Every six months or so, I pick up and reread (or re-skim) Kim John Payne’s “Simplicity Parenting”. It has easily become my favorite book on parenting and one of the pillars of my parenting philosophy. It resonates with me for two main reasons: it is aspirational and it is practical. It challenges me to be a better parent and actually provides ways to implement the philosophy in practical ways.
When I first picked up the book in the summer of 2013 it prompted me to set some really great goals for our upcoming school year that proved that small changes can make a big impact in our daily life. I usually pick the book back up when we, as a family, are ‘off’. Usually after the whirlwind of the holidays or if my husband has been traveling a lot for work. It is a home-base for me, to recenter my parenting and realign my actions with what we value as a family. I also really enjoy discovering new points in the book that I may not have gravitated to in prior readings.
Here are some of my take-aways from this go around:
“We may be the architects of our family’s daily lives, but it’s hard to draw blueprints of something that is constantly changing and growing.” pg. 15
This is the forever-needed reminder that parenting is real hard, y’all. It is not static. It is absolutely true that once you get something down or feel confident in one area of parenting, something will change and you may have to go back to square one. This passage reminds me that I am not alone in that feeling and it is a totally normal part of parenting.
In the chapter entitled “Environment”, Payne discusses the negative effects of advertising on our children.
“These messages (advertisements), over time, create both a sense of entitlement, and a false reliance on purchases rather than people to satisfy and sustain us emotionally.” pg. 58
The conclusion, not only re-inspired me to continue to keep my kids away from marketing and advertisements directed at them as much as possible (thanks PBS and Netflix for making that easier), but also pushed me, uncomfortably, to think about my own relationship with entitlement and how advertisements or even social media can play with my sense of worth.
I am currently in discussion with my husband on whether or not my son, age 5, is ready to play soccer or baseball in a team setting. I had originally placed an “at least wait until Kindergarten” pin in the discussion, which was arbitrary and therefore not really worth much in the context of this debate. After observation of my son’s skill level I lean toward ‘yes, he is ready’, but based on observation of his need for rhythm in his schedule I lean toward ‘no, not yet’. My son loves to play soccer in the park and at recess. He adores a game of baseball with his dad on weekends. Am I doing him a disservice by not allowing him to play in an organized league? The book shines through right on cue:
“Given ordinary opportunities and encouragement, a truly exceptional talent will surface. But interests–even strong interests and abilities–often burn out when they’re pushed too hard, too fast, too young. The drive toward the exceptional leaves many loves and passions in its wake.” pg. 152
This passage validates my concerns about pushing too soon and reminds me to chill out. If he is to become the next soccer or baseball star he will do so regardless of playing in an organized way in PreK. I also like that he has joy for these sports and do not want to taint that joy so early with a negative experience in organized sports.
I really do love coming back and rediscovering a point or unearthing something new to fit our new stage of life. I take notes in the book’s margins in a different color every time I pick it up. This colorful timeline is a visual reminder of how valuable this book has been to my parenting journey and I look forward to revisiting simplicity in the years to come.