What if parenting were easier and simpler than we think? While I was pregnant, I read this book by economist Bryan Caplan. It opened my eyes to the idea that perhaps we are all trying too hard. And maybe, if we stepped back a bit, took a deep breath, we could stress less, and enjoy more. Or, as Caplan encourages, have more children (nice try, guy).
I subscribe to this idea, in theory, and yet in practice I’m the mother congratulating her child at the park when she makes it to the bottom of the slide. I follow my son, on my hands and knees, around the living room floor narrating in the voice of a conductor while he plays with his train (think: Next stop, CHICAGOOOO). And so it goes, a laundry list of things I wish I didn’t care to do (making baby food at midnight), but do because I feel I have to, or it means I’ve failed somehow if I don’t. That if I’m not exhausted, ragged, and constantly engaging my children, I’m not doing it right.
This inspired me to chat with Amy Pertl-Clark, Co-Owner and Director of Operations of Harmony Natural Learning Center. I asked her to do a Q & A for the blog, which honestly was a Q & A for me. When I ask a question like: What would you say to the mom or dad who lost their cool? Yes, I’m talking about me. Because two weeks ago, I hid in the bathroom and screamed, into a sweatshirt mind you, after every shoe I tried to put on my three-year old daughter’s foot was too tight or too loose, and her socks didn’t match.
But if I thought I was the only one, I wouldn’t have asked Amy to talk with me. The truth is, I think we are all struggling. We are bombarded with social media that tells us what is right for our children and our family, when in reality none of us are the same. Over the next few weeks I’m going to roll out some of the questions and amazingly helpful answers from Amy. Today, I will leave you with a single question and answer.
ND: If a parent was to make one change today, to make their life (in regards to parenting) simpler, what change would you suggest?
Amy: Do less and observe more. Spend time just watching your child. Find out what he is truly interested in and passionate about. Have real conversations with him about these things where you spend most of the time listening. Spend time out in nature with your child, where you are just being in nature.
Stay away from the idea that you have to be your child’s entertainment. Show your child what your interests and passions are. Don’t think that you can’t take your child to the art museum because he won’t be interested. Show him how interested you are, and watch him relish in your delight.
Amy Pertl-Clark has spent the past six years helping to build The Harmony Natural Learning Center into a place that protects the innate wonder and curiosity of childhood by offering children the time, space, and inspiration to engage in natural play amidst a fast-paced, highly wired, more-is-more culture. It is her desire to help parents trust their own instincts and create an emotional bond that will enable their relationship with their child to be full of love, laughter and joy. She hopes to encourage parents to live a slower family life and use natural play to engage their child in learning. Learn more about Amy and her adventures in literature with her daughter Emmy here.