No Regrets Parenting: Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your Kids
by Harley A Rothbart
Well, despite the hopeful title of this book, there probably is no such thing as “no regrets” parenting, the same way there is no such thing as “no regrets” teaching or coaching …or, life, for that matter. Rothbart is honest in saying that parenting will always come with some guilt — But he is interested in alleviating guilt of a specific kind: — guilt you might carry about not spending enought time with your child(ren). His watch word is to be there for them as often as you can, and he provides abundant examples of how to go about figuring out how to do this.
This book is the perfect one for this season of the year. 2014 begins, we celebrate Rosh Hodesh Shvat and the increased awareness that time is flying. I gasped when I read, “There are only 940 Saturdays between a child’s birth and her leaving for college.” (ch 1) Very reminiscent of the song Seasons of Life, from Rent, which breaks a year down into seconds, minutes , sunsets and cups of coffee. This observation sets the tone for all of Rothbart’s advice. Be aware of how fast time flies. Make every minute count. And yes, we’ve all heard that before, but Rothbart embroiders it in a way that makes it seem fresh, new and urgent — and it is a great piece of advice for the beginning of a new calendar year.
Not only is this book easy to read, but Rothbart, respectful of the reader’s time and practicing what he preaches, doesn’t even want it read cover-to-cover. He has designed it to be read when you have time…He advocates keeping it in the bathroom or the glove box in the car or on your night stand to be read in quick short bursts of time. In this way his own book provides a model of the parenting approach he is advocating…based on using the minutes that come your way daily and seeking to make them into moments. “Time is the miracle solution for most dilemmas of childhood and parenthood.”
The goal of this book is to provide parents with a way of maximizing and optimizing the little time that modern life makes possible for family time or parent-kid time. He writes, “This is a book about how to prioritize your kids’ needs within your adult schedules, and how to stretch and enhance the time you spend with your kids.” (introduction). Part One lays out the principles and Part Two is loaded with practical examples and techniques.
He teaches us to start small — when do you have time with your kid(s)? Are you driving them somewhere? Are they helping set the table? Are they home with a cold? Each of these represent a unique opportunity to notice your child, but only if you can stop thinking about the crisis at work or what will be happening tomorrow —to take a deep breath and clear your own head so there is room to notice your amazing child and connect with him/her.
Rothbart suggests this model: Think of how you pay attention to a child during a BIG moment —birth, first day of pre-school, first time riding a two-wheel bike, Bar Mitzvah. That seems to come naturally. But, try to have that degree of attention in all the little moments as well. “Be mindful of your kids and be dazzled by them…It is only by noticing your children that you will truly know your children.”
And of course this means turning off the cell-phone during those precious moments.
To be able to notice and know your children — parents need to mark those time slots that offer the opportunity to be present. “If your calendar were to fall into the hands of a stranger, what would all the entires —the notations, meetings, phone calls, and appointments, say about you? Would the stranger reading your calendar recognize how important being a parent is in your life?” (part 2)
Ecclesiastes 3 teaches us that “For everything there is a season.” Our tradition provides us with this helpful way to think about time…. “ a time for tearing down and a time for building up; a time for weeping and a time for laughing.” But we live and raise children and teach in a world in which all those helpful boundaries have become blurrier and blurrier. Technology blurred boundaries between home and work, between private and public. Sherry Turkel (Alone Together, see October column) tells a story of someone checking his email during a memorial service for a colleague. I myself, have seen someone messaging during a shiva minyan, a parent out for a hike with his kids proofreading something on his phone while hiking along, a family out to lunch together, each one on his/her own phone.
Here is a “parenting” version of Ecclesiates ch 2 written by a group of parents at Ohr Lanu Family Camp at Ramah in California:
A time to draw the line and a time for compromise
A time for bed and a time to wake up
A time to learn and a time to enjoy God’s world
A time for family, a time for friends, and a time to be alone
A time for you and a time for me and a time for us
A time to be colorful and a time to be transparent
a time for aloneness and a time for a group
A time to “fold” and a time to go all in
A time to be active and a time to be still
A time to agree and a time to disagree
A time fo feast and a time to fast
A time to learn and a time to forget
A time to be young and a time to be old
A time for movement and a time for resting
A time for excercise and a time for loafing
A time to nurture and a time to be nurtured
A time for rendering assistance and a time for others to help
A time to hold your cards tight and a time to show your hand.
What would you add to the above?
Wendy Mogel has written, “ Time can be seen as a resource to be utilized or a treasure to be enjoyed. Judaism asks parents to do both (Blessing of a Skinned Knee, p 210)
If TIME is an issue in your life, read “No Regrets Parenting” soon.