Is there a perfect slacker? By Jen Henry

I’ve been re-reading Confessions of a Slacker Mom. This is a short little light narrative read that my mother in law gave me shortly after

Catherine’s birth. I think her reasoning was to point out to me that parenting could be much simpler or much more difficult depending on the path I chose.

Or perhaps that wasn’t her point at all and she merely was sharing a fun read. Long after I had passed on all the pregnancy books to my friends who were now expecting and long after I had realized that these kids were MINE and if I was looking for a book to tell me what to do with them or relying on the opinion of my pediatrician to guide me then the entire process from infancy to adulthood was going to be extremely tedious, I held on the tiny little paperback copy of Confessions of a Slacker Mom. I wasn’t sure why at first. Initially I went so far as to blame the size that it was small as the reason but then I decided I would share it with a friend who had recently become a parent. When that friend’s son turned 3 and I realized I’d yet to loan her the book to read it finally hit me that I liked it. I wasn’t ready to part with it yet. It was short and a fast enough read to periodically allow me to indulge myself while at the same time clear my head and regroup so that I could get myself back on track again and not feel bad about some of the feelings that I had about parenthood and my kids in general.

I loved the author’s way of dealing with her children. Although even among her slacker tendencies I still felt like a bit of a slacker. Is it even possible to be a slacker among slackers?

This week I’ve found myself toting the book around again. This time I’ve strategically placed it in Catherine’s dance duffel bag so that I can use it not only to pass the time while she’s in class but also to deal with the pesky, overwhelming, and overbearing parents at dance class that I am jammed into a tiny waiting room with while our kids dance in the studio next door. It is pure hell for me each week and somehow sitting on the floor in the corner of the room reading about how to let my kids go and just experience the world around them while I watch swarms of parents elbow each other out of the way for window space to catch glimpses, continuously wave, take more pictures of the same activity from last week, and in some cases try to sneak into the studio to console children who at ages 3 and 4 aren’t able to let their parents out of their line of sight long enough to complete an hour long dance class makes me feel the tiniest bit smarter. I’ll admit it. Just a little.

I don’t mean to be so cocky as to say I’m a superior parent to these other people. I’m not. We’re all parents and all of us are trying to do the best we can with what resources we have and using the skills we know how to use. But I have to admit, I feel reassured in my decision not to listen to my coworkers a year ago when they tried to convince me to enroll Catherine in dance class just because she was old enough to attend. I didn’t think she was ready yet and now I’m convinced she wasn’t. She’s doing great now though. I’m amazed with how well she listens to the teacher, how involved she is in what’s happening, how she loves to practice at home, and how important it is to her. She’s been excellent about coming to get me if she needs to use the potty during class which was one concern I had. There have been no fits, meltdowns, or tantrums. She’s always waiting patiently with hands folded in her lap until it is her turn, and of course I always hear her voice singing above the rest with enthusiasm

(Yes, I have THAT child-the one you always hear singing louder than the rest in the elementary chorus-But it’s ok)

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5 Responses to Is there a perfect slacker? By Jen Henry

  1. Elena says:

    One book I feel overly protective of (although I’ve loaned it to my sister and she’s had it for years… sigh) is “The Tao of Motherhood” by Vimala McClure. One line in there talks about “benign neglect” which I interpret to mean, you’re still making sure the kids aren’t getting hurt, but you’re leaving them to their own devices for a while and not micromanaging them. Aren’t we supposed to be slowly letting go, painful as it is? As we teach them something new aren’t we supposed to let them practice and do what they decide is best?

    Within reason, of course, not to the point where something awful happens. That’s where the “benign” part comes in.

    Maybe I should ask my sister to send me the book back! 🙂 And maybe I should keep a lookout for the book you mentioned, it sounds like it is full of similar wisdom.

  2. SKL says:

    With two 2-year-olds, I don’t get much time to feel like a slacker no matter what I do. But I do agree with the philosophy you are talking about. Last fall, when my kids came home, they crawled around in the dust because I had no time to clean (we have monthly maid servie). They now have no allergies, not even the ones my little one came home with. In Spring, my youngest had recently started walking, and neither of my kids was familiar with any walking surface other than what’s found indoors. Well, we have a nice backyard with a patio, and I felt strongly about letting the girls get up close and personal with the outside world. I took a lot of flack early on because my girls weren’t always terribly graceful and they usually had a skinned knee or fat lip to show for it. What a terrible mom I was! I should buy a mat to cover the whole patio, never let them go beyond arm’s reach, etc. Well, six months later, they have made tremendous progress physically and mentally, and they are braver and more skillful than I ever expected. It has been a while since either has gotten a “boo boo.” They are also show a lot of foresight considering their age, which translates into more patience and contentedness (for all of us). I’ve long since taken down all the baby gates and pens, and I expect them to know when to hold a railing or blow on their hot food; and magic amaze-o, they are still alive. Now I’m getting a lot of flack about getting them outside to walk and play in the cold. Looks like this is going to be an ongoing theme, but I am pretty stubborn. I’m not lazy, but I believe kids develop from the inside out; they need constant challenges, time to think inependently, and opportunities to find out what “doesn’t” work.

  3. Amber says:

    That is so cute. You are right… no rules to parenting. No one to tell you how to do it. You do the best you can with the tools you have. Thats all there is to it.

    And that kid that sings louder than all of the others? Means they have more confidence. Be happy and proud for that.

  4. Joy says:

    I had to laugh at your description of the women elbowing each other to watch through the window and of them taking the same pictures each week of the same thing, different day. I have known many parents like that in my life.

    I tried very hard not to be a helicopter parent and it was very hard for me since I am by nature very nurturing. I would always take them to their activities and wouldn’t have time to go home but I made fast tracks to the background. I feel it’s important for them to learn some of these things without me always hanging about.

    I’ve seen parents like this though and what comes to mind is last summer with Trinity’s swimming lessons. I would take her and read a book far away on a bench. Or “pretend” to read a book for her sake but I did keep an eye on what she was learning. But there were mothers and grandmothers almost sitting with their feet in the water telling their kids what to do. Isn’t that why they were in swimming lessons? Those kids were trying to please the instructor and the parents.

    I do feel our kids need to fall down in order to learn to get back up and they need to be taught how to do things without us always being there. I have known a lot of parents who’s kids were un-coachable as well as unteachable because of this constant “hands on” parenting. They just don’t seem to get it that the kids need to be apart from them for some things.

    I just loved this post Jen and thanks for letting us use it here. I just can’t believe Cat has gotten this big. Way to go Cat! That picture is just darling.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Thanks! Although like I said to you Joy I still think this was one of my most incoherent posts ever! But I’m getting rusty I’m afraid!

    This author of a Slacker Mom book really points out a lot of instances where she was a slacker mom in ways that I hadn’t thought of. She mentions that they don’t have a lot of outdoor toys for their kids, just a swing. She had thought of getting some more but since she was a slacker she never got around to it. She said her kids had to learn to share the swing and the rest of the time they had to learn to create games, explore nature etc. She doesn’t feel bad for not having a dozen toys strewn about the front yard.

    Of course that made me think of my back yard and all the plastic toys all over. We no longer use the sandbox for sand, we just toss the toys in the there and put the cover on top. It drives my hubby crazy. And I know we don’t have many in comparison to a lot of people.

    She does have a subtle way of making me rethink some of what I do without really being overbearing…

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