THE JOY OF PARENTING
BY: Dr. Kim Leis-Keeling
Last December I wrote an article titled The Art of Finding Joy. It seemed to resonate with many of you and in the spirit of the season, I’d like to share one of my greatest joys – The Joy of Parenting. For me, this is the greatest gift I have been given in my life. I know it has not all been easy, actually it is has been the complete opposite. But I have loved every second of being a mom and right now, I am living in the “sweet spot” of parenting. I’ll explain.
All baseball players know about the “sweet spot” of their favorite bat. Without getting too much into the physics of a bat, if you make contact between the ball and the bat at this exact spot, the chances of hitting a homerun are the greatest. This is where I am right now. Trying to hit a “mom” homerun. Can you see me running around the house with my arms up in the air and my kids cheering “YOU’RE THE GREATEST MOM EVER!” The “sweet spot” of parenting starts when your kids reach about age 7… when they look cute with missing teeth. Long gone are the days of diapers, random crying, temper tantrums, car seats and bedtime struggles. No more daily morning fights “Get your shoes on before you miss the bus!” Life starts to get a little easier and you get a glimpse of parent freedom. Kids are more independent but yet they still want snuggle while watching a movie and will still hold your hand in public.
The “sweet spot” ends around age 11-12 when it is not “cool” to hold hands with their mom anymore. The kids have a stronger sense of their identity and fashion becomes important. Snuggles become less frequent but you can leave your children home alone. They now start to come to tuck you into bed because you can’t stay awake past 10 P.M. (Guilty!) But this is where the worries transition into the heavy stuff filled with teenage drama. I’m not ready for that…I want to stay in the sweet spot longer. I’m heading to the end of it with my children…so I’m trying to cherish every second I can.
In early November, I experienced a parenting homerun. It was a Thursday night and we were all home by 4:00. I was actually making a real dinner, not leftovers, not pizza or tacos, but a real meal on a weeknight. My son came home from school and started to play Christmas music. He was raving about how excited he was for the holidays this year. I asked why and he said that he is looking forward to all the traditions that we do throughout the season – not just Christmas morning. Yes! I have succeeded…he gets it…there is more to Christmas than the presents. He grabbed me from the kitchen and we started dancing to the music. Later, the kids were studying their French together and quizzing each other. It was the perfect evening but felt surreal- like I was watching my life on an old fashion movie reel and I was Carol Brady.
Do you ever wonder if your kids think you are a good parent? I’ll never forget this time when my son was 4 years old. He was playing at a friend’s house and when he came he home he said “Ben has the best mom ever…she buys him fruit snacks!” Confession: This was during my “only organic” days of being a new mom - no way was I buying that junk for my kids. I’ve caved since then. And thank goodness Santa brings them one box of Fruit Loops every year for Christmas. Nonetheless, this is an ongoing joke between us. Do I rank higher than Ben’s mom yet on the “Best Mom Ever” scale?
I pray that I am a good mom and that I am making an impact on my children which will lead them to make good life choices. My parenting style is based on a strong moral compass, leading by example and having conversations versus barking orders. “Listen children, we are having a snowstorm today. This is going to suck but I need your help shoveling and plowing the driveway. I don’t want to do it either but can you help me so we can come back in and make some hot cocoa?” versus “GET OFF YOUR PHONE AND SHOVEL THE DRIVEWAY!” No one likes to be screamed at and no one wins in a fight. Both sides end up feeling angry. Life always presents hiccups along the way but it can made easier knowing how to react to situations.
I absolutely love being a mom. I know the phases of parenting are forever changing. This has just been my favorite so far…my “sweet spot.” This holiday season, continue to search for the things in your life that bring you joy and fulfill your soul. If you are struggling with your children and parenting here is a good book that may help you navigate the tough spots. It is called Raising Resilient Children by Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein. This has become my reference manual for how to parent the tough stuff. I highly suggest reading Chapter 4 – I’ll give you the cliffhanger last paragraph: “A difficult lesson for many of us is that we have control over only one person: ourselves. We should not attempt to control our children, but through our courage to change our words and actions we can guide and teach them. In doing so, we serve as models of resilience and hope.”
As always, if you have questions or comments about this article, please feel free to contact me at the Sports & Spinal Wellness Center at 518-869-3415. HAVE A BLESSED HOLIDAY!