This is a card in Dave's Virtual Box of Cards.


Created: 2022-11-01
Updated: 2022-01-13

The implied "you" here is me. This is a Note To Self. But if you are not me, it may still be useful.

Raising a baby human into an adult is a big deal.

You have no idea what your kids will pick up on. They seem to ignore you when you want to be heard, but they’re aware of everything. You know this to be true if you remember your own parent’s behavior when they didn’t know you were watching or paying attention.

The paradox

Yes, parenting is a huge responsibility. It takes (and deserves) massive reserves of time and attention. If it weren’t so common, it would be considered a heroic act.

For sure, it’s a sacrifice.

And yet, maybe the highest aim isn’t to be completely selfless and completely devoted to parenting. The purpose of a life is surely more than just to perpetuate more life!

I think we should show our kids how to be a proper human, not just a parent.

Show them how a person can be non-judgemental and forgiving. Show them how to be interested in things, to have fun, to find wonder in the Universe. How to be courteous to strangers and mindful our shopping cart in the grocery store. How to have a hobby. Demonstrate enjoying books and film and music and games.

Demonstrate change! Show them that you, an adult, are capable of change and growth.

Demonstrate stability! They must know that you are someone they can trust and rely on.

Be passive

Practice "benign neglect" and let your kids have their own time - to waste or not. Let them pursue their own interests. They need to be themselves without you sometimes. They need you to be the bedrock on which they build their own lives.

Be active

Share holidays and traditions. Share the joy of putting in an effort on something hard. Share your thoughts and philosophies now and then, even when nobody asked. Share what you believe to be true right now.

Make things out of cardboard.

Build LEGO projects.

Teach them about birds. And the coins of the world. And gardening. And how to count in binary.

Read bedtime stories and make funny voices.

How to be the Greatest Parent Ever

Parent conciously, but ingrain the parental behavior you want to have so it happens automatically when you need it the most. Re-evaluate now and then. Read and re-read parenting books to get new ideas and re-examine your current practices. But not too often.

Show your kids that having emotions is okay. We can make any number of mistakes and still keep forgiving.

Punishments and rewards are a weak way to influence behavior. Model the behavior you want to see. This is the longest game in the world. You may not even live to see the full results. In the shorter term, you can catch glimpses of yourself in your kids now and then if you watch closely enough. People outside the family see it much more easily.

Smile at your kid. They smile back sometimes and it feels good.

Have fun when you can.

I think good (maybe even great) parenting is one huge messy contradiction.