Every woman who wishes to have a baby wonders what the secrets are to raising a healthy child. Women purchase books like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” visit their gynecologists to ask incessant questions, and generally obsess over the rights and wrongs of motherhood.
My parents were on a completely different wavelength. Granted, it was the ’80s and my parents weren’t quite as health-conscious as parents-to-be are now. They went with the flow, except for when my mom’s beloved Blue Bunny ice cream became the focus of a nation-wide contamination scare. She worried I would be hurt while in her womb, and she couldn’t think of anything else.
Reflecting back on their relaxed parenting style, I’ve learned some key lessons I’d like to incorporate into my relationship with my future baby.
- Occasionally, doughnuts and pizza are okay. I have noticed that parents these days are food Nazis. Everything must be organic and gluten-free. My parents raised me with doughnuts on Saturday mornings and pizza on Sunday evenings, and I turned out just fine. In fact, my doctor says I have an ideal blood pressure and cholesterol level. Fatty and sugary treats are all right, in moderation.
- Let kids be kids. My parents never insisted that my brother and I work too much. They allowed us to play and use our imaginations – to develop skits with neighborhood kids, jump on trampolines, swim, bike, dance, and run free. Playing Barbies with my female friends was my favorite pastime. We checked out baby name books from the library to name our characters and designated our dollhouse space “Dramaland.” We acted out very sophisticated plots through our Barbies. I want my daughter to have the same creative experiences.
- Read to your kids. My parents read to me from birth, and it shaped me into a good communicator. I talked before age 1, and I was always placed in accelerated English classes in school. I became a professional writer. I will remain a reader throughout my life.
- Model a healthy parental relationship. My parents stayed together through the thick and thin of their marriage, teaching us that they valued their commitment to each other – and to their family. They showed us an honest and real picture of marriage: that it can be challenging, rewarding and loving, all at once.
- Limit kids’ extracurricular activities. My parents encouraged me to take dance and piano lessons, but they didn’t require that I also take horseback riding lessons, karate, softball, painting, and Japanese. They zeroed in on my interests and enrolled me in a few classes to help develop those skills. In my opinion, parents over-extend their children these days. I want to give my children more family time over activity time.