A life lesson, using a child as an example: when my son was born, we were good parents. When he cried, we ran to him. We rocked him, sang him comforting songs in English and Russian. We gave him milk to get him to sleep. We slept in the room with him. We still do. He sleeps in fits and spurts. He’s a great kid, but his sleep patterns are erratic.
When my daughter was born, we were good parents. When she cried, we waited. We rocked her sometimes, but put her down at the first sign of drowsiness. We sang to her when she was awake, but never to put her to sleep. We gave her milk sometimes, but often put her to sleep long after milk. We never stay in the room with her. She sleeps through the night occasionally – something we never could have imagined with my son at her age, or even now.
The life lesson? Constant attention is not always the answer.
1. Your spouse does not need your constant attention. People are individuals. When you get married, you are not a cyborg unit, a fusion of male and female (or otherwise, depending on your state’s legal system). You are two individuals who love each other. Back off a bit sometimes.
2. Children need to grow and explore – and here’s the shocker, they don’t need you ALL THE TIME. I thought I had to entertain my son 24/7. He’s a brilliant boy (I’m an objective observer) but he’s highly dependent on interaction. Maybe that means he’s going to be president in 2044. Who knows? But my daughter already shows independence and the ability to entertain herself. One of the keys to life is to be happy with yourself, and although that can come from interacting with others or from spending time alone, kids do need to develop the alone-time skill first.
3. Work does not require constant attention. Back off a bit. Have a life away from work. Don’t think that your company will fail without you. It will not. I promise you. Try it – stay home for a day and turn off the phone and email. It will still be there tomorrow.
4. Money will wait. If your finances are great – or shoddy – they will not change drastically if you look at every penny or if you let slide a few dollars. Make an overall guiding philosophy, then let the small things slide. Constant attention to every expenditure in your life is not necessary.
The term “accidental parenting” applies to a lot of decisions made by parents – overindulgence in one area creates problems later in life. “Accidental life planning” or “accidental money planning” would be equally apt terms. I’ve always found it amusing that I’m considered one of the most draconian and strict parents in my neighborhood. I don’t view myself that way, and according to most of the parenting books I read we are on the lax end of the scale.
The most important thing to learn is that nobody benefits from being treated like a baby, not even babies. Not friends, not family, not kids, not parents. Our financial, social, intellectual and spiritual lives don’t need to be treated like babies, either. Push your kids and your own limits and you’ll all benefit. Push yourself and limits won’t matter.