Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Parenting

Before I had a child, graduate school was the toughest thing I had ever done. After having a child, graduate school seems trivial.

Parenting is hard. It is relentless: you cannot take a break for a month to recharge. Sometimes, you can't even break for an hour. You have to stay engaged, it takes a lot of energy. Children have vast reserves of curiosity and energy, and they spend all their time exploring and learning. As parents, we have to give them the resources to explore, to engage with the world, and learn as much as they can before they enter it. Small mistakes must be corrected early before they become big ones. And yet, they must be corrected with a gentle voice, with love and with persuasion. All with a child who cannot fully understand you.

And everything gets harder when there are new teeth coming, or when the child falls ill.

The big lesson from parenting is there are few absolutes. There are many styles of parenting, and every child is different. From techniques on sleep-training to meal-time, to potty-training: there is a huge variety of opinion. It helps to see it as just that: opinion. While many people will try to sell their technique as the one true way, realize that their tricks might not work for you. And your trick might not work for them.  If you don't neglect your child, you are probably doing it right. I am not a perfect parent. Nobody is. Everyone starts out being judgmental of parents of poorly behaved children. And then they have kids of their own. Suddenly, others' monsters seem like real angels compared to your own.  The circle is complete...

Parenting tests a relationship like none other. It finds out just how much you love your spouse and how well you resolve conflicts. It is normal to have a conflict every hour. Good parenting requires resolving every issue right away, and giving your child the tools to resolve such a conflict.

While it is difficult, it is the most rewarding experience I have ever had. Every once in a while, your child will do something purely magical. The other day, my son ran up to me yelling, "Kiss Papa", "Kiss Papa", and warmly kissed me on the cheek. Then he ran away, pursuing his next game. Small experiences like these make parenting memorable. Yes, you are sleepless, unwashed and frequently grouchy. But one warm smile from your child, and all the tired nights are worthwhile.