She Says… Kid-Centric

A few commenters honed in on one particular sentence in yesterday’s post. To be honest, when I wrote it, it was much more of a fluffy lead-in to the meat of the post (about swingsets), than a statement about a parenting philosophy I have. I barely gave it a second thought when I wrote it.

What I said: “Gone are the days of spending my days running errands or getting ‘my’ stuff done while simultaneously hanging out with Owen.”

What I meant: “I like doing fun, active, outdoor activities with my kid whenever I can.”

That said, perhaps because not spoiling Owen is in the top 5 things I worry about as a parent, the comments about being a “suck it up” parent or NOT a “suck it up” parent (read: creating a spoiled brat) really made me think. First of all, I resist putting names on parenting decisions and I find it hard to believe that parents fall into one camp all of time (this is one of my issues with the Bringing Up Bebe book as well, the labeling and the over-generalizations). I would consider myself very much a “suck it up” parent in some respects (like in last week’s unavoidable time crunch), and  very child-centric in others. It makes me uncomfortable to slap a label on myself or others, especially as I’m learning every day that parenting is a very fluid process. None of us know exactly what we are doing and we are entitled to change our minds!

Of course the balance of playtime versus “getting things done” time is a very personal one. And it changes every minute and every day depending on your needs and your schedule and your To Do list and your kid’s mood. BUT, in general, I subscribe to the theories that:

1. Play = Learning
Kids learn through play. At all ages, I believe, but especially as toddlers. For Owen, physical play engages him and allows him to learn, explore the world around him, try new motor skills and learn new words. While he is in daycare 4 days a week his play is quite structured and he learns to listen, follow directions and abide by rules. At home, although we stick to a pretty strict schedule of meals and naps and a pretty regular routine of activities (and of course there are rules!), I like to give him a chance to choose what he does and when he does it. More free play. More time when he gets to decide what he wants to do.

Does that mean I forego my own To Do list so that he can play outside all day? Nope. Does it mean that I never force him to do things he doesn’t want to do? No way. It means that I do what I can to respect his playtime and, thus, his learning.

2. Tired Kid = Happy Kid
Well, not tired, exactly, but mentally and physically exercised (and subsequently well-rested!). 

3. Compromise Should Be Mutual
I expect Owen to compromise his wants and needs for me. If I say it’s bedtime, even if he’d like to stay up and play, it’s still bedtime. However, it’s important to me that he knows that I compromise for him too. Do I really NEED to go to the bank right now, which will result in waiting in line for a long time? Maybe not. Can I squeeze in a quick stop at the playground on the way home, even if it will make me a little late, to accommodate his need for some activity after running an errand with me? Sure! Thanks to online banking, Amazon.com and taking advantage of things I can do after he goes to bed or on the days I work during the week, most of our necessary errands can be done without him in tow. Believe me — that’s a blessing for both of us! And it leaves a lot more time for us to just be together and go where the day takes us. Similar to the idea of giving him choices whenever possible, I try to plan our days in a way that meets both of our needs.

At the end of the day, what we’re doing works for our family. Owen is a sweet, kind, hilarious, good-natured toddler whose tantrums and outbursts are few and far between. Only time will tell if too much time at the playground has ruined him :) As I’ve said before, if spending too much time with him and planning my days in a kid-centric way are my biggest parenting flaw, I think I can live with that.

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12 responses to “She Says… Kid-Centric

  1. I very rarely run errands/do my stuff with Clara. That’s mostly because as a working mom, I get to spend so little time with her. No way am I going to spend 1.5 hours going to the grocery store on Saturday when we could be playing (I’d rather just go while she’s napping and her dad can stay at the house with her – I realize some people incl single parents don’t have that luxury). When my husband was in night school, I did spend about an hour cooking dinner before she went to bed while she played independently. Seems like that’s more fun for her than running errands, though.

    My husband, who stays home with her, doesn’t mind running errands with her. I think it’s “something to do” some days when they don’t have a scheduled activity and it’s too hot to play outside/go to the zoo. So, we’re not spoiling her to think our lives revolve around our schedule, but how we treat this issue differs between the parent that’s around her all the time and the one who isn’t.

    (Truthfully, though, I’m not worried about spoiling her with love and attention AT ALL. My parents gave me more stuff than attention and that was…lame.)

  2. There’s a difference between “we have to go to the store bc we are out of milk, sorry, that means limited play time” and “oh, let’s spend the afternoon running to 6 different stores all over town looking for a throw pillow/black skirt/etc.” The former falls into the suck it up camp, the latter is just setting my active toddler up to fail. Recognizing the difference makes my life much easier.

  3. revolve around *her* schedule

  4. This is EXACTLY the way I feel as well, and how we structure our days. Focus on outside play, or – if absolute crappy weather – indoor running around. We also do shores together, like hanging laundry or cleaning, which she very much likes to participate in.

    So yes, I completely understand your approach. To the T!

  5. I love what you say about parenting being fluid … it SO is. I say take it one day at a time and base your day accordingly; that’s my philosophy! And I always try to work around nap-times, something I’m really trying to get the hubs on board with. Gone are the days of putting her in the infant seat and letting her sleep while we run errands. NOT HAPPENING ;) So some days are more kid-centric than others and I know for as good as Maya is — she can sit through a 90-min restaurant meal (even last night she did!) she does need to move, too — so we walked about a mile after dinner and Big Girl walked the whole way! Happy baby, happy family :) You’re an awesome mom and Owen is an awesome kid. And sometimes you just have to do what you have to do to make yourself–read as, your KID!–happy first :)

  6. I think a large part of your “parenting philosophy” derives from your current situation (i.e. going to work 4 days a week and having one day at home a week). Staying home with a toddler can change your outlook a little (I’m comparing myself to my husband here). For example: I HAVE to do everything with the kid, so I’m used to it and she generally accepts coming to doctor appointments with me and other tedious things. My husband on the other hand will just wait to do what he needs until I’m home again because he wants to capitalize his time with her and doesn’t feel as comfortable carting her around town.

    Sure, I make sure the kid does fun shit at least once a day but I also don’t want her to think I’m her entertainment committee. She knows to play by herself, so it’s not like she’s not getting the “playing is learning!” part of it just because I’m not down on the ground playing with her for hours a day.

    Also, him going to bed on a schedule? Not a good example of him comprising for YOUR needs. That’s HIS need. An example of a toddler compromise is when they sit quietly reading books to themselves while you make dinner. I know when my kid does that, I reward her with some Mommy play time when I’m done cooking.

    Obviously what you’re doing for Owen is working since he’s a happy kid, so I’m not knocking your style here but your original post came off a little funny in the first paragraph :)

  7. I hope my comment yesterday didn’t come off as accusatory. In fact, I made a lot of effort to keep it as neutral/kind as possible, since I’ve seen some pretty mean comments here before. I was really, truly just curious about your more-detailed opinion on the different tactics. And I agree — I’m sure every day is somewhere different on the mom’s priorities/Owen’s priorities spectrum. I think you do an excellent job, Kate! Owen seems really smart, happy, and healthy. I admire how you’ve balanced it all!

    I love the parenting discussion on this blog. I feel like I’ve learned so much from you and your readers… way in advance of having a baby of my own, but still… I know I will remember a lot of your posts and experiences when it comes time for me to start my own family.

    Once again, I’m very sorry if I came off rudely! No offense was meant.

    -Amanda

  8. @Ginger, Couldn’t agree more!

    @Anonymous, YES. Totally. Love that description.

    @Ruby, Owen loves to do chores too! That’s a win win :)

    @Lissa10279, Definitely. Taking it one day at a time is all you can do.

    @Kara, It is definitely a result of my schedule. However, while I don’t know since I’ve never tried, I imagine I would have a relatively kid-centric philosophy even if I stayed home all day every day with him as well. It’s deeply rooted in my personality and the kind of family I grew up in, as well as made possible by my current situation.

    @onefittwofit/Amanda, Not at all! I think your comment was totally valid and brought up some really interesting ideas. I wasn’t offended (and I totally appreciate you being thoughtful about how it was written!). I actually thought so much about what you wrote that I wanted to write more about it, that’s all.

  9. i’m not even touching the whole parenting style debate but i must say your quote, “whose tantrums and outbursts are few and far between,” made me sooooooo depressed. we pretty much have meltdowns over EVERYTHING around here. [and i doubt it is parenting style, just in-born personality and my child’s inability to deal with life]

  10. @christy, Oh no! Don’t be depressed! Every kid is different, and I completely agree that so much of it has to do with their personality and not anything you did or didn’t do as a parent.

  11. I think kids generally go with the flow. Not always happily, but they learn quickly. I’m a stay at home mom, so we don’t have a choice – I have 3 kids with me everywhere I go. During the school year it’s a little easier because I have a few hours to myself (almost – I have a 6-month old baby so I’m never truly alone! And my kids go to a co-op so I often have to be at the school helping out), but in the summer they’re with me all the time.

    I try to get all the errands done in one trip or on the way to/from school or other activities so we’re not constantly getting in and out of the car. Each day I try to get in some necessary stuff (chores/errands), some family activities (the pool or playground, a play date, or some games or projects at home), and some independent play time. My boys (ages 5 and 3) fight a lot, but when they play together without my intervention (OK, without TOO much intervention), they are learning to solve problems on their own and use their own imaginations (not to mention it gives me a few quiet moments with the baby or to cook dinner, etc.).

    So sometimes they have to “suck it up”, but they know it’s a necessary part of the day and I don’t think they feel like I’m depriving them of their own play time. Every family has a different situation, and I think kids just adapt to whatever their own situation requires.

  12. As usual, Kate, the similarities between us are striking! As we are approaching the 2nd birthday, we are looking at swing sets too! I can’t wait to hear what you guys decide. Anyway, the days that I am home, we 100% structure our days around my toddler’s needs. We go to playgrounds (we have to drive to ones that are toddler-friendly) and we often go to more than one in a day. We go to libraries, the zoo, and the farm. I try to get all of my chores done during naptime, so that I can maximize our time together. I can’t imagine that showing a child a tremendous amount of love and attention will “spoil” them. But, as you say, time will tell.

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