I feel like we are entering a clearing, in a few weeks my children will turn seven and five. Five was a turning point for my daughter and looks to be shaping up similarly for my son. Parenting small children is a whirlwind of stage after stage, milestone after milestone, with little time to stop and take stock of how it’s going. Parenting a baby. Parenting a toddler. Parenting a preschooler. One right after another with different needs, tricks, and challenges. Now we stand ready to parent kids. Just kids.
Now that we can see past the next urgent stage, I have been thinking more about parenting as a long term process and not just a day to day attempt at keeping everyone alive and relatively well. Maybe it is the teacher in me, but backwards planning my parenting feels totally logical and a bit insane all at the same time. For non-educators what I mean by backwards planning is the idea that I should look at who I want my kids to be as adults and let that inform my parenting now.
This type of parenting is often seen in the extremes, hyper-tiger-mothers that say brain surgeon or bust or the willful stage parents with stars in their eyes and dollar signs above their kid’s head. That is not the type of planning I am talking about. I do not wish to dictate what my children will do as careers or their political beliefs or how they will love. I do, however, wish to do my best to set my children up for being functional adults. Adults able to care for themselves and others. Adults that can handle life’s challenges. Adults that have a strong sense of self and purpose regardless of what that may be.
I know that sounds all well and good, but what does that look like? Here is what I am thinking.
1. Acknowledge that we are raising future adults. It is very easy to think about parenting a five year old in preparation for a six year old. It takes a bit more awareness to remember, regularly, that this is a process of transitioning from dependent child to interdependent adult. That every single day we are progressing towards that reality whether we acknowledge it or not. Whether we are fostering the transition or stifling it, time keeps on chugging along. I think this awareness will also help me appreciate the present a bit more, knowing that it is fleeting.
2. Raise awareness of our own baggage. Despite growing up in a lovely stable home with two adoring parents, I still have issues handed down from my family. We are fairly classic WASPs, in that anything unpleasant needs a few glasses of wine and hours to tease out the truth. I am totally aware of this issue. I know that I could easily carry that torch with my own children or allow the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction. The awareness piece allows me seek out a middle ground; to find resources and advice about how to communicate effectively with my kids within boundaries. *This is an on-going process, but I will share any great stuff I find in case you fall into a similar boat*
3. Stick with our parenting philosophy. I truly believe in my heart that a Montessori parenting philosophy will help me raise functional adults. I think you must have that belief in any parenting philosophy or guidelines that you choose to follow in order to get the outcome you want. I also fully acknowledge that Montessori isn’t the only way to produce functional adults. But it feels right to me, which is why it is my parenting philosophy to begin with. It also creates a default. A place to go when life throws you curve balls. It doesn’t mean being inflexible or unwilling to say something isn’t working. It does mean having a perpetual “sniff test”. A space to ask “WWMMD?” (What would Maria Montessori Do?) It allows for a “why” behind family decisions which bolsters my confidence and ability to stick to my guns on the important things.
This parenting stuff isn’t easy, but looking at it in the context of raising future adults actually makes it feel more exciting. I get to gift the world with two awesome people that make life a little bit more rad for being in it.
Side Note: My 2nd Blogiversary is coming up on October 27th. I have set a goal of 7,000 page views and 100 Facebook likes by that date. You can help make that happen by “liking” my Facebook page if you haven’t already (www.facebook.com/whiningisclosed) and sharing your favorite posts with like-minded friends and family! Thank you!