Developing Your Spidey Senses & Trusting Yourself as a Parent
I’m still in the young parent category — am I the only mom who thinks I have to parent teenagers in order to have legit mom credentials? My oldest will turn 13 this year, so we shall see if this whole parenting gig works out for me.
But, one thing I have learned in the parenting business (alongside my other parent buddies) is that staying true to yourself is both the easiest and hardest part of parenting.
As a person of faith, I believe that God calls people to parent: for different purposes, for different kids, and for different life circumstances. When we start to think that we aren't good enough, start doubting who we are and what our heart tells us our family needs, then we start spinning our wheels, drowning in comparisons and second guesses.
When we start doubting our own abilities as a parent, then we stop listening to our intuition. I’ve talked about Mom Gut before - mother’s intuition, parenting instincts, Spidey Sense, whatever you want to call it. I realize that not everyone has strong parenting instincts — maybe you grew up as an only child or you were never around babies as a kid or you had terrible parents. I understand that parenting doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
And yet, I will always believe that a loving parent is the best advocate for their kid.
Do you want to be a good parent? Love your kid. And loving your kid means watching them, learning about them, observing their behaviors, celebrating their personality. When you invest in that relationship, you will know when something is off. Your Parent Spidey Sense will start to ding, and you can tell when this kid is tired, overstimulated, feverish, upset, etc.
Once you are invested and intentional about loving your kid, then you can focus on being true to yourself as a parent. You will want to try things that go against your better judgment, and you will probably regret it.
An example: Let’s say your name is Sarah. You are a good mom who loves her children, and you have seen your kid have wildly unstable reactions to sugary drinks. You avoid them at home and never go out for sugary drink treats, but one day, you think, “It’s Sonic Happy Hour! I’m going to be the fun mom today! Surely, one sugary drink with artificial blue dye won’t kill her. Surely, one sugary drink won’t make her wet the bed tonight or cause her to lose her temper later on this evening! My friend Rachel’s kids go to Sonic every day, and Rachel and her kids have the best time. It’s like a little family ritual.”
You ignore the part of you that knows your kid and knows you, and you pay half price for sugary drinks to be the fun mom just like Rachel. Then, when you are trying to get supper ready a couple of hours later, you regret that decision by watching your child become a human spinning carnival ride in the middle of your kitchen. She’s overstimulated, cranky, ravenous, and has peed on every surface in the house. You regret the trip to Sonic Happy Hour, and you say, “I wish I could be a fun mom like Rachel, but I’m just not.”
Another example: Let’s pretend you are Rachel. And you are sitting in the glass-encased parent cage at gymnastics lessons, listening to your friend Sarah tell this story about Sonic Happy Hour, and you think, “Huh, we go by Sonic every single day. It’s my favorite part of school pick up time. The kids talk, get a snack, and I get the Route 44, unsweetened, peach tea with extra ice I’ve been thinking about all day. Should I start limiting my kids sugar? Do my kids have a negative reaction to sugar, but I let them have so much of it that I never notice? Do I need to schedule a dentist appointment? Should I start buying kale chips? And the kicker — am I a bad mom?”
Here’s the thing: both Sarah and Rachel should trust who they are as moms. They each know what’s best for their kids and their family culture. They can trust their instincts as moms, not worry about what other families are doing, and they can be pals to each other at the same time. Can we learn from other families? Absolutely! Can we listen to other moms as they verbally process their parenting styles? Yep! Do we have to do things the same way? Nope.
When you remember to trust yourself and stay true to yourself as a person and a parent, then parenting becomes a lot easier. Parenting is never easy, but I think we make it too hard sometimes. You can say, “Good for you! Not for me,” and you can look at each parenting decision through clearer glasses, without the fog of comparison and guilt getting in the way.