A couple of nights ago, I attended a lecture series given by the Department of Education of the town university.  The evening consisted of twelve five minute speeches given by the university professors.  Each professor gave an obviously brief summary  of their research.  The topics discussed included workplace incivility, the importance of nutrition in aging, girls in sports, and whether being a couch potato is genetic (turns out it is!).

The twelve talks were all quite different from each other, but I couldn’t help from chuckling at one similarity that I noticed.  Each professor had his or her own way to say basically the same thing, “…so, what does all this research mean? Well, we’re not sure yet.”  I found this simultaneously humorous and thought provoking.

Researchers can work decades on a project and still be years away from an end result.  The thought of this was a little daunting to me. ” Who wants to spend the majority of their career on the same project,” I thought.  Who wants to work years without know how you’re doing?

And then it hit me that I, in fact, had chosen to spend the majority of my ‘career’ on the same project.  I became a parent.  I don’t normally think of my children as projects, but I could.  They are these tiny humans that need to be raised into big humans. It is my job to nurture them and keep them safe.  It’s my job to raise them to be contributing members of society. And it is a job that takes years!

I work everyday to make sure that my little projects will grow up and one day become successful adults.  I’m trying to teach them the skills they will need later in life.  There are times that it would most certainly be easier (and faster) for me to do something I have tasked my toddler with.  For example, I may have asked Kora to pick up her toys in her room.  It would take me less than five minutes to go in there and do it myself.  But what is that teaching her? That someone else will take care of her mess? So instead, we spend half an hour (or more) working on her room together.  I like to think that I am teaching her organizational skills as well as being responsible for her belongings.  I hope that I am teaching her to take pride in her personal space.

There are many times that Kora wants to “help” me do something. Let’s say she wants to help me make breakfast – she likes to crack the eggs and stir the pancake batter.  I can crack an egg much faster and I can stir pancake batter without it flying out of the bowl and onto the counter, but I choose to utilize this teaching opportunity.  I don’t expect my daughters to grow up to be chefs, but I would like them to feel comfortable cooking food. I think that kids that help cook their food are also more adventurous eaters.  They take pride in their accomplishment and are more willing to eat food they might not try otherwise.  Aside from learning how to crack an egg or flip a pancake, she’s also learning that it’s okay to make a mess (or mistake) and how to clean it up (of fix it).

I feel like parenting is a constant struggle between the “right now” solution and the “long term” solution.  Perhaps my child is screaming that she wants a piece of candy for breakfast.  The “right now” solution is to give that screaming kid as many pieces of candy as she wants so she will stop all the racket.  She of course will be happy now, but what about in the future? I don’t want my child to have dentures before she graduates college.  I don’t want her to learn that she can scream and throw a fit and get whatever she wants.

I try super hard to use the “long term” solution.  I may have a headache from all the screaming and crying, but I stay strong and don’t give in to her.  I want her to learn that no means no.  I want her to learn healthful eating habits.  I want her to learn that sometimes you don’t get what you want and to learn how to handle those upsetting situations.

The “long term” solution method is definitely not easy.  It can be frustrating and loud and time consuming.  It can make you want to pull your hair out.  But it’s worth it.  Or at least I hope it’s worth it…..I’m not sure yet.  I’ll let you know in a few decades when my research is done….I mean, when my daughters are grown.

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