Saturday, December 25, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Have Patience. It's Just Another Phase by Darah Zeldon

The first time I became a mom was at age 30, the last at 37. Within seven years I gave birth to five children. Unlike many other women my age, I didn’t wait to have children because I was pursuing a professional career.

I was discovering and challenging myself within unfamiliar surroundings. Not Wall Street, not Corporate America--- I had been studying life. Having a graduate degree in International Relations, it seemed most befitting that my “career” was to conquer other lands. As part of a research project, before marriage, I resided in a Russian immigrant housing unit on the disputed outskirts of Jerusalem, and immersed myself in this unstable foreign environment. Returning to the US, I met my soul mate, married within months, and five weeks from our wedding date, my Costa Rican husband and I headed for a quaint surfer town on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica to open our own business---and realize a dream.

Pregnant with my first in a town with no medical resources, we closed shop, moved to the capital of San Jose, and five weeks after giving birth, began another exciting venture in Panama City, Panama. My husband was offered an opportunity we couldn’t refuse, so we embarked on yet another adventure.

My other four kids were born in Panama and this soil became my own. I mastered living in this culture and gained an understanding of and appreciation for raising children in this society. Like a chameleon, I adapted to the customs, social protocol, navigated through the country’s legal system, and thrived linguistically.

Back in the US just two short years, I indulge in culturally-comparative analyses and have gained insight into some pervasive cultural nuances inherent in our American society-at-large. One of these is the need to label everything---like parenting styles--”free range” or “helicopter.” As a first-time “gringa mom,” I found myself totally unaligned with parenting norms, societal expectations, and school system bureaucracy.

Fusing it all together and re-integrating back into American society has been taxing. Reverse culture shock is surreal.

However, after nine years of parenting five kids, I’ve identified some consistent guiding rules of the international parenting game. In a nutshell: be patient and don’t stress out. No, I am not talking about the type of patience required to just grin-and-bear-it while your two year-old throws a tantrum when denied yet another Matchbox car in the supermarket check-out line. I’m still working on that one.

I’m talking about kids and their shtick, i.e. “phases.”

We Americans are obsessed with analyzing every facet of our lives: why we felt jealousy of a brother during childhood, why our pre-teen misbehaves, or why our neighbor’s dog pees on our front door mat. And then we ruthlessly deconstruct our relationship with our partner to the point that we no longer feel anything. Having studied psychology, I understand the allure of such knowledge, but enough!

Our children are blossoming before our eyes. Rather than spending time and dollars justifying our play-by-play analyses of their conduct, and neurotically indulging in every parenting guidebook on the market, what our kids need most is for us to simply guide them through their stages—reassuring them and ourselves, that it’s all par for the course.

Our guiding mantra should be: "this too shall pass."

Certainly, you’ve experienced this phenomenon: When you finally have an intellectual grasp on “why” your three year-old is angry about the birth of his newborn sister, he’s over it. Great. Now you’re an unofficial expert on the topic and it’s over— your child has moved on. And where does that leave you?

Obviously some “phases” last longer and linger about like unrelenting storm clouds, but even the worst storm must blow over eventually, right?
Months ago I wrote about my then three year-old’s obsession with my boobs, his former mammary glands. It seemed that just as I finished penning the article, the very next day, his fixation vanished—all by itself.


Another time, when I was on the verge of a chronic-sleep-deprived nervous breakdown, my just-transitioned-from-crib-to-bed toddler, began sleeping through the night. It just happened, on its own, one glorious night.


A while back I published a “controversial” piece about my then five year-old boy’s interest in playing with Barbies. After getting reproached by many readers as an unfit parent severely misguiding her son--the words used were caustic and loaded with animosity-- his fascination ceased, and he moved onto something more “boyish.” I never panicked or addressed his desire to partake in this "girly pastime," nor did I engage in "investigative psychological research" as to why he was inclined to do so. He was curious, checked it out for a while, and then got over it.


Maybe the point is that if we just slow down, wait and tenderly coach our children through their perpetual evolutions, we’ll all benefit. Kids will enjoy a less stressful upbringing with more relaxed parents, and parents will save lots of time and money not spent on therapy, seminars, and expensive how-to manuals.

And just maybe we can use those saved resources to pursue other passions.

Darah Zeledon is a wife, mother of five, freelance writer, aspiring memoir author, small business owner, and fitness enthusiast. Darah’s incurably optimistic take on raising children in today’s unstable world is shaped largely by her efforts running a big household and several businesses while residing in Latin America.

Darah has a BS in clinical psychology and a MS in international relations. She has labored professionally in both, and worked in fitness, education, public speaking, and media. None of her endeavors prepared her for the most challenging feat of all: maintaining her sanity and sense-of-self while mothering five “dynamic and relentlessly inquisitive” children.

Read more from Darah at, or find her on Facebook at or twitter @thewarriormom.

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