On Optimized Parenting

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On Optimized Parenting Article

On Optimized Parenting

There was a recent thread on one of my favorite blogs (Anne Helen Peterson, annehelen.substack.com) that struck a chord with me and I thought I would share some thoughts.

The prompt of the post was on what is “unoptimizable”. In her words, I’ve been thinking about other tasks, processes, and parts of life that really resist optimization.

Of course, the chorus of voices responding to this question was “children.”

We are constantly inundated in this world by hacks, tricks and tips, and instagram photos of perfectly clean children playing with curated toys and crafts. We feel that our three week olds need to be scheduled and our two year old fails if they can’t sit still during story time.

That’s not how it works. Parenting is the opposite of optimization. It is constantly being present but never knowing what is going to happen; of course there are unexpected night time wakings and school phone calls when you are away from your child. You are never not a parent, you shouldn’t be able to schedule your parenting into a window of your day.

But the beauty comes in the unoptimizable. Particularly as our children age we find connection in those brief moments when our children seek feedback from a trusted adult. Because we have put in the time by being there they return to us in those times of joy, sadness, uncertainty. It may be a minute once a week but that conversation happens.

The other brief point that I want to make is about those children with different needs. It’s true we as parents and medical professionals want to “optimize” their abilities (and truthfully don’t we want all our children to live to their best selves?) but let’s not push their days to be “optimized” with therapies and treatments and forget that they are kids. They are perfect as they are.

So be okay with the unoptimizable parenting. It’s pretty great as it is.