Saturday, October 23, 2010

Making Progress on Parenting

Andrew has taken Little Guy to soccer in recent weeks; I've been on Snuggler delivery duty. You may recall that the last time I wrote about Little Guy and soccer, he moped about the field, sullen and insulted that others were faster or more adept, angry that the teams were unfairly divided.

Today Little Guy was out there, running around, racing after the ball. No more petulance, no anxiety, no tears when a call went against him. The coach came over to me partway through the drill session, gushing, "It's like he's a different kid!" Little Guy was playing the game. And he was happy.

So what happened? There are only three things, I think: constant emphasis on how important it is to put in effort, praise for when he worked hard, and the passage of time.

Time is a hugely important component in dampening anxiety. Most of us know that frisson of newness, and can empathize with first-day jitters... up to a point. When there's still anxiety on the third or fourth or fifth time, it can get annoying. And yet as long as the anxiety is lessening, we are making progress.

If I can get Little Guy to stick with something long enough to get over the hurdle of newness, we've got a running chance. The other hurdle to leap is my own: I've got to get over my aversion to dealing with yet another situation that isn't going to go smoothly. Parenting challenges -- especially public ones -- are tough to slog through, especially when everyone else's kids seem to be happily cruising through life. So I have to tell myself the same things I tell my son: Relax. Breathe deeply. Concentrate on making progress, not on instantly solving the problem. 

Every parent has times when parenting is more work than we want it to be. But so what? So it's hard. That doesn't mean it's too hard. It means we have to work harder, or smarter, or get help. The more time we spend complaining about the difficult aspects of parenting, the less energy we're putting into parenting itself.

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