toilet. You just can’t give up even when you think you are done. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Call someone, talk to someone, and tell them to not let you quit.
The point is you know what is best for your child. You know that it is better for them to be able to sleep. It’s better for them to stop peeing in their pants. Keep your eye on the goals you have for your children, and outlast their cries, tantrums, and pitiful little puppy dog faces. You are the parent and know what’s best for them.
This is the advice that I have had the hardest time taking. Playing. Since becoming a wife and mom, I have a more difficult time sitting down and just playing. There is always something to wash, make, put away, take care of. But at some point you have to learn to stop and play. The saying is true that they grow up so fast. I am having to challenge myself to learn how to play again, and not just because I have to but because I want to. I want to spend time with my kids in their world and hear their stories and games. There are definite times to get stuff done and to allow them free play on their own without mom or dad right there. But if nothing else, I want to be available to listen to what they are doing and hear their interactions, and when the time comes to play, give it my all and for even longer than they think I will. I may have no idea what Barbie should say to Princess Cinderella, but with some practice, I think I’ll know exactly what to do as Darth Vadar comes in to capture her and take her to the Decepticons lair.
I share these three words of advice, not because I have done them perfectly all the time, but when I have had shining mommy moments, I have had great success. Maybe you can too.
Share your stories of when you OUTWIT, OUTLAST, and OUTPLAY your children.