Parenting can be a humbling experience. At some point in your life before kids, I'm sure you've had great successes. Accomplishments that were impressive to others, but more importantly, surpassed your own understanding of your capabilities. And yet, you can't get your toddler to put on her shoes. And getting out of the house has become a seemingly insurmountable challenge!
As an educator and infant and parent development specialist, I am here to offer you some compassion, a gentle hug, and some reassurance. Parenthood is a journey of trying things out, making missteps, and gaining insight from them. There is no one way to do it. We live and we learn.
Be grateful instead of resentful
Comparing yourself to others is human nature. But comparisons often breed contempt or the mistaken belief that everyone around you has better skills than you. There may be times when your spouse or babysitter is able to settle your fussy baby after you've struggled all day. Or a grandparent gets your finicky 4-year-old to enjoy eating Brussels sprouts. When that happens, embrace the new calm that your child is feeling (and the quiet in your home) or the fact that your preschooler now likes a new food. No one is skilled in all areas. Better to spend your time honoring your own abilities and appreciating the value others bring to your family.
Identify your strengths
It's easy to spend so much time thinking about what you can't do, that you take for granted the skills you use every day. Maybe another mom has an easier time getting her kindergartner to clean up at the end of the playdate, but you were able to make the kids belly laugh when they started fighting over a toy. You may be able understand your child's cue that she wants to be snuggled rather than fed. Or maybe you're the only one that recognizes that special look your baby gets when naptime is what's needed.
Some parents have the incredible ability of knowing their child is close to accomplishing a new skill and can hold back from helping. Others may be the one to encourage their baby to participate in a babbling "conversation." Celebrate what you can do for your child, rather than chastising yourself for what you can't. You offer unique gifts to your family and to the other families in your community.
Appreciate the abilities of others
Allowing your child time to interact with other adults is a wonderful learning opportunity for them. The caregiver who sings can teach your child about melody. The grandparent who loves to bike ride gives your child the ability to experience outings in a new way. All of these moments enhance your child's development, flexibility, and resilience. We'll never all be good at the same thing and that's a good thing. Children grow by interacting and relating to others, especially people with areas of expertise that are different from yours. Just like we do, our kids benefit from new relationships and exposure to new experiences.
Expand your skills
Have you seen a parenting technique that seems to work well? Give it a try. Just because something hasn't been a strength before, doesn't mean it can't become one. And when it does, you can modify it to make it your own. Maybe you want to be more playful with your baby, but feel self-conscious making the stuffed animals talk like your husband does. So read a book with a lot of emotion and energy in your voice. In time, you may feel more comfortable with playacting, or maybe your toddler will soon be dragging books over to have you read them again and again. Engaging in reflection helps improve all your experiences with your child. What works for them? What works for you? And how can you use this information to enrich both of your lives?
Commemorate the positive
Stay focused on the wonderful interactions you have with your baby and your growing child. The afternoon at the park, the early morning cuddles, or the way she looks up at you from her crib after a nap. If you still feel like you're too focused on the challenges, try starting a journal. (You can also do this in your baby book.) Write down the good moments you shared with your child during the day or the week. Put together a slideshow or photo album of some of your best moments together. Look at the pictures with your child and read them like a storybook. The positive experiences you have together will have a longer-lasting, and larger, impact on her development (and your own), than the negative ones.
Parenting isn't one size fits all. How boring would it be if we all parented the same way? And how quickly would we lose the wonderful differences between people if they were all raised with the same experiences? Through experimentation and reflection and with good support, parents come up with their own answers and figure out the best way for themselves, their individual family, and their unique child. So ask questions. Try new skills. Forgive yourself when it doesn't work, and appreciate when others succeed where you did not. It's not easy, but I give you permission to release yourself from self-doubt and learn to love the parent you are becoming every day.