As a parent, I meet and interact with many other parents and observe their behavior. I like to see how they interact with their kids so that I might learn something new. My observations bring me to one very sad conclusion regarding parenting and parents these days. I call it: “Living an Alternate Reality.”
To better understand the concept, let’s open with a simple example. Let’s say that one day you wake up and feel some slight pain in your left knee. You think nothing of it dismissing it as a minor ache from yesterday’s aerobic class. A day passes, two, a week and the pain is still there. You are worried, but still think to yourself that the pain will go away on its own.
Two weeks later, you notice that not only that the pain is still there, your feel that your knee is throbbing. You continue with your daily routines and two more weeks pass by. Now you start to notice that you are limping. That nagging ache has escalated and is crippling you affecting almost any movement you make on a daily basis. It is just there all the time dictating how you walk, feel, work and play. You decide to take action and get rid of the pain by going to a professional to analyze the situation. You are afraid what the next stage might be.
Living with the pain All along that time, from the very fist time you noticed this inconvenience, you always had two choices: one – treat the pain and second – live with it. Whichever choice you made, you created a new reality for yourself that is alternate to the reality you decided not to choose. At one point of this painful road, you made a conscious decision to end the pain and seek some medical attention. I am quite sure that most, if not all people reading this article, will raise their eye browse in dismay and say: “What do you mean live with the pain? What is this crazy talk? Of course I am going to take care of my knee. There is no alternative. There is no reality but the one that betters my well being”.
Are you choosing an alternative reality? You know what? I agree. True words indeed, however, it is here, at this exact moment, when your thoughts are so focused on the reality and actions you decided to choose that I want you to replace the pain in your knee with the pain and agony your kid’s behavior presents to you on a daily basis and have you and run through the example again. Think about it for a minute, did you choose an alternative reality or did you choose the reality in which you just live your life adjusting to your child’s uncontrollable behavior accepting that he does not sleep at night, that she does not eat vegetables, that he throws a fit and that she is so needy?
Surprisingly enough, the answer is No. You did not. You tolerated it all and got sucked into a life of misery. You of course, won’t even notice it because you created your own distorted reality in which it is a struggle to put your kids to bad, a lost battle to feed them healthy food, a punishment system that never seems to work and endless nights trying to figure out why they do not want to sleep, but people around you do notice that. From time to time, you get a reminder about your unacceptable reality in the form of a note from school, people staring at you at the street, your relatives hinting at something or watching some great behavior with friends’ kids.
Make your own reality. Unlike with the knee example, where you would undoubtedly go to great length to fix the problem, even at the cost of a painful procedure to make sure that you keep your health, when it comes to raising kids, you flee away from facing the real problems. When it comes to kids we, as parents, are just blind to any other possibility or any other reality that might be out there. A reality in which kids are responsible, like to clean their rooms, do not fight with their siblings and do what is asked from them, and yes, I am not living in a dream or in a fantasy world, it is possible. I have done it myself with my kids by using some unorthodox techniques, and since my kids are not special, I know it can work with any other kid as well.
But the first step is not to re-train the kids. The first step is to tell yourself that the reality you created around you is a false one and try to break the routine and figure out what does not work and go on to fixing it. This is the really hard part for parents to do – admitting they made mistakes. As soon as you get to that realization, you have made a huge leap towards changing your reality and better your life.
Barack Levin was born in 1970 in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to Pittsburgh in 1996 to pursue his Master’s degree. Shortly after his arrival he met a beautiful French woman, Michelle, and fell in love. A year later, during a routine physical, he learned he had an irreversible and life-threatening kidney disease. He was 26 years old – the doctor doubted that he would see 30. But, despite this news, he refused to give up his dream of marrying Michelle and raising a multi-national family in the U.S.
Knowing he was living on borrowed time, and despite everyone he knew telling him he was crazy, he decided to become a stay/work-at-home dad and shoulder most of the responsibility of caring for his son for his first year of life (and, potentially, the last twelve months of his). “I wanted to offer him proper guidance, using some very unconventional methods, through the first steps of his journey to becoming a fantastic kid and a great man, a journey I feared I might not be around to witness much of,” says Levin.
Thirteen years later, Barack is alive and living in Atlanta, with Michelle and their two children. He is the author of the book The Diaper Chronicles- A stay at home dad’s quest for raising great kids, based on his experience’s, available through his website at http://www.baracklevin.com.