I’m a few months behind on my “Happier at Home” reading and blog posts (read more here) — November’s theme was parenthood.
I’ve only been a parent a little over a year (or, I guess more accurately, a year and nine months), so I wasn’t sure how I would relate to this chapter. The author, Gretchen Rubin, has two daughters who are somewhere around 6 and 11 years old, so of course her parenting challenges are different than mine, but her words on the subject still really resonated with me.
Here are Gretchen’s four resolutions for parenthood, and my timeless takeaways that I think would benefit anyone, parent or not.
Underreact to a problem. In Gretchen’s words, “Although we think we act because of the way we feel, we often feel because of the way we act. Accordingly, one of my personal commandments was to ‘Act the way I want to feel,’ and I’d found this ‘fake it until you feel it’ strategy to be almost eerily effective.” She touched on a similar theme in the marriage chapter, and again, I think she’s right to a certain extent. I also think this is really hard to practice! I’m pretty even-keeled with Corban (he’s still a sweet, happy baby, and since I work full time I am committed to being “on” and loving during my time with him), but this resolution can be easily applied to other relationships — spouse, co-workers, family, etc. And I guess, in regards to parenting, right now I could work on underreacting when working with Peter on raising our son. Underreact when we disagree. Underreact when he does something I wouldn’t do (this actually rarely happens).
Enter into the interests of others. Again, I don’t have much of a problem immersing myself in the world of baby books and Little People, but this resolution is highly applicable to any relationship you value. Ask questions. Listen thoughtfully. Agree to see a movie you’re not interested in for date night. Truly attempt to understand your husband’s explanation of something related to sports/politics/childhood memories (at least if you’re me). More often than not, I end up enjoying someone’s interest right along side them when I do this — or at least appreciating their interest in it a little more. This is definitely something that I hope to keep in mind as Corban grows. I would love to be able to connect with him over a common interest, but even if I find all his hobbies and interests silly, entering into them even a little will help me be a better parent.
Go on Wednesday adventures. Gretchen decides that in order to ensure she regularly spends one-on-one time with her older daughter, she will take her out each Wednesday after school for a couple hours. They take turns choosing their activity — museums, sights, etc. (they live in NYC so there are lots of options). I LOVE THIS IDEA! It’s not really practical or necessary to implement right now, but when our kids (God-willing there will be more) are a little older I would love to try something like this. What a great way to have fun together, try new things, maintain your individual relationship and stay connected during the years when you may feel like you’re living on different planets.
Give warm greetings and farewells. This, I know, can be challenging when you’re wrapped up in a project or just not paying attention, but I agree with Gretchen that intentional affection adds much joy to life. You don’t need to remind me to kiss Corban about 100 times before I part with him, and I can’t walk in the door after work without picking him up or he’ll burst into tears. It’d be hard not to at this age, but I know there will be a day when I have to work at this. This one can also be applied to any situation — even with strangers. A warm, “hello!” makes everyone’s day a little brighter.
Gretchen ends the chapter with a little bit of wistful musing about how it’s important to appreciate your current stage of life now. I couldn’t agree more. I try to savor every nursing session, morning snuggle and baby belly laugh because I know how fast these things will be gone. But it’s tempting to spend more time looking ahead (when he’s weaned…. when he’s talking… when we have more kids, THEN…) or looking back (remember when he was this small…) I guess that’s just life, and there’s nothing wrong with anticipating or reminiscing. But the now is precious and wonderful, even if it’s not easy or happy or going the way you’d like.