Can you over-think parenting?
On one hand, no, more thought is better. The more focus you give the how’s and the why’s of what you’re doing the more likely you are to be consistent and loving. On the other hand, yes, if you’re spending so much time on the how’s and why’s that you stop enjoying your child, then you’re definitely over-thinking it.
I err on the side of over-thinking. I read research. I read books. I read blogs. I talk to other parents. I try to figure out how to do this as “right” as possible. Sometimes, I spend so much time worrying about if I’m doing this right and trying new things and trying to be more consistent that my relationship with my daughter stops being about loving and starts being about perfecting.
That’s when I screw it up. When parenting starts being goal oriented, I stop enjoying it. It stops being about loving this amazing little girl, and I’ve completely missed the point.
My girl is amazing. She’s smart and funny. She’s empathetic and loving. She’s tough and persistent. I love her.
She’s also bossy, clingy, and not very independent. That’s okay. I still love her.
For a while, when Fiona would lose it, I would take her up to her room and lay down with her and touch each part of her and tell her I love it. (“I love your hair. I love your eyes. I love your arms. I love your fingernails. …”) I stopped doing this a while back and I’m not sure why. I think I was trying too hard. I started thinking about setting limits and not tolerating bad behavior, instead of just loving my daughter.
That’s the danger of over-thinking.
I stop being in the moment with my daughter. I stop giving her my genuine emotion. I stop being naturally loving.
The dangers of under-thinking it exist too. I am naturally reactive. If I were to do this without thinking about it, I would be angry, reactive, frustrated, and inconsistent. None of those would be good for her either.
So, it’s like everything else. It’s all about balance. I struggle with that. It’s easier to be inconsistent. It’s easier to be extreme. It’s easier to pay no attention or set rational rules and stick to them. The middle ground is hard. It’s fuzzy. It’s vague.
I’m still trying to learn my balance. I think though that maybe that’s part of the problem. Balance isn’t something you learn. It’s not a destination. It’s a process.
If we think about how we learn to stand up, we wobble a lot at first. We hang on to other things, people and objects, and slowly we learn to wobble less. Soon, we’re standing and sure of ourselves.
Parenting balance is like that. A new baby is a terrifying, disorienting experience. We hang on to each other. To books. To our parents. Eventually though, we alternate between that terror and calmly changing diapers in the dark. We wobble, but we can do it.
As adults, when we’re standing and we look so perfectly upright and stable, we’re really not. We’re making hundreds of little micro-corrections. We move a little muscle here, shift a little weight there. We’re not really still. We’re just practiced at balancing. It’s an activity that we’re so used to practicing that it seems as though we’re not thinking about it at all.
Parenting is like that, too.
We are balancing. We’re trying. Right now, I wobble more than I’d like. I used to wobble more, but I’m improving. Later, my wobble will probably be less noticeable. Someday, I hope, I won’t even think about my balance. It will just be there, like standing up.
But, truth be told, I’m probably over-thinking it.