The Light At The End Of The Parenting Tunnel

Parenting, like many things in life is tough. That’s not some breaking news that I’m delivering here. It’s just a fact. The anxiety of parenting can start even before you officially become a parent wondering when and if the child will be born, and how healthy a baby you’ll have beyond its birth. Of course the baby, in utero is somewhat more optimist that you are only it doesn’t know that yet. You see, once it’s finished growing inside its mother’s womb it’s looking for that light at the end of the tunnel. And some babies are so eager for this that they are born a little premature. I admire that optimism…

There are some many styles of parenting these days from those values of the Tiger mum, to the helicopter parents and attachment parenting. Sure there are plenty more styles I can list, but there’s one thing that I have found with all the styles of parents that I have talked to over the years. There’s a ton of worry.

From any optimism that we might have had as a new born baby reaching that first light, we know that beyond where we are today there are plenty more lights to come, but sometimes I think as parents we take the pessimistic view that “the soothing light at the end of your tunnel, is just a freight train coming your way…”

So I am proposing a new style of parenting that I think will raise children who are less stressed and less likely to need crutches like medication or excessive alcohol in the future.

It’s called Positive Light Parenting. Positive Light Parenting (PLP) takes that old cliché of there being a light at the end of the tunnel and it reinforces that there IS a light waiting for you at the end of each tunnel and it is not a train coming the other way.

“What are these tunnels you speak of?” I hear you ask.

Good question. In that old cliché the tunnel is – for want of another idiom – an obstacle, problem, stumbling block or speed hump. Whether it’s something that is preventing you from doing something else, or merely slowing you down or holding you back, the tunnel aspect of this makes it feel like it’s going on and on and on and on (well you get the picture).

The tunnel might be the never-ending sleepless nights with young children waking up. It might be the battle to get the child to eat real food. It might be the struggle to teach the child how to use the potty or toilet. Whatever the tunnel represents for you, you have to know that there IS that light at the end of it.

cadel asleep on dad 2
That’s a photo of me asleep on our old lounge after getting our eldest to sleep in the middle of the night. Click on the picture to read the story about dads getting their kids to sleep.

Our eldest child was the World’s Worst Sleeper. Oh, don’t try to compete with us on that; Guinness World Records* are putting a photo of our son in their book in the category as you read this. It wasn’t until he was just over three-and-a-half that he finally slept through the night without coming into our room any more. The crap thing about that is that his little brother is two years, eight months younger so that was 10 months of both my wife and I being awake most of the night between settling a crying baby and settling a “cry baby” who wouldn’t go back to bed.

We’re lucky in the sense that even though our youngest can take up to an hour to get to sleep each night, he sleeps through the night and has done for a long time. And the tunnel that he’s got us stuck in at the moment, the one where we are literally sitting in the dark each night with him waiting for him to fall asleep is just that; a tunnel we will soon see the end of.

When I look at the problems that we are facing with each of our boys right now – and by problems I mean, them being children who do what children invariably do – such as not wanting to have a bath, then not wanting to get out of the bath, not wanting to go to bed, or not wanting to get out of bed (on a school day) and all those other “fun” hurdles they put in your way, I know that these conflicts will soon be a thing of the past.

We have overcome those sleepless nights. We have overcome those frustrations when the little one couldn’t communicate using verbal language so he tried to communicate through biting. (Yes, that was his thing). We have overcome the “where are all the clean bibs?” arguments. We have overcome the “God I hate cleaning the high-chair five times a day” annoyances. We have overcome the teething episodes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not naive. I know that there will be many more battles to go. There will be many new negative situations that we will encounter as each boy moves from small child to junior school child, to high school child to senior school child. I know those tunnels are ahead of us, but I know that there will be a light at the end of each of them.

In my line of work away from writing I have been dealing with consultants who are the middlemen in projects. Consultants generally get paid by charging for the time they apply themselves to working on their customer’s project. There’s an old joke that I heard about consultants many years ago;

“What does a consultant do when they see a light at the end of the tunnel? They suggest you build more tunnel…”

But that doesn’t happen when you’re parenting. Unless you’re a member of the Duggar family (the stars of the American reality television show 19 Kids & Counting), once you’ve decided that you’ve had your last child, there will come a time when the tunnels are few and far between, or those new tunnels that come along are illuminated all along the way.

So what do you think? Could you adopt the Positive Light Parenting style? Are you more of an optimistic or pessimistic parent?

*Well, maybe not the world’s worst sleeper, but his effort was worthy of holding the title…

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