Parenting (and Public Policy) Resolutions for 2017

Raising a child is hard. There is perhaps no life activity that so challenges us to analyze the past, plan for the future, and act so intently and reticently in the now. All this under the scrutiny of others who have done it, those who are doing it themselves, and those with otherwise unrooted opinions born of ideal and/or whimsy of how it should be done.

In fact, I would challenge anyone to name a life activity that is more second-guessed than parenting. Perhaps because so many people do it and pretty much everyone is and has been effected by it?

Dare I say, “it’s cute” to believe that cohesive, consistent, no-regrets, no-guilt parenting is possible. No, it’s not cute. It’s seriously delusional.

Also, marrying the life experiences and work-in-progress philosophies of two parents into a united parenting front is pretty much impossible. Seriously. No amount of premarital counseling or getting-to-know-you adventures can prepare you for the relationship mosh pit that is raising a child.

And what about your own parents? And your in-laws. Deciding which pieces of your collective upbringing as children to take, leave, or edit into parenting your own children is… mentally exhausting. Add to that the hindsight opinions and revisionist history of the elder generations and… Well, there you have it.

And then there are the snippets from the highlight reels of friends and neighbors. We all have them — traditions and approaches from other households that we observe through rose-colored goggles and then try to adopt because they seem so… perfect. They seldom work, and nearly always leave us feeling lesser.

And then there’s the trump variable. Rolling with the punches as your child’s own personality, gifts, and challenges emerge — trying to guide and shape and encourage, but not crush or smother or prop up.

And finally there is the guilt. For every one of the infinite parenting decisions and interactions that occur, there are consequences, and therefore there are infinite opportunities to question oneself (and each other) and worry and wonder, “what if…”

It’s no wonder politicians often invoke “the future of our children” when painting a picture of our nation’s future and the future of our world. Forming a philosophy, navigating the reality, and drawing from the lessons of our past are all common to both parenting and political leadership.

[NOTE: I am, by no means, a perfect parent. But I am going with the Ben Franklin theory that if we set forth to do things well, and, in the course of real life, arrive at a well-intentioned moderation, so be it. It’s better than not trying or thinking about how at all.]

So, here I go. Here are my top five parenting resolutions, which parallel good public policy, if you think about it.

1. Dealing with Whiners: No one wants to listen to a whiner, but should the squeaky wheel always get the grease? The parent that squelches whining — not to silence the complaint, but to correct the tone and arrive at a short-term solution that is not overindulgent — will have the best long-term result.

2. Treating with Demanding Parties: Don’t be dismissive, but also don’t make the assumption that the party making demands is the aggrieved. Gather insights from both sides and impartial third parties when possible. Don’t make decisions without all of the information. Hasty, ill-informed rulings serve neither party and mark you as unjust.

3. See the Meltdown Coming: We have all seen children “lose it” when “I Want” wishes are denied. And we have all heard, “you can’t reason with a child.” The latter is total BS, and the former is avoidable by switching sad for mad. If a child is fed (and not hyped up on or crashing off of a sugar/chemical high), hydrated, comfortable, toileted, and neither cold nor hot, reason is possible. Meltdowns are notoriously caused by a primary or contributing need unfulfilled. When an “I Want” occurs, a denial then results in irrepressible anger rather than disappointment. In short, make sure the needs are covered and then let reason rule the wants.

4. Find a Balance: You have to find a space between freedom, trust, and covert intelligence you can live in over the long-term, in times of peace and war. Don’t let crisis tip this balance, as you will only regret the precedent you set to either extreme.

5. Give and Let Live: If you hope to breed self-reliance, an entrepreneurial spirit, and resilience, there is a price to pay. Set reasonable bounds, provide encouragement, and rig safety nets where needed. Then let go.

What other parenting ditties can we ditto for the greater good?

You can follow Marion Leigh Bryent and Uninvited: The Lonely Life of an American Voter here too: