Wor­ry­ing about oth­ers’ in­abil­ity to re­lax

The Washington Post - - KIDSPOST - Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a re­cent on­line dis­cus­sion.

Dear Carolyn: My hus­band and I got mar­ried and had kids rel­a­tively young, espe­cially by his fam­ily’s stan­dards. Our kids are now in mid­dle and high school and do­ing well.

His sis­ter is only two years younger than he is but has a 6month-old baby who is ab­so­lutely adorable. How­ever, I find my­self be­ing that an­noy­ing other par­ent. It’s hard be­cause the par­ents are both highly ed­u­cated, in their 30s, and they are just over­think­ing ev­ery sin­gle thing, and read­ing ev­ery parenting book known to man, and tak­ing them all ex­tremely se­ri­ously. It’s a lit­tle hard to swal­low.

My hus­band is much bet­ter than I am at just nod­ding and smil­ing, and I find my­self strug­gling not to give un­so­licited ad­vice and tell them to calm down. Any tips for me? We are spend­ing this week with them on va­ca­tion and I re­ally don’t want to be that par­ent, or that in-law.

— I Am That Par­ent

I Am That Par­ent: Good! That’s a great and im­por­tant im­pulse.

If you have to walk away or abruptly change the sub­ject or break into song to keep your­self from com­ment­ing, then so be it. It’ll be worth it.

The only tip I have to of­fer is to equate your im­pulse — to in­ter­vene to­ward the cause of re­laxed child rear­ing — with their im­pulse to read ev­ery­thing to­ward the cause of re­spon­si­ble child rear­ing. Ei­ther way, it’s a mat­ter of dog and bone: Each of you is just a dif­fer­ent dog with a dif­fer­ent bone.

Think­ing of it this way might help you feel more vis­cer­ally how in­vested they are in do­ing things their way, and there­fore how fu­tile it ul­ti­mately is to try to swing them your way.

And re­mem­ber that you were new at this once, too, even if you were too young to be as self­aware about it as they are, as you seem to im­ply. Maybe you got the hang of it quickly — or, maybe the vet­eran par­ents around you were gen­er­ous enough to stay mum while you fig­ured things out.

Ei­ther way, hav­ing been a new par­ent your­self, you prob­a­bly can re­mem­ber how de­mor­al­iz­ing it is to work so hard at some­thing only to get neg­a­tive or, worse, pa­tron­iz­ing feed­back from peo­ple whose only ad­van­tage was to have got­ten there first. So, you re­ally want them to re­lax? Tell them they’re do­ing great. To: I’m That Par­ent: One thing you can do on the va­ca­tion is demon­strate with your ac­tions your lower-key ap­proach to parenting. One of the joys of va­ca­tion­ing with fam­ily is giv­ing each other an oc­ca­sional break. Your in-laws may ap­pre­ci­ate a break from Baby Ev­ery­thing and en­joy a board game or a round of body surf­ing with your older kids, and you can pitch in on the in­fant cud­dling/feed­ing/di­a­per chang­ing and gen­eral Baby En­ter­tain­ing. As long as you re­spect their choices and keep your dukes down, they are likely to ap­pre­ci­ate no­judg­ment, lov­ing help.

— Anony­mous

Anony­mous: Yes, thanks — with em­pha­sis on “re­spect their choices.” Help­ing out to give them a break is lovely; help­ing out to show the rook­ies how it’s done is . . . sub-lovely. Adapt­ing to their meth­ods is key.

Write to Carolyn Hax at [email protected]­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post.

Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at live.wash­ing­ton­post.com

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