30.11.09

Just Jump in Adjust Accordingly

Whenever I visit my parents' house and use their guest shower I find a great opportunity to take the time to think. You see their shower takes a little time to adjust. Like many tub/shower units, you first turn on the bathtub taps and get the perfect temperature of water. Then you pull the faucet plunger up and the water comes out the shower head.

The problem with my parents' shower is that the water that comes out of the shower head is never the same temperature as the water you poured in the tub. It's almost always screamingly hot! (Yes, I have been known to scream when struck by those burning hot needles of water). Once or twice, though, it's been colder than expected. So really there are no expectations other than that changes will need to be made.

I've found it's no good to stand outside the shower and try to adjust. I'm much better off cowering against the wall, adjusting with one hand and holding the other under the water. The other thing, though, about this shower is that changes in temp are not immediate. I often go from boiling hot to freeezing cold because I've nudged the cold water up four or five times before I felt a change. It takes time and you have to be patient.

Yesterday as I was going through this scream, adjust, scream, adjust routine once again I was reminded of how much like parenting it is. Let me explain:

First of all, we can spend all kinds of time before we have kids trying to decide how we will raise them, what we will make important, how we will react to issues, just like trying to prepare the water before the shower. And that's great. More power to us if we can think things through and make educated choices. However, once we're pregnant we're forced to just jump in. It doesn't matter if we're cringing in fear or brimming with hope, we are suddenly parents.

So once we become parents we learn to adjust our expecatations, our tolerance, our patience, our ideas - or not. Sometimes I suppose, as happens very rarely with my parents shower - our preparation beforehand is just right and nothing needs adjustment. But often we find that the things we once thought important no longer are and vice versa. We see that our children have their own personalities and cannot be forced into our cookie-cutter ideals. So we adjust. We adjust ourselves or we try to adjust things about our children - their behaviour, their confidence, their abilities.

The things with these adjustments, though, is that often they take a long time to come to results. And it's easy to get impatient and over-adjust one way or another. Say we expected a brilliant child and he's turned out to be just normal. It's easy to swing the other way and expect too little from the child, not providing that essential push they need to stretch their abilities. And the opposite is true too. It's easy to expect too much and push to hard to make the child fit your idea of him or her.

And when it comes to behaviour it's very easy to talk in absolutes and discipline a child too harshly for something that's preceived to be a "problem." An example would be a child that has refused to go to bed at an appropriate time - an over-reaction would be sending that child to bed an hour earlier than normal - overadjusting their sleep schedule. And there's the flip side too, some parents would refuse to discipline because they see now effect. They just give up and let the child stay up as late as they want, overadjusting and lowering their expectations of the child.

The trick, you see, is to ease the change. Slowly, slowly, trying it out and if it doesn't succeed, moving on and trying something a little different. And maybe things will never be exactly as we had hoped and expected, but we can get them close with a little perseverance and patience.

Unlike hot water, or even water itself, our patience must be unlimited. So I guess that's the only difference between showers and raising children! Although, the time you spend waiting for the shower to adjust right and feeling like you're wasting water and time can be easily compared to the times when you feel like you're wasting energy and time trying to adjust your child's behaviour or your expecations. So really there's no difference at all.

For my parents' shower and parenting itself the only advice I can give is, prepare yourself; jump in; be prepared to make changes.

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