Letting Go of Self-Imposed Rules

Some­times cre­at­ing a self-imposed rule is a good thing.  For exam­ple, I will only eat one cook­ie or I will drink at least 70 ounces of water a day.  Some­times though, I think that we get ideas that cer­tain self-imposed rules are expect­ed.  I find this hap­pens to me most often in par­ent­ing.

Instead of trust­ing my instincts and using mod­er­a­tion, I find myself won­der­ing what oth­er par­ents like me are doing about a par­tic­u­lar issue.  How are they han­dling screen time?  Bed­time?  Toys with bat­ter­ies?  Plas­tic toys?  Sweets?  The list can go on and on and on and on!

Enjoy­ing their screen time (in mod­er­a­tion!)

About a week and a half ago, I was part of a dis­cus­sion with a friend where she said, “Let­ting go of self-imposed con­straints is so free­ing!” in the con­text of par­ent­ing.  I had nev­er thought of it, but I think that par­ent­ing Jonas as an infant is the first time I was real­ly able to let go of many of *my* self-imposed rules.  Kael was born 4 weeks ear­ly, so doing every­thing right seemed even more impor­tant to me after he expe­ri­enced dif­fi­cul­ties nurs­ing and jaun­dice right off the bat.  I remem­ber set­ting him down for a nap one day because it was “time.”  He laid in his crib and bab­bled and talked for about an hour with­out falling asleep.  By the time Jason got home for lunch, I was near tears!  I didn’t know what to do.  He was sup­posed to nap so he could wake up and eat.  If he didn’t eat, he wouldn’t gain weight.  He was already ear­ly and small.  What was I going to do?!?!?  Look­ing back, I think there were prob­a­bly two options in this sit­u­a­tion.  One, he was per­fect­ly con­tent, so I could have left him.  Two, he was awake and not seem­ing sleepy at all.  I could have picked him up and brought him back into the oth­er room with me.  It seems so sim­ple now, but it was very stress­ful at the time.

When Asa was born, I knew what to expect (Ha!).  He was the sec­ond child, so I knew that he would be easy going, a good eater, and a good sleep­er.  He was going to spend lots of con­tent­ed time in the swing or play­ing on the floor.  He would be able to sleep any­where and through any­thing.  It turns out that Asa was a won­der­ful­ly per­fect addi­tion to our fam­i­ly, but he was also none of those things I described.  He had sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety from the time he was born.  He had reflux, was sen­si­tive to dairy, want­ed to be held all the time, and did not sleep well or for long ever.  I spent a lot of time in his ear­ly months try­ing to fig­ure out how to change my par­ent­ing to get the results I expect­ed I should be get­ting if I had been doing things right.

When I was preg­nant with Jonas, I ran into Jason’s boss and his wife at a restau­rant one evening.  They were both real­ly excit­ed for us to be hav­ing anoth­er baby.  (They are won­der­ful by the way!)  They both assured me that even though I was going to have 3 chil­dren and only two hands, it would be alright.  They also said I would enjoy the infan­cy of the third baby more than I had with the oth­er two, because I would final­ly be able to sit back and enjoy.  It sound­ed good, and it def­i­nite­ly gave me hope.  It turns out they were right.

Hav­ing a new baby is won­der­ful, and it is also stress­ful.  Even in the midst of the adjust­ment to a fam­i­ly of 5, I felt as con­tent and relaxed with how things were going as I can remem­ber feel­ing about a new baby.  When Jonas used to wake up and just hang out for 45 min­utes or an hour in the mid­dle of the night, I was able to remind myself that it wouldn’t last for­ev­er and soon that time would be a mem­o­ry.  When he went through the phase of the 40 minute nap, I reas­sured myself that at some point he would sleep longer than that if he tru­ly need­ed it.  He did.

Now, as I think about my friend’s wise words and those exam­ples in my life, I won­der what else am I hold­ing on to as an unnec­es­sary self-imposed rule.  This week, my goal is to know my chil­dren, see their needs, and respond to them with­out wor­ry­ing what oth­er par­ents “like me” might do in a smi­lar sit­u­a­tion.

Comments

  1. Seems like you have a good sys­tem! I’ve always won­dered how much time the boys should spend watch­ing TV, play­ing games, etc. I would have to agree that my third child def­i­nite­ly was the eas­i­est!

  2. Our sys­tem has evolved over time until it became some­thing that worked for us con­sis­tent­ly. As we do it now, we have what we call “game time” (i.e. iPad, web­sites like legos.com, or nin­ten­do DS) for 40 min­utes twice a week. The boys also get to choose one show a day to watch after school so they can unwind and I can have a few min­utes to get some sup­per prepa­ra­tions done. It works out for us. Although, there are def­i­nite­ly some days when I am tempt­ed to offer them more screen time to get some­thing done. Most of the time I feel like it’s a good bal­ance.

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