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Friday, March 27, 2015

Take it Easy, O Parents of Young Children!

When the phone rang today at 7:10 am, I figured it could only be bad news. I was wrong.

As I walked to answer the phone, I heard this message being left on my machine:

"Hello, Action News 12, this is the Sweet Family in Bayview. In case you want to cover the story, Oliver woke up this morning, went into the shower, and did not call us to bring a towel. He brought his own towel with him. You can call us if you need more information on this developing story."

The voice was my son Charlie's, and his message made me laugh out loud. He was performing kitchen guerilla theatre, like what he witnessed in our home 30 years ago. At that time, we used a similar subterfuge on Charlie's little brother, Brian. We'd dial the number that gave us a recorded weather report for the day, then say into the receiver, "Hello, Action News 12, Brian just tried a new food and he liked it!"

Raising kids is fun and funny...and terrifying. I well-remember occasionally feeling that I was in a battle for survival. Sometimes it comes down to them or us. We have to use every bit of cunning in our arsenal... all for the good, of course.

As I grow older, I encounter more and more young adults who are baffled as they struggle to raise their children in a world rattling with advice-giving chatter. My message to them is: try to relax. Worrying won't help you be a better parent.

As far as I'm concerned, there is only one rule of parenting. It is this:
Love is all. If your children know they are cherished, everything will fall into place. The foundation you build will stand (trust this especially during the teen years). [Note - this love is the seed of faith - in themselves and in something more than themselves.]

Here are eight ideas that might help you with that one rule...and maybe even help you to relax as a parent:

1. Consider the source and trust your gut. When you get advice (from social media, books, magazines, other people), ask yourself if the advice comes from someone you'd like to have as a parent.

2. Keep it simple. Limit rules and activities.

3. Have a dinner table. No TV, no electronics, no fighting (save that for later).Togetherness trumps fancy food, and food trumps fancy plates.

4. Build the family soul. Take at least one family vacation per year. A camp-out in the backyard or county park will do.

5. Nature is the best teacher of confidence and compassion. Get in it.

6. No one has time; we make time. Even for only a few minutes each day, be with your children. Best tip from my own experience: Lie on your back on your child's bed after school, with your hands behind your head. This posture opens doors.

7. Be present. More eye contact, fewer texts.

8. Accept neither praise nor blame. My mother used to say "Our kids grow up in spite of their stupid parents." I believe she was right.

And Charlie, no, I don't take pleasure when what went around comes around. And you can report that to Action News 12.

Gail Grenier is the author of Calling All Horses, Dog Woman, Don't Worry Baby, and Dessert First, all available from Amazon. com.

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