Better late than never! I’m back from a week spent mostly off-line in Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. Much more about that to come. In the meantime, I wanted to post about this past week’s Best of Both Worlds podcast.
Sarah and I interviewed KJ Dell’Antonia about her new book How to be a Happier Parent. Dell’Antonia ran the Motherlode section at the New York Times for many years, and is currently the co-host, with Jess Lahey, of the #AmWriting podcast. She is the mother of four pre-teen/teenage children. I recorded this from KJ’s hotel room in Philadelphia when she was here in July for a podcasting conference. A few key points:
If you see something, you don’t have to say something. The cause of happiness is not advanced by involving yourself in all your kids’ arguments. Put on headphones and go away sometimes.
You can be happy when your kids aren’t happy. When you realize that the vast majority of day-to-day gripes don’t matter, you can remove yourself from individual dramas. Your kids will figure something out if they forget sports equipment, homework, shoes, etc.
Kids can do chores. Parents become miserable when they have no time for fun. One way to free up time for fun is to make kids do more of the work. That said…
Don’t expect they’ll do chores without reminding. Don’t make this the goal, because it probably won’t happen. If it does, great. But by removing this expectation, you can get the time back without getting upset about it.
Don’t make life all about the kids. You should absolutely make time for things you like, and if age appropriate, expect the kids to support your interests. Going to an amusement park for them on vacation? They can go to the museum you want to see, and learn to enjoy seeing other people enjoy things.
It’s a great episode, and Dell’Antonia is very funny. I appreciated her joke about being able to tell which child bit another based on the evidence of tooth-mark patterns (that’s her legal background talking!)