Saturday, April 7, 2012

Slow parenting

Slow parenting.  It's about slowing down how much you pack into your toddler's life.  It's about slowing yourself down so that you can watch your child play.  So that your mind has space to think about your child and their needs.  I like it.  It makes sense to me of my own experiences of life with toddlers.

A bit of history.  When my first child was 18 months old we went along to a kinder gym.  I was lonely and it was a good way to meet up with my friends.  But my son didn't want to do anything!  He just wanted to be with me.  And my friend's children were all off and independent - jumping on all the equipment while they chatted and had a coffee.  I felt like a failure.  And humiliated.

When my son was two we were invited to join a music class by a music teacher friend who wanted a group to practice with.  I had a very small second baby at the time.  It was a disaster.  My son didn't want to participate.  Wouldn't participate.  Threw lots of tantrums.  I felt humiliated by my failure.

When my son was three we joined a playgroup.  He was toilet training - badly - at the time.  More public humiliation.  I gave up and decided it was less stressful to spend Wednesday mornings at home.

With my fourth child (also a boy) I decided to give a playgroup another go.  He was 2 at the time and cried the whole way to playgroup each week because he didn't want to go.  I felt so frustrated and annoyed at him.  And humiliated by the endless tears he shed at the group.

There's a pattern here.  Parenting was becoming so much about me and what I thought it should be like.  What I wanted to do.  What I should look like as a mother. And much less about my children and their personalities.

I was forced to totally slow down by my fourth child who is quite sensitive and didn't cope with large groups or too many new situations.   I was forced to slow down because I was exhausted and getting dinner on the table each night was a major marathon.  But it was good for me.  Parenting became much more about my children and less about my agenda.  I just think it forced me to actually hang out with my kids more and get to know them better.

I have had a regular attacks of the guilts over the years because having lots of kids has meant that I haven't been able to pull off the baby swimming lessons or the toddler gym or the preschooler music classes or the baby ballet.  But it seems that all the years of the girls playing dress ups in the backyard or the boys cutting up random pieces of paper or the daughter performing endless concerts to imaginary people hasn't been a bad alternative.

Slow parenting.  Sounds a lot better than ignoring your kids and letting them get on with it!

4 comments:

Sandra said...

ha ha - There are two sides to this story. I was the one with the 'out there' children who was constantly embarrassed - they would talk constantly, they would say totally inappropriate things and be patronising to adults who baby talked them, they would run in three different directions, relatives on both sides would say things like'X's children never did that', or their mother in laws would scoop their grandchildren (ie my children's cousins) into their arms as mine entered the room. When one of them broke her arm a woman at church said to me 'I've been waiting for one of your children to do something like that.' Toilet training.....hmmm, I used to go to the park a lot because it was safe and I didn't have to clean anything up. (apart from the odd pair of undies) I encouraged myself by the fact that you didn't see many 21 year olds in nappies. I reflected a lot on my lack of apparent ability to parent effectively and looked at my friends with children who stayed with them, didn't argue with each other and me and didn't cover themselves in paint or try to climb the fence at pre-school.
Isn't it good that our children seem to be realtively normal?

Sandra said...

I also wasn't chatting and having coffee with the other mothers at the kinder gym, I was the one who was heavily pregnant climbing up the top of the three storey structure to find the 18 month old who was right up the top couldn't work out how to get down. I also climbed one of those rope pyramid things when I was 7 months pregnant when someone got stuck up the top of that too. Or I was 500m away from every one else at the park chasing someone around the perimeter. I think our kids are opposite ends of the spectrum but as mothers of toddlers we suffered equal amounts of humiliation.
Thanks for helping me reminisce - it really is quite funny in retrospect.

Karen said...

My kids sit towards the "don't want to do anything" end of the spectrum. They were happy enough to go in the car to whatever I'd signed them up for, then get there and refuse to participate. Fortunately I'm no great lover of playgroup either so I didn't mind getting out of that too much.

I cope a little better with the more structured music class scenario (even though my toddler's not as keen) so I hung in there with Kindermusik for a while until Rowan was born. Now I'm contemplating returning to a lower-cost music and movement class option that's starting up at the boys' school next term. That's being run by a Christian Mum and to be honest, I'm doing it more because I want to support and encourage her than because I think my toddler will absolutely love it. Not sure how that will go but at least I won't to invest large amounts of money or travel time to get there since I'm close by anyway...

I think in the end some kids prefer to entertain themselves in a solitary way (mine would lie around reading most of the day if I let them)...or if they have plenty of siblings around, maybe they just don't see the need to go out and be in a group somewhere else.

Kath said...

Yes, there is so much pressure about how parenting should look, isn't there? I like 'slow parenting'.
I struggled with playgroup because my kids found it hard to be there (at times) because I was leading it (yes, a 'minister's wife' thing to do...)
Reading a story or singing was often interrupted by my child screaming on the floor in a tantrum. Part of me felt embarrassed for me/sad for my child and part of me realises now that they have survived those times of having to share me (or their book) for ten minutes.
There is a tension there.