Girl School for Grownups

Like having a big sister, but better because I can't boss you around!

What I know about parenting

Before I had kids I believed children were sort of like Play Doh and you could mold them to whatever shape or form you wanted. So when friends would say “Oh, little Johnny just loves Sesame Street” I would think, “Yeah right. He loves Sesame Street because you want him to love Sesame Street!” Thank goodness I knew enough to not express my uninformed opinion.

Now that my days of hands-on momming are done, I finally feel like I could be a great mom. Oh the irony. But along the way I learned a few things that I’d like to pass along. As with anything I write, take what you can use, and leave the rest.

  1. The primary job of parenting is to give your kids roots and wings. So a la Steven Covey’s Habits of Highly Effective People, begin with the end in mind. Create your own family rituals and rhythms so there’s a sense of stability. And although it might kill you to do this, let your kids try new things even if you’re not sure that they’ll succeed.¬†They’ll learn a lot from trying, whether they work out or not.
  2. Everyone should do gymnastics. Both of my kids were competitive gymnasts, with Tucker competing through 6th grade, and Austin taking it all the way to UC Berkeley, competing in his freshman year. They both started out as 3-year-old boys running and tumbling on the brightly colored gym equipment. Not everyone should compete. (That a whole other essay!) But you can’t beat gymnastics for the coordination and proprioception as well as the strength and flexibility. If you can at all swing it, give your kid the gift of a couple of years of gymnastics.
  3. Start reading early and keep reading even when they can read on their own. I had parents who read to me, and I couldn’t wait to read to my kids. I think I started when they were like a week old. Yes, I know their language skills weren’t quite ready for all of the words, but I read to them anyway¬†because some of my best memories are of being read to. Both of my sons have excellent vocabularies, and I really think that’s in part from this.
  4. Expose them to music intentionally. I joked that I was helping their musical education as I played Stevie Wonder and Aerosmith and The Beatles. For a while Peter and the Wolf was all we listened to when driving, which was a great way to introduce classical music. And then there’s Trout Fishing in America. These guys are fantastic, and my kids can both count up to 18 in Roman numerals because of “18 Wheels on a Big Rig.”
  5. Talk to them like real people from the very beginning. This is the other reason my kids have great vocabularies.
  6. When they are unhappy, put them in water. My sister Michelle gave me a poster titled “How to Really Love a Child” and that’s where I found this wonderful piece of advice. It’s why I let my kids play with Fisher Price Little People in the sink as I made dinner. And to this day for kids and adults alike, if you’re out of sorts, put yourself in some water!PLAYDOH2

If you have any tried and true parenting tips, I’d love to hear them.

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