After nearly five years of being a parent, I have learned a tremendous amount about a lot of different things when it comes to raising my kids.
It’s funny these days to think about what I thought parenting was going to be in comparison to what it is in reality.
For one thing, it’s a lot harder than I ever imagined, particularly when it comes to balancing a working career with actively raising kids. This was something I never gave much thought to previously. After all, it’s impossible to imagine what life would be like with kids when you don’t have any in the first place.
With parenting, I have learned to adopt a long-range approach. I view this parenting adventure as a cross-country expedition of sorts. It’s full of highlights and lowlights as well as lots of twists and turns, and the key to me is simply keeping the vehicle on the road through all the uncertainties, uproar and concerns.
I started reflecting this week how far Pam and I have come together as parents. In some cases, I am not sure if we are better parents today than the first few weeks after Beckett was born or when Carson came along 16 months later.
We were surely more conscientious and detail oriented in the early days, but what I do know is we have learned a tremendous amount and applied common sense to the reality of parenting two young kids a little over a year apart.
Through trials and tribulations, we have realized what was important then is not quite so important now. With time and experience has come a new perspective and appreciation.
To illustrate the point, here are a few examples of how the mindset has changed over the last five years.
Before: There was a time when we would never put the kids to bed without first making sure they had a long bath and were donning some adorable pajamas adorned with messages celebrating how great their dad was, for example.
Now: While they still wear pajamas on most nights, not a whole lot of thought is put into how the pajamas look so long as they are clean. It’s common for Beckett to come downstairs with non-matching pajama top and bottoms or to wear them inside out. When it comes to baths, oh yeah they still get them on a nightly basis, but it’s viewed now as a quick necessity rather than a pleasure.
Before: Once they both began eating normal foods, much thought was put into what my kids ate. Pam particularly was concerned about a balanced and diverse diet.
Now: While that concern is still there, both kids’ ideal meal these days includes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, apple sauce and yogurt. When we deviate and try to mix in vegetables, there is either crying or they end up in the dog’s mouth.
Before: A lot of planning once went it how the kids were dressed each day.
Now: It really doesn’t matter much anymore. Beckett typically picks out his own clothes and that’s why I can’t remember the last time he wore a collared shirt. Carson has a general distaste for buttons on his shirt, resulting largely in long-sleeved T-shirts for him. Actually, that’s pretty much what they both wear all the time. Planning is not the focus anymore.
Before: Detailed written instructions and words of advice were once left behind for babysitters and requirements previously included references.
Now: Experience is helpful but not required, and we only ask for a call if there is a question or concern along the way. I even say, “just ask Beckett if you have a question.”
Before: Let’s just say it was limited for the most part early on to Baby Einstein and similar sorts of videos.
Now: There are still time restrictions, but we allow them to watch just about anything so long as it’s not violent, inappropriate for their age or full of bad language.
Before: They were never allowed to use any of our computers or phones initially.
Now: Beckett is annoyed that I will not give him my iTunes password so he can buy the latest and greatest “Hulk” apps for the iPad. For his part, Carson finds the iPad to be too slow some days and prefers the iPhone.
Before: The boys used to have several jackets to pick from on a daily basis.
Now: Both Beckett and Carson wear the same jacket just about every day.
Before: No matter what we were doing, the sound of the kids crying at one time stopped us in our tracks.
Now: Our reaction depends on the type of cry it is. Not every cry is real and not every cry is reason to be concerned.
Before: They were general in nature, such as do not push your brother or do not throw your food.
Now: Those same rules are refined to do not push your brother unless he expects it or don’t throw food unless it’s going in your mouth.
Before: We used to spend decent money on nice pairs of shoes for the kids.
Now: It doesn’t matter because they are growing too fast.