The advice out there is overwhelming to say the least. Are you planning enough social interaction time for your child? Are your children involved in enough enrichment activities? Are you structuring a consistent bedtime? Are they eating exclusively organic non GMO meals? But wait… not only is the amount of advice unbearable, it is completely hypocritical. Are you exposing your children too soon to germs, or stunting their positive social growth by sticking them into daycare where they will not receive one on one attention? Are enrichment activities causing your child unnecessary anxiety and insomnia? Are you listening to your child’s needs and showing that you really hear them by letting them tell you when they are tired? Get where I am going with this? Is it even possible to feel like a good parent these days?
I believe the answer is yes, but somethings need to change. For starters parents might want to consider conducting less research online and start relying on their instincts. Since we live in a world where all answers are literally a click away, we second guess our intuition constantly. We think its okay that Susie is going to bed at 8:00pm because for a two year old she is sleeping through the night and waking up at 7:00am. BUT WAIT… don’t I have to google “typical sleep patterns for two year olds” before I can know if this decision is okay? No you don’t! If your gut is telling you that Susie is doing just fine then let it be. This need for constant reassurance from the internet is turning some of us into anxious, sleep deprived, self conscious, depleted disasters. Not to mention that if you were to search “typical sleep patterns for two year olds” you will be reading conflicting opinions for 6 months. Have fun finding a solid answer before Susie turns three. We as parents need to relax, and trust ourselves. The days I keep away from researching my child’s behaviors online are without a doubt significantly less stressful. Parents out there, you deserve some down time.
Children face a plethora of other hypocritical pieces of advice from their well meaning parents. “Get off your phone” says dad, while starring at his iphone checking to see if his favorite brand of soda is on sale this week. “Why don’t you like to read books?” asks mom, who literally has not picked up a book and read in front of her son since he was born because she openly admits she doesn’t like to read. “You need to have more fun, I am worried that you are too hard on yourself especially with school assignments” advises mom who the day before asked her daughters teacher to create a special extra credit project for her daughter to complete during their family vacation to Washington D.C. Are you kidding me you guys? Please tell me you see the conflicting messages being sent to our children. Kids out there, you deserve some down time.
What is down time? In this society people may not even know anymore. Down time is not lazy couch potato binge watching Netflix behavior. Down time refers to the opportunity for both parents and children to just be without an overload of stimulation. Lets go hang out in the garage and see whats out there. Lets take a walk with the dog, no phones, no ipods, just us. Lets relax on the couch with a sketch book and see what our pencils create. It is my belief that both parents and children are overstimulated and bombarded with confusing, aggravating, and sometime down right crazy daily life events. The need to be distracted at previously coveted times such as family dinners, or days at the beach, is keeping us from letting go and truly experiencing down time. Parents and children need time to reconnect with themselves, and each other, not the wifi.
So, the next time your son has a play date try not to preemptively structure five outdoor activities, and 3 three inside tasks for them to accomplish. Instead offer them a snack and say “have fun!” You in turn put on some music, get out your dusty cookbook (because lets be honest your last forty recipes have come from pintrest) and start cooking! Or head outside and watch your children and their friends engage in a make believe game they would have never had the opportunity to imagine had you structured the entire afternoon. Trust yourself as a parent, this genuine mindset shift will be noticed by your kids. It will help them begin to reconnect and trust themselves. Believe in the power of down time, and embrace the wonders that come!
In love and light! A Misurelli