Parenting little kids takes qualities that you don’t even know you have until the day they arrives. You learn how to function on little sleep and find 100 comfortable ways of sitting/laying on the floor. You don’t even notice if your clothes are clean after a while and you forget to eat or you eat anything you find in the pantry. You get superpowers and learn how to read a book without even looking at the same time as you are feeding one and changing one. You get used to sharing bed with creatures that moves and talks all the time. And kicks you in the head. You can sleep through an earthquake, upside down or on the floor. And x 3.
Love changes. Your heart fills up in a different way. Tears changes. You cry in a different way. The outside world disappears but shows up every once in a while.
But that was almost 18 years ago. Start stretching people, it’s time to get flexible. Parenting teenagers takes flexibility, endurance, strength and patience. And a lot of deep breathing. And even less sleep than with smaller kids. They never go to bed. And when they sleep you have other things to do because it’s usually daytime. You can’t really figure out how they think but you still have to go with it and play cool. I have to admit that I am a bit loosey goosey with the kids. They are a bunch and they are good kids. I don’t scream, I don’t get angry very often, I don’t punish, I don’t force them to do things they don’t want to do (sometimes I force them to hug me but that’s different and I do force them to go with me to Maximilian’s for Moule Mariniere when I don’t want to go by myself). I never tell them to do their homework, simply asking if they have any will usually be enough to get them started. And they have to tell me to turn the music down in the car.
I didn’t plan how to raise my kids, it’s just something you do. It’s your personality that shows in your kids. Think about that one. You transfer your own behavior. How you talk, how you behave, how you sleep, read, talk, eat, drink, workout… They do what you do before they figure out what they want to do and why. The reason I am writing about this is because I read something on FB, about raising children abroad. I followed a thread written by Swedish teachers abroad, there are a bunch of us out here in different corners of the world. Sometimes I wonder if there are any left in Sweden.
I wear myself down every once in a while, I feel extremely guilty for digging up the kids with their roots and dragging them into a new environment, a new language and a new country. And I feel guilty for not living closer to my loved ones. So, I read about being a parent and how you change your way of raising your kids in a new environment. It made me a bit sad when someone said that they treated their children very different in their new home country. That they changed and adapted to the way in this case Americans treat and raise their kids. (Nothing wrong with Americans, my point is that we are different in how we raise kids.) How is that possible? You are who you are. Do you change your personality when you move? Parenting is not an act, it’s not a job, it’s not something to read up on and put into practice… it’s who you are. If you have to think and stop every time you make a decision or interact with your kids then you need to rethink and start over. I am not the same person here as I am when I go to Sweden, I know that. My language change and therefor I know I talk more and more spontaneous. I used to feel at home from day 1 when visiting but it is changing every time and it takes a few days to get used to everything that changed. I am also a visitor now even if it is my country, so I am on vacation and not living there. But my personality doesn’t change. And the way I talk to and act around my kids doesn’t change. I appreciate that you have to adapt into your new environment. I know our kids would have more freedom in Europe, or more a different kind of freedom. And really try to make up for that by pushing them out, explore on their own, make their own decisions. But on the other hand they get other qualities here that they wouldn’t get on the other side of the world. But it doesn’t make my way of treating them different. Or am I wrong? I believe when we pass those first years of “practical” parenting it’s a guts thing. It just happens.
Life is different here but you still have to hold on to what you believe in and think is right. A lot of things in school here surprises me and makes me angry, sad, upset… you name it. As a parent and as a teacher. And I am totally open with the kids and tell them my point of view and why I think it should be different. The constant control stresses kids and I don’t think it will make them perform better. I don’t like the “hovering” mentality, I think kids needs to figure out things by themselves. Not enough recess time, lunch sucks, not enough interaction in the classroom, no geography, not enough world history, constant testing and way too much homework and busywork and lots more. You are supposed to show and have them figure out how and what and not talk for them. I don’t believe in the way some things are done, but that’s life, it’s not always the way you want it. The way we are and what we believe sits deep in us.
Believe in yourself, don’t change your believes too much just because people around you are different than you. Lots of confidence, a sense of humor and comfort in your own skin, transfer that to your kiddos. And as always, keep an open mind. When you know better, do better.