I tend to overthink parenting. I don't really impose excessive mom guilt or stress on myself, but I do often make thoroughly thoughtful decisions about decidedly trivial things. For example: I never sing the end of Five Little Ducks with my kids because I don't want to send the message that it is completely acceptable or expected that they ignore me but obey their dad. Deep down I know this is ludicrous. I grew up singing the song in its entirety, and it had absolutely no impact on me. I was equally defiant and disobedient to both of my parents. Nevertheless, on the rare occasion that I take a shower without a child banging on the door, I use the quiet moments to contemplate my parenting.
I know that the extent of my deliberations are mostly unreasonable. And, quite honestly, I don't expect any normal person to actually care about whatever subject is occupying my mind at the moment. Despite the amount of mental energy I expend, I realize that most of these decisions are really quite insignificant. If I hear other people sing Five Little Ducks, I don't sit and think to myself that they are inadvertently undermining their authority with their children. If people sing it to my kids, I will lose absolutely no sleep over it. Unless I already don't like them. Then I am likely to assume that their song choice is a subtle ploy to ruin my life and sabotage all future generations of my posterity. I have no use for such subterfuge, and will respond by plotting their destruction. However, I am a redhead and a former high school teacher. My destruction plotting skills are well honed and quite efficient. My sleep hours will remain unaffected.
If any aspect of parenting lends itself to overthinking it is potty training. And since I made no attempt at potty training until well after my first little redhead turned three, I had a few years to thoroughly analyze how every part of my potty training strategy might influence my children's future earning potential, social well being, and ultimate life satisfaction.
After much reflection, I decided that, for a myriad of reasons, I would not emphasize or reward using the toilet. Instead, what I focused on and praised was dry and clean underwear. It semmed to work. The whole potty training experience was relatively short and stress free. He got the hang of it pretty quickly and has had only a few accidents in the last several months. So I counted it a parenting win.
Then, the other day I asked my oldest little redhead to get dressed. I reminded him to put on clean underwear. "But Mama, I don't need to. I just kept my underwear dry and clean all night like I am supposed to." And once again, hours of my best intellectual concentration was completely dismantled in fourteen seconds by a preschooler.