Intentional parenting means letting everything else go.
Earlier today I was sneaking in a few minutes of Instagram and realized I was struggling with that feeling that so often occurs with too much social media. That feeling of jealousy or inappropriate admiration for someone’s home, family, garden, life. That feeling that starts off as just being impressed by something and quickly spirals into “how can I do that too” which evolves into “why aren’t we like that” and ends up somewhere in feeling just not good enough. Instagram often tells us that “comparison is the thief of joy” (credit to TDR) as we scroll through perfectly curated content of “keeping it real”.
I am quick to feel jealousy or insecurity which tends to make social media (and Pinterest) a bad idea. And yet each day I go over my allotted time, ignoring my phone’s optimistic 30 minute limit warning. Good intentions…
I find a lot of value and information in the content I follow but I also find it comes with a cost. This is particularly the case when it comes to parenting. Children doing cool things? I swoon and feel failure. So I unfollowed most every parenting ‘grammer.
I realized the common threads in the accounts that I still follow is their intention. There is something that they focus on for their children, something that’s important to them. Perhaps it’s teaching them about food and cooking. Perhaps it’s sensory exploration and playing independently. Maybe it’s just prioritizing being outside.
And they let the other stuff go.
Children are not good at everything. Parents are not good at everything. We cannot have it all. So pick what’s important and let the rest go.
It was a bit of an epiphany this morning when I realized Tyler and I are already doing this. We have a few things that are important to us and we have mostly let the rest of go. These things that we focus on in parenting don’t necessarily look or feel they way we imagined pre-children, but what does?
What we focus on:
- Saying yes more than we say no. There’s not a lot of rules at our house but we say no when it comes to safety, causing physical harm or material harm (no holes in the wall, etc.) and things that might just make us lose our minds. Parental sanity matters.
- Getting outside. Every weekend morning we go for an adventure whether it be off to the beach, on a nature walk or just to the playground. If it’s not raining, we get outside.
- Bedtime. See parental sanity matters.
- Parents decide what food goes on the plate and kid decides what they eat and how much. This sounds minor but food is a battlefield in any house with children. We do not battle the kids on what they eat but I pick what goes on the plate with little input from the kids. It doesn’t make dinner easy but at least everyone knows what to expect.
- Being kind. The kids know we value learning and treating people with kindness over anything else. That doesn’t mean they’re totally on board but they do know what the expectations are.
We haven’t enrolled our kids in sports (at least not yet) or focus on learning letters, reading, art, etc. That stuff will come to whatever degree they are inclined to. This is not to say we do not want the boys to be athletic (Tyler’s dream) or avid readers/creatives (mine), but it’s not our priority and for the most part we let it go. Sometimes the kids are disasters. They tear apart the house. They’re not particularly good with strangers. Arts and crafts is over before it starts. We haven’t signed up for swim lessons because it will likely be a battle. You win some, you lose some.
Just like everything else in life, you choose what’s important and you let the rest go.