People ask me a lot of questions about parenting. Probably because I’m in the child development field they think I might know something about the topic, but also my kids tend to behave well in public, which is something, especially since they do not necessarily do so at home. I’m reluctant to give advice though because I know there aren’t silver bullet answers to parenting questions. Parenting is an individual process and more often than not, the best answer is “it depends”. That being said, I do have exactly one piece of universal parenting advice I love to share and I wish more people would follow it. I can’t remember when I learned it. It might have been at the co-op nursery school with my own kids, but whenever it was, it wasn’t soon enough. The advice is to leave while you’re happy.
That seems easy enough, right? Leave while you’re happy. Well, once you start paying attention to this concept– at restaurants, at parties, at parks, at the mall — you’ll notice people rarely leave while they’re happy, especially with young children. I suppose that’s because, if you’re happy, why on earth would you think to leave? Well trust me, you should.
Maybe a better way to say this is… don’t wait until you’re certain you aren’t happy to leave, because by then (and we’ve all experienced this ourselves or have observed it happen with other people) you’re probably looking at a full-on temper tantrum disaster which makes everything harder if not nearly impossible, like buckling a kid in a car seat or stroller. By the time a baby or toddler (or any age person really) is unhappy and screaming bloody murder, it’s just proof you’ve waited too long to leave…you didn’t leave while you were happy.
It might be helpful to think about this in terms of adult relationships as it translates fairly well. Here’s an example from my work life. Instead of leaving a job in which I was still fairly happy but had completely outgrown, I stayed and stayed and stayed, until I was completely certain I wasn’t happy. In fact, I was so unhappy I would come home at night and cry about the way my coworker typed (she used two fingers and typed super loud– it probably would make anybody cry at some point). But clearly, I was miserable and needed to leave that job a long time before I was bothered by something as small as the way someone typed. It’s when little things that once were cute or would otherwise go completely unnoticed (in a baby’s view perhaps it’s grandma tickling their toes or being buckled into a car seat) drive you to tears, it’s likely you’ve stayed too long. Maybe it’s the way someone sips their coffee in the morning or the way they whistle to themselves while they putter in the garage… Or the way they chew. It might be those tiny little things bug you simply because you didn’t leave while you were happy (and/or you probably need to take a nap). It’s kind of like my other favorite saying…stop while you’re ahead.
Yeah, so anyway, that’s my only real parenting advice… leave while you’re happy, because waiting until you’re certain you’re not happy and you’re crying over the small stuff, it means you’ve most likely waited too long.