Magazine article U.S. Catholic

A Parenting Paradox

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

A Parenting Paradox

Article excerpt

When our children were very small, we owned many baby-toting devices. First a baby sling, from which we moved to a front carrier and then a backpack. These all served to keep my children and me physically and emotionally close through their early years. Although at age 5 or 6 our children probably had no memory of the hours they had spent in a front carrier, I firmly believe that somewhere in their hearts they understood they were attached to their dad and me; they had a foundation of protection and closeness.

In the early elementary school years, this closeness morphed into lighter physical contact--holding hands crossing the street, sitting on a lap while reading. In the years after that, closeness moved to doing things together--making brownies, playing horse in the driveway, riding in the car together to practices and games. The language of closeness changed from touch to conversation and time together. Building an emotionally close relationship as children get older requires that parents step away from tendencies to control or orchestrate their children's lives.

Accept who they are. Emma, mom of three, says parenting a preteen is "the same as every other relationship: Listening is key. I'm trying so hard to see my kids for who they are, not who I want them to be." Marina, mother of two, agrees. "If I could give my son some of my daughter's motivation, and give my daughter some of my son's natural abilities, I'd have two perfect children. But I can't, so my responsibility is to parent the children I have--and that means allowing them to learn from their mistakes."

Walk with them through their problems. As parents, it can be challenging to step back into a supporting role. In the school years, parenting changes from doing things for our children to helping them do things themselves. …

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