Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Joining the Team

I didn't read any parenting books before we had our son. Parenting advice is varied and nobody disagrees on the same parenting style. Plus parenting books mostly just stress me out. We're smart, educated adults. Sure we're going to screw up our kid (because that's part of the gig), but we'll figure it out. Lots of people with less resources than us have. 

When my son was two months old I wrote what may be my most controversial blog about how parents have to prioritize what's best for them. I declared that I wouldn't leave the house with my hair wet or phone in my work attire. It wasn't intended to be judgmental. My point is that these types of things were important before I had kids and would remain so after I had a child. Two and a half years later what I wrote in that blog remains true to me. And it also goes to follow that even once you have children you prioritize what's important to you, whatever that may be. I think people use children as an excuse to not do things (which I will admit that I've intentionally done to get out of things.) But if something is really important to you, having a child may make it harder. Because as in all things the hard is what makes it great, right?

I'm currently reading a magical book that has made me seriously reflect on my own parenting style. It's called Bringing Up Bebe, written by an American journalist raising her child in Paris with her British husband. She noticed things about French children that she wanted to research including they are well behaved, they eat anything, they play among themselves without interrupting adults. The book is phenomenal and has me wanting to raise my child like the French. It's the one book I really wish I'd read before my son's birth. 

I would say we are already about 50 percent on board with French parenting, although now I desperately want to raise my kid 100 percent like a French mom. One thing my husband and I decided early on is to focus on our life as a family. Sure having a child changes your life, but our life would not entirely revolve around our child. It would revolve around our family. That includes putting time into our marriage and focusing on ourselves. I adore my son. I'd throw myself in front of a train to save him without hesitation. But on a daily basis our life revolves around our entire family. We love to travel. We love to eat at restaurants. We love to have lengthy brunches with friends. It is a requirement that our child fit into this lifestyle. 

I couldn't get him to eat sushi, but he ate all the rice and loved chopsticks!
One thing the author discovers is that French parents don't throw their children in 14,000 activities and act as chauffeurs constantly shuttling their kids to the next place. I LOVE this. We had our son enrolled in tumbling on Saturday mornings, and then football season came. We are a football family, so Saturday morning anything doesn't work. He can do another activity. I won't say that there won't be a time when Will won't love a sport or activity so much that we find ourselves up to our eyeballs in practices, games and travel. But it's going to be when he's old enough to make that choice. And there will always be a family balance.*

When I was a kid I was involved in sports and academic endeavors. But those things revolved around school. There was no travel team that took up the entire weekend. As one French mom quips, "We go away on the weekends." YES. YES. YES. I want Will to have activities he loves, but we will still travel. We will still go out and have dinner. When we had our son he joined our team. He's one of the three MVPs, but he's got to go along with us. 

We were in Richmond, Virginia two weekends ago. We were home for three days, threw a political fundraiser and then headed to Traverse City, Michigan for three days. My son has flown three times this year. Kid's got frequent flier miles. Being on our team means being social, being busy, and going with the flow. He's a pro. 

Racking up miles in the Richmond Airport
Enjoying the bay in Traverse City, MI

In less than 16 years Will is going to graduate from high school. I don't want to look back on this precious time and think our family left anything in the tank. My husband and I have careers we value. We have a marriage we cherish. We have a son we love with a fervent passion and to whom we want to give every opportunity. Maybe he will decide he wants to play baseball or hockey (please no) or some other sport, and discovers he loves it so much. Maybe it will upend our lives, but we won't push him there. We have high expectations of achievement (particularly academic), but he also needs to be a kid. We travel a lot and seek out playgrounds and children's museums. Life is about experiences, and we want him to have so many of them.  

Testing the water in the James River at Richmond's Belle Isle Park
Vacay includes giant cookies
There's a lot we won't get right, and maybe someday Will will get tired of the blistering pace of the life we lead. But for now he's on the team whether he wants to be or not. He seems to like it. Hotels are his favorite. He loves room service. He loves airplanes and pilots. He appreciates travel and being social. He invites everyone at his daycare over to his house and to ride his boat (for what it's worth we do not have a boat. It belongs to my husband's grandmother.) But for our family life is meant to be busy and social. We won't have it any other way.

These days I'm channeling my inner French mom in a lot of ways.  No parenting style is perfect, but I I expect my son to be well behaved, social and a rock star traveler. There really isn't an option. That's part of what being on our team is about. There's also copious amounts of love. I think we're a pretty good team. 

*For the record I am not judging those who spend their weekends and more doing sports. That's totally fine. I'm simply saying it's not what we envision for our family, and we don't want to give up travel and other social family time. 

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