I have this hypothesis about parenting...
...yes, I still have some hypotheses left after four empirical children!
...that went into my thinking as Mark and I were discussing whether to go for number five.
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(MY thinking, mind you. I don't want this to become the sort of mommyblog post where the author writes "I prayed about this" and "I deeply felt that" and "It seemed to me that we should" and at the same time leaves entirely unmentioned, as if unimportant, any hint of involvement of The Husband in the discernment. So. Without having to dive into other aspects of this rather complicated subject, and so preserving the proper intimacy of the marital relationship, let's just toss it on the table that this is purely my hypothesis, and if it proves totally wrong, it's me who has to walk it back and not him.)
The line of reasoning goes like this.
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(1) Raising teenagers is reputed to be difficult and confusing, such that in the absence of any actual difficulty, the prospect of setting out on the journey with children ages 13 to 19 intimidates.
(2) Intimidation depletes confidence.
(3) A parent who can maintain a sense of confidence is a parent who can remain assertive: authoritative without being authoritarian, just without being judgmental, cautious without being overprotective.
(4) Confidence comes, in part, from regularly engaging in challenging tasks that require well-developed skills: from seeing before you a job that you know will be difficult enough to require your careful attention, while (because you know you have the skills, or perhaps because you have done it before) you fully expect you will succeed.
(4a) In other words: flow!
(5) Suppose you're working at a job that presents you with some intimidating tasks, tasks that require yet-undeveloped skills, and you quail before them because you're not at all sure you will succeed at them. It's nice, then, if your job also entails some other tasks which are quite routine, mindless even, and so less psychologically exhausting, a place you can escape to -- without slacking off, since those routine tasks must also be done.
It's even better if your job entails, too, some flow-rich tasks, the kind that are psychologically absorbing in a good way; things that call on the full exercise of the skills you're most confident in. You emerge from the other side of those not rested but energized -- feeling competent and valuable -- and with some perspective you can remember that once, too, those skills were underdeveloped, and yet you developed them, and look where you are today.
It can almost make you excited about learning new skills. Though the risk of failure is ever-present, that is what makes new skills worth developing. Who would care about skill if success is inevitable? Where could you find flow?
(6) So it's a good idea to arrange your workload to contain plenty of challenging-but-well-within-your-ability tasks, and a sprinkling of routine-and-kind-of-mindless tasks, at the same time that you embark upon a new and intimidating project with considerably high stakes.
(7) Therefore, I should have a new baby the same year my first child becomes a teenager.
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So, I'll let you know how that goes, hm?