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This is the kind of parent I want to be

I don't follow a script or a plan. I don't fall squarely into any subheader in the dozens of parenting books I've read. To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of winging it here.

This is the kind of parent I want to be

Someone asked me a thought-provoking question recently:

"Are you the kind of parent you thought you'd be?"

It's a great question, but up until that point, I never really thought much about the kind of parent I would be. Until I held my little girl in my arms for the first time, I thought much more about having a baby, not so much about being a mother.

I don't follow a script or a plan. I don't fall squarely into any subheader in the dozens of parenting books I've read. To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of winging it here.

That one question thrust me into weeks of soul-searching and digging deep in the archives of my own childhood, which is probably not such a bad thing when we're all doing our best to raise good humans. I finally found my answer to that question: I'm the kind of parent who chases rainbows. (Or, at least, I'm the parent who aspires to chase rainbows.)

It's just a little something I picked up from my own parents without even realizing it. When I was about 6 years old, on one of our Sunday drives, we saw it—THE perfect rainbow. It had bright colors and distinct lines, a clear beginning and a clear end, one that didn't fade into nothingness before it hit the ground. The illusive pot of gold was within reach!

Squealing in our station wagon, my sister and I barked directions at my parents.

"Step on the gas! Someone is going to get to it first!"

"Turn right here!"

"Drive through that field!"

While they stuck to paved roads, they didn't obey all the traffic laws. We talked about the first thing we'd each buy, debated whether or not we could keep the leprechaun as a pet, and wondered if we'd need to call in reinforcements to lift the pot into the back of the car (and what kind of cut those reinforcements should get).

My parents seemed every bit as excited as we were.

Years later I told that story to my college roommate. She got quiet, then looked at me like I was from Mars. "That's amazing," she said. "My parents would never have done that."

That broke my heart. It never occurred to me that was something a parent would not do. You change diapers, you mash up fruits and veggies, and if your child sees the end of a rainbow, you go there.

When I had my own kids, I could understand where my roommate's mother was coming from. Sometimes we're in a hurry. Sometimes we're exhausted. Sometimes we just don't feel like staring at the eggs in the grocery store until they hatch.

That's why I'm so grateful someone posed that question… "Are you the kind of parent you thought you'd be?"

Of course, I have those days where Daniel Tiger has to step in so I can shower. My older daughter has eaten popsicles for breakfast and dropped the S-word more than once. We're all going to have these "I am not my best self right now" moments of parenthood, and that's okay.

I just also want to celebrate the magic as we jump in the puddles and let them put lipstick on all by their 'big' selves. Let's soak up the magic of childhood when it's staring us right in the face, rather than adding it to our Amazon cart or searching for it in any number of enrichment activities. That's when we realize we are the kind of parent we thought we'd be… if we had even given it a second thought years ago.

So when that ordinary moment becomes extraordinary, I intend not to miss it. If the day comes that my girls see a rainbow—especially one as promising as the one that descended on New Caney, Texas, circa 1989—we will go where it leads us.

Oh, and we did get to the end of that rainbow. There wasn't a pot of gold, but there was a Bennigans, and when you're 6 years old, that's almost as good.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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