Getting Ready to Parent
Do you take a test before you study for it? Do you run in a marathon before you train for
it? Do the Miami Marlins play baseball games before spring training? The answer, of
course, to all of the above is no. What does the good student say before taking an exam?
He says, "I am ready to take the test."
As an expectant parent, you have a golden opportunity to prepare yourself for the most
important job you will ever have, the job of bringing up your own unique child. Each baby
is born into the world with a future, a destiny, a mission to make a personal contribution in a
way that has never been made before. Your child will be a little like every other child and
also a lot like no other child. To be ready for this enormous responsibility, you can get all
the information you need.
First of all, you can study the tools of parenting. Gather your favorite parenting books,
magazines that you like, and any videos that might be recommended. Talk to your parents,
friends, and others who you respect. Get the answers now to important developmental
questions. These tools include knowledge about how to help children learn in the most
optimal way, how to help them develop well emotionally, and how to help them to be
physically healthy. Then when your baby arrives you will easily pass the test of being able to
guide and support your own special child in your own personal way. You will know exactly
what to do, how to do it, and then be able to do it at just the right time. Along with your
studies, you will have "Mother Nature" helping you. She will be there as you respond to
your baby with the incredible gift you receive as soon as you become a parent - naturally or
through adoption, the gift of parental love.
The next suggestion is to practice. Just as a runner might know everything about running:
how to breathe, the best way to pace himself, what to wear, what to eat before and after a
race, and the proper amount of rest to get, he will never be ready to compete in a marathon
unless he practices. He must run and run and run on a regular basis to be able to run in a
marathon. If you have friends or relatives who already have a young baby or small children,
visit them often. Observe. Decide what you like and what you do not about their parenting
styles. Pitch in when you can - hug, hold, and nurture those children, just as you will when
your own children arrive.
What about spring training? What is that all about? That is what you get to do right after
your baby is born. The first eight months are like a grace period. During that time it is hard
to do anything wrong. All that you need to do in the first few months comes naturally. Here
is a short summary:
4. Act natural
As you focus on those four areas, remember what you have studied. Keep practicing with
older children. Be as ready as you can to move into the times when you will need to set
limits, provide an educationally stimulating environment, a language rich environment full of
more advanced singing, reading, and talking, and a more complicated set of response
systems. Realize that you are the first and most important teacher. Find out that every
action and reaction you have with your child is important. Experience the reality that you
are helping your child form the foundation for his entire life. Be there with your child as
often as possible, and implement every skill that you have to the highest quality. Every
minute, every, hour, every day is important in the life of a child. Maria Montessori says it
this way, "There is no eraser."
By Sally Goldberg, Ph.D. Adapted from Parent Involvement Begins at Birth.