The Comedy of Parenting {Guest Post}

You have a SECOND CHANCE at winning an e-book copy of Sarah MacLaughlin’s book What Not to Say:Tools for Talking with Young Children! This is a guest post from Sarah on how laughter really can be the best medicine when it comes to parenting. At the bottom of the post is directions on how to enter to win the e-book and also the grand prize: a Kindle Touch. Enjoy! And don’t forget to leave a comment!

The Comedy of Parenting

By Sarah MacLaughlin, Award-winning Bestselling Author of What Not To Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children

Long before we became parents (or even started dating for that matter) my partner and I prepared for parenthood. This took many forms, of course. One example is that I took some Early Childhood Education classes. My husband, Rich, took several workshops in stand-up comedy.

If you think I always come out ahead in the parenting department, you’d be wrong. I’ve got the theory part down. But Rich just kills it with his execution.

I know what I should do—what response would be best.  I know how to use humor, silliness, and just plain Playful Parenting, (click for Lawrence Cohen’s wonderful book), often though I react instead. That doesn’t usually go so well.

Every parent loses their temper from time to time. Small children want what they want and are happy to show their feelings when they don’t get it. Volume control is nonexistent. Conflicting needs and desires while the child doesn’t yet have a fully developed brain are difficult to navigate.

Rich has been paving his way as a parent with comedy from the beginning. He is a creative genius in this department. He has a litany of characters, each with their own voice and personality. They tell outrageous stories and ask ridiculous questions. He gets it all wrong and pretends to know nothing. My son Joshua thinks this is hilarious.

In situations where patience is required, I can usually hold my own, but certain circumstances just irk me. A big trigger is when I override my own good sense and engage in some sort of “bargain” with my four-year-old.

**A word to the wise: Do not ever do this**

Here’s the short version of my story:

I tell Joshua it’s time for bath and bed. He tells me he wants to play more. I look at the clock and tell him that he can play for ten more minutes, but then it will be a quick shower instead of a tub. He says okay. (Would you believe I had already been in this situation once before and it had NOT gone well and here I was trying it again? Yes, you can. You know how hopeful and downright dumb we parents can be.) I ask him if he’s sure he is okay taking a shower instead of the bath. He says yes. (See, I’m no dummy. I double-checked. With the 4 year-old.)

Flash forward ten minutes to the bathroom:

I start the shower. Somehow, I am completely unprepared when Joshua announces that he wants to take a bath. I remind him that he agreed to take a shower. He says he’s changed his mind. I attempt to convince him that a shower will be fun. He resists. I insist. He fusses. I get mad. He retreats to the corner. I stare him down. He stares back.

I take a deep breath and it hits me that this is not going to work. I am certain that trying to force him into the shower in any way, shape, or form will end badly. I consider bowing out gracefully and somehow making it seem like a tub is my idea, but I’ve set such a clear expectation that it would be difficult at this point.

Then I ask myself: “What would Rich do?”

I smile hugely at Joshua. I stick my hands into the running shower and announce that I am helping Joshua take a shower. “Here, let me wash your hair, little boy!” I say. He giggles. I continue to pretend I’m washing Joshua. He stands in the corner and laughs. I look at him over in the corner and act shocked. I say, “Hey, wait a minute! If you’re over there, who is in here?” I am extremely surprised to find that there is not a child in the shower. He laughs more. I ask him to get in the shower. He says no. (I should have known my little Taurus would not be swayed so easily.)

I am annoyed, but I am making progress.

Going for proximity, I go to him and pretend to wash him right there in the corner of the bathroom. He howls with laugher and tells me he’s not in the shower. I apologize profusely and go back to washing the imaginary boy in the shower. He laughs. I go back and forth between the fake boy in the real shower and the real boy in the fake shower. Eventually, he gets in the shower and I feel like I’ve earned a gold medal in parenting.

That story had a happy ending. Many of them do not. If you can buy fifteen to thirty seconds between feeling irritated and taking action, you can remember to use humor. Yes, it was time consuming. Guess what? Any coercive approach would have been even more so. You can fight, as I did, to stay in your prefrontal cortex and invoke a humorous and playful tone. You set the tone. A child will follow your lead.

What situations in your parenting could use some lightening up?

Resource Mentioned in This Post

http://www.amazon.com/Playful-Parenting-Lawrence-J-Cohen/dp/0345442865/

Special Giveaway!

Please comment on this post about your comedies of parenting. Your comment enters you in the eBook Giveaway — to win an ebook copy of What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children, in the format of your choice: PDF, epub, or Kindle format. Sarah will be giving away one copy at each blog stop and will announce it on the comments of this post tomorrow. Be sure to leave your email so we can contact you in case you’re the winner!

Other stops and opportunities to win during this Blog Tour are listed on Sarah’s blog here: http://sarahsbalancingact.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html.

Also, you can enter at Sarah’s site for the Grand Prize Giveaway: a Kindle Touch. Winner will be announced at the end of the tour after July 15th. Go here to enter: http://sarahsbalancingact.blogspot.com/p/blog-tour.html

About The Author

Sarah MacLaughlin has worked with children and families for over twenty years. With a background in early childhood education, she has previously been both a preschool teacher and nanny. Sarah is currently a licensed social worker at The Opportunity Alliance in South Portland, Maine, and works as the resource coordinator in therapeutic foster care. She serves on the board of Birth Roots, and writes the “Parenting Toolbox” column for a local parenting newspaper, Parent & Family. Sarah teaches classes and workshops locally, and consults with families everywhere. She considers it her life’s work to to promote happy, well-adjusted people in the future by increasing awareness of how children are spoken to today. She is mom to a young son who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice about What Not to Say. More information about Sarah and her work can be found at her site: http://www.saramaclaughlin.com.

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Guest Post: Judge Not Lest…Aww, Go Ahead. Ye Be Judged Either Way

Since I’ve been a rotten, no-show of a bloggity blogger lately I am thrilled to present a guest post from my dear and long-time friend, Penny.  I will be back soon, but until then I hope you appreciate this perspective on parenting. You can find more Penny snark at her blog It’s Not About The Baby .

If you are a follower of Bebe Diaries (and who isn’t?), you might have seen the sassy-pants comment I made following Katie’s latest blog about a teen parent she made friends with at a local playground. Having a little piece of web heaven myself, I would have responded to this type of feedback on my blog by unfriending you on Facebook. Katie, being the even-tempered angel that she is, called me and asked me to do a guest blog. So I can talk even more trash. I know, right? I so lucked out by being friends with her. Anyway, enough sucking up. Here’s my guest blog…

The conversation that was started centered on teen parents, particularly the at-risk variety, and the question was this: with whom, how, and when is it best to intervene? To be successful, you have to work with the parent and her child, preferably for more than one hour a week. You cannot possibly get through to a sixteen year-old girl who is traumatized from past abuse, has no place to live, can’t afford diapers, and doesn’t have anyone to leave her baby with for two minutes, much less a whole school day.

To have a chance of helping the at-risk teen parent, you first need to supply a free source of childcare, transportation, counseling, and case management services. If you stick with her and believe in her, she just might graduate and go on to college. I recently completed an internship at the Maine Children’s Home in Waterville, and this year there are three
teen moms graduating. Three. It’s like throwing starfish back into the ocean when the beach is littered with thousands of them. The undeterred beachcomber makes a life-saving difference to the ones he picks up and throws back. (The Maine Children’s Home is the
beachcomber on the beach of teen parenting, by the way. Check them out.)

Although a 16 year-old is technically still a child, a lot of adolescent parents are already pretty well ‘cooked’ in who they are going to be. Those that want help may be lucky enough to get it, but there are many who don’t want help. The biggest risk factor for teen pregnancy, consistently supported by research, is to have been born to a young parent. When you add this trend to a family weakened by poverty and abuse, you are in serious danger of repeating the cycle over and over. So when I said in my comment that we need
to focus on the babies of teen parents, it is based on a worst-case image of a parent who doesn’t want help and the rather sad viewpoint that jumping ahead to the next generation is your best chance at breaking the cycle.

Without going too far down the rabbit hole, I want to return to what I think Katie’s original point was. It’s incredibly easy to judge other people’s parenting. The teen parenting conversation is a distraction from the underlying topic, which is that nothing makes us mamacitas more defensive and ready to do battle than the role of Mommy. Women have been put in the position of having to do it all, and we’re all looking for the “best” way to get it done.

Here’s the deal, ladies. I’ve got news for you. There is no best way to parent. Those among you who pride yourselves on breastfeeding into kindergarten might have looked down on me for supplementing with (gasp) formula when my boob-refusing baby blew me off at ten months. Of course, I didn’t hear you judging me because I was busy gossiping about some woman at work who didn’t bother to breastfeed at all. 

I laugh whenever I hear the hilarious new term “progressive parenting.” FYI: There’s nothing progressive about breastfeeding and carrying your baby around like a koala bear. Women on other continents have been doing it all along. And they don’t need a $120 organic ERGO carrier to do it, either. I believe the Progressives also pat themselves on the back for having a relationship with their child and protecting said child from dangerous
influences. No shit, huh? Most Progressives have a master’s degree; I should hope they know it’s important to have a relationship with their children. (Confession: I have five different baby-wearing devices.)

Then there are the career moms. Super mom! Breadwinner and ass-kicker. She’s pumping in her office between meetings and has her baby in daycare full time. She’ll tell you how great daycare is for her child – “Bentley loves it! Seriously, he doesn’t even want to come home! Daycare is actually so good for them.” Look, I know that children do just fine at daycare. But this whole daycare-is-best thing is something Americans made up to make themselves feel better about the fact that they have to/want to work. I made this baby from
practically nothing and grew her in my guts. Don’t tell me I’m not the best person for the job of babysitter. (Confession: I went to graduate school full time just when my two year-old needed me most. She threw up whenever I tried to drop her off at daycare.)

Next up: Child Led Parenting. This is what I like to call Letting the Pigeon Drive the Bus. “Genevieve simply refuses to eat between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. or touch anything orange. We completely trust her – she knows exactly what she needs!” Uh-huh. What she wants is to be waited on hand and foot, to stay up until midnight, and to crawl back into your vagina at least twice a day. What she needs is to get her ass to bed at a reasonable hour, eat what I tell her to eat, and leave me alone long enough to watch my DVR shows. (Confession: Today I left the house with a dirty child wearing a bedraggled princess dress and lost a negotiation for sparkly sandals and a new tutu at the store.)

Opposite the child led parent is The Enforcer. She keeps a strict schedule. Darling Xaiver eats only food made by Mommy, poops at exact 6-hour intervals, and is never left in the careless hands of Daddy unsupervised. Her baby meets every milestone at the exact right moment and is in the ideal percentile for height and weight at every doctor’s visit. “Oh
sweetie, don’t touch that doggie, please. Dip your binkie in Mommy’s disinfection solution. Have your vitamins. You need to poopie, don’t you? I know you do!” I like to feed these poor children unwrapped candy from the pocket of my dirty jeans. (Confession: I
brought my infant to occupational therapy because she wasn’t crawling at the right time. Honest to god, they tell you baby’s ‘job’ is to play.)

The truth of the matter is that most of us are doing a great job with our kids on most days, and a good enough job on the rest of them. Raising kids is exhausting, thankless, dirty work. Let’s not wear ourselves out any further by spending time taking this too seriously. There are crazy things people do as parents, and great things they do as parents. They
just may be doing different crazy and great things than you are doing. No matter where you are, you can always spot a mom that is doing it better than you are and a mom who is effing it up worse than you are. Take it all with a grain of salt. It will flip flop tomorrow or the next day. None of us have all the answers, and no one way is “the way.” Take the chip off your shoulder and check out what your nemesis mom is up to. She just might be on to something that you can use, too.

Thanks for letting me both preach and have a snark-fest on your blog, Katie! You can check me out at http://notaboutbaby.blogspot.com/.