5 Parenting Choices That Will Make You Cringe

Until You Really Think About Them and Realize Their Brilliance

I often wondered what choices I would make when I became a parent. How would I choose to raise little people? What mistakes would I make? What strokes of brilliance would I have? And when it all came down to it, I realized that the best I could do was be a thoughtful parent that made choices based on logic, reasoning, and my own experience. I had no intention of doing exactly what my mother did or what others told me I should do. I had every intention of raising good people. I remember my mother once told me that as long as I was a better mother than she was I would be doing parenting right. She didn’t mean that she was a terrible parent, she just felt there was always room for improvement and since she had given me the gift of critical thinking I should be able to improve on her methods.

As it stands now I KNOW my husband and I do things all the time that make other parents jaws drop, make them stare at us openly in public, and make them laugh full and complete belly laughs at our audacity. Interestingly enough, when those parents get to know us and our boys better (like those at Gymboree every Saturday) they always say, you guys have the best little boys, they are so sweet, so thoughtful, so brave, so giving. So excuse me if I feel really awesome right now, but I totally am.

Here are the top 5 choices we have made as parents that will make you cringe until you really think about them, and then I bet you try at least one of them for yourself:

Grazing-

Yeah yeah, I know I have heard it a million times from every source imaginable, feed your kids three meals a day. Sit down at a table for dinner so you can really connect and be mindful of the food and family. This is the worst advice I have ever heard. We don’t even own a table, no really ask anyone who has been to my house. My boys are presented with food on a plate three times a day. They eat standard fare like “little trees”, apples, string cheese, and peas. They get pancakes, turkey, squash, tilapia, salmon, and sweet potatoes. Some of it they eat, some of it they don’t. I am far more concerned with what they are presented with than what they actually consume. They rarely sit down to eat but run around like silly hooligans as they play rushing by to eat a bite or two. In between meals they can snack on what they want in the amount they want. We have no sugar or deserts, one of my boys has celiac so we also have no foods with gluten, and absolutely no juice; but other than that they can request yogurt, peaches, bananas, muffins, or protein bars.  So why should you try this?

My boys eat in moderation, they eat when they are hungry, they stop when they are full, and we never fight over finishing their food. My boys have never been afraid to try new foods or to say no thank you. They never suffer from crashing blood sugar or spikes in blood sugar that lead to behavior problems and tantrums. They don’t worry about food or stress about “meal times”. They don’t crave or ask for sweets because they are always sated. They fall asleep at naps because they aren’t hungry or stuffed. They have learned moderation because nothing is scarce. Food is energy, end of story.

If your concern is the lack of family time, I say that is a myth our culture created. We connect on a much deeper level playing games or doing crafts. My boys share more about their day walking around the block than they do staring at a plate of food they don’t want. We talk and bond at bath time or while reading books. I can’t imagine trying to get any child under the age of 8 to enjoy sitting still at a table, politely eating, “bonding” with family (what is the bond there anyway?). The thought gives me the willies. No wonder most families fight at the dinner table.

Bikes in the house-

I think I actually saw some of you physically recoil from your computer screens. :) I let both of my sons ride their “bikes” in the house, even after they have ridden them outside! I know I’m not supposed to let them do this because they should have respect for the house and they are “outside” toys. I understand the concern of riding into furniture and walls and each other. I get the worry that they will somehow grow up to be adults who ride bikes in houses… oh wait, that isn’t a concern?? Exactly. So why should you do this?

My oldest son is not yet four and he can ride a bike. That is right, you heard me. He has been practicing and honing his craft for two years in the comfort and safety of his own home with carpet to cushion his crashes. He even sets up ramps and obstacles to ride over, under, and thru. The experience and bravado he learned inside has translated to his riding outside and the fearless way he takes falling in stride. Riding inside has given him extra time to practice at his own pace, in an environment that felt safe. When presented with a bike that had training wheels he actually couldn’t understand what on earth those were for. And this is not my brave child. This is my think everything thru a hundred times and decide it is too dangerous child. In addition it prevented that pent up little boy craziness that comes from not getting enough physical activity.

If you are worried about your home, carpets, walls, furniture and such then I suggest you rethink your priorities. Living things trump material things EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK. In other words, walls can be patched, furniture can be replaced, and bruises will heal. Any damage he has done to the interior of our home was minor and his fun and new skills riding a bike far out weigh any collateral damage he left behind. If anything, it taught him more respect overall because now he understands just how easily things can get broken or dented. He can navigate without hitting anything now, except his brother, which I highly suspect is intentional. They are boys after all.

Foul Language-

I cuss. I mean like all the time. I would have named my blog mommy has a potty mouth but some bitch stole the name first.  I’ve never had a clean mouth but working with Marines and having mostly male friends hasn’t helped me any. I’d like to tell you that I don’t cuss around my children. I understand that people think this makes kids disrespectful or it causes them to cuss. I won’t lie my two year old has said the word “shit” and as he did so I held back laughter as I told him that was a grown up word and he could use it when he was older. We listen to music with foul language too. Not the disrespect women and authority music with foul language just normal music where people occasionally say Fuck. I thought my mother was going to have another heart attack when she realized my children were saying “This is fucking awesome” a lyric to Macklemore’s Thrift Shopping. See below. So why should you do this?

The main reason should be obvious to anyone who ever was a kid. Making certain words taboo or forbidden only makes kids want to say them more. Seriously, they are just like dogs; any behavior that gets attention will be repeated and often. If you lose your shit every time your child utters a word you find distasteful, you can bet your ass they will do it more often. What I have found is my kids actually do not repeat these words in conversation, ever. They sing them, they repeat them immediately after I say them, but because they don’t know when to use them or what they really mean, it isn’t part of their regular everyday vocabulary. We’ve discussed that when they get older they can say them too, when the time is right and the situation calls for it- just like every other word. I mean seriously, who hasn’t cussed after stubbing a toe or hitting their funny bone? There is only so many times I can scream “Mother…. of pearl inlay” instead of “mother fucker”.

Side note* In addition, they also know their penis is a penis but it isn’t like I hear them yelling it on the playground. I was proud however when my 3 year old son yelled “Mommy hold my penis please!!” As he covered his ears in the bathroom at an Avalanche game because the auto flush toilet was too loud for him and well, someone had to hold the penis to prevent urine from going everywhere. I think the other people enjoyed it to, if laughter is any indicator.

No sharing-

We’ve all heard it, its important to share. Children must learn to share so they grow up to be nice adults who are respectful of others and their feels. Right? Wrong. Seriously what does that have to do with anything? Nothing. That’s what. Have you ever felt warm feeling for someone who has something that used to be your but was snatched out of your hands and given to them for no good reason except that you should want to give it to him? I doubt it. Sure it’s nice when little boys share toys and food or swings on the playground, and who doesn’t like seeing children waiting their turn to share a toy or use a piece of equipment. I think children should learn to share and I think they should learn to be respectful, but I don’t think sharing is necessary, or smart, all the time. My children have toys they share and toys that are “theirs”. So they share match box cars, but their bike is their bike. The other guy can ride it if he asks and if the owner isn’t riding it; but if the owner wants it (even just to be spiteful), too bad for the other guy, the owner gets it. No sharing. So why should you do this?

Because teaching your children that sharing always happens is a lie and sets them up for a huge disappointment later in life. When was the last time you shared your car? Now when was the last time you shared your car against your wishes? Um, never? Seriously, adults share almost nothing. And they certainly are not forced to share or feel obligated to share. We share because we want to. See the difference. We share because we want to not because we should. So why should children have to? It seems silly when you think about it. Yes, respecting others and wanting to share with people you love or people in need is awesome and wonderful. Being forced to give up your possessions in the name of sharing is absurd and not a realistic view of the world or how they will interact with it once they get older. Doing both shows a balance and helps them understand why you are asking them to share in the first place.

Saying I’m sorry-

I know most parents never apologize for their behavior or mistakes. They think saying sorry and discussing their failures might make them less of an authority figure or confuse their child into thinking they are… wait for it… equals. Most parents gloss over their poor decisions or blame the outcome of their behavior on others or worse the children themselves. This is terrible. I almost can’t think of a worse precedent to set that making your child think you are always right, and they are often wrong. I make my children say sorry about a hundred times a day, and sometimes they even say it with sincerity. But I apologize every single time I make a mistake, lose my cool, or forget something important to them. I apologize a lot. So why should you do this?

The best way to teach your children how to live is not by forcing them to do something like apologizing, the best way is by being a good example. I say I’m sorry because I want my children to know it is okay to fallible, that their parents are not perfect and we don’t expect them to be either. This teaches them it is good to apologize because it feels good to be apologized to. If you are going to teach a child why they should apologize, then they need to feel how it good it is to be apologized to. It teaches them that while mommy and daddy are here to teach and guide and love them, that we are not here to abuse, or force, or belittle them.

I am always reminded of the movie Matilda when her dad goes on a rant of he is big, she is little, he is the dad, she is the child, he is right, she is wrong. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t wrong or that he was cruel, he was right simply because he was older and her dad. Those things don’t make you right, they just make you someone who should know better. I love that when I tell my boys I’m sorry, when I tell them I made a mistake, that I forgot something or I didn’t eat and I was feeling bad, I love that as soon as I say I’m sorry  I can see on their faces that they take it to heart, that they forgive me, that they want me to feel okay about it. That is when I know that they understand the words “I’m sorry” and they are figuring out why they are being asked to say it. What is more important than saying sorry? it is meaning it. Children learn what it means to say sorry when they are apologized to.

We aren’t perfect parents, and our style isn’t for everyone. I have no doubt my boys will have a complaint or two or ten when they are older. But what I want them to take away from our parenting attempts is that we always considered them first. We always did the best we could. We never did something because it was done to us and we never did something without thinking about why first. So which one will you try? Come on, you know you want to.:)

 

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Holiday Survival Guide For The Intentional

*Note- If you are living an accidental life, allowing the world to whisk you along wherever it fancies unaided, then you probably want to go back to the beginning of my blog. If you are not comfortable making choices that benefit you, and are in line with your beliefs and goals, you may want to avoid the rest of this post. Because the only way I know to survive the holidays is by being true to yourself. And the only way I know to do that is to live an intentional life.

Living intentionally can be hard on the best day, it can be difficult on the worst day, and it can feel darn right impossible on a holiday. I have found that being true to myself often means being at odds with others. Those others, be they family or friends, can make personal change or being honest the hardest thing you will ever have to do because often it means losing them in your life or making them upset and uncomfortable with your decisions.

I don’t think I know a single person who gets excited to spend time with family during the holidays. Everyone seems to have some complaint or another about one person or another that they wish wasn’t going to be there or who brings them strife. I get it, trust me I get it. But that being said, it made me start to wonder why? Why do we all have so many problems or become stressed out during the holidays just because it means more time with our families? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Shouldn’t we be excited or relish the time to relax with family instead of seeing it as an obligation or something we will have to “get through”?

The only core reason I can come up with is people’s inability to accept that we are all  individuals full of successes and failures, people who are continually striving to be better and find more peace. I don’t care what your problem is, “My mother doesn’t think I cook well” “my father was never around” “my friend didn’t return my calls/texts/emails” at the core of it all is your insecurity and their inability to accept you (which guess what? is fueled by their insecurities).

Voila! I just solved the biggest problem people have with friends, family, and the holidays. You’re welcome.

So there it is in a nutshell my friends. You hate the holidays and visiting family because you are insecure and not confident in your intentional identity. And everyone else you know, who you dread seeing during the holidays, is insecure in themselves and terrified that anyone living an intentional identity is clearly trying to be better and if the other person is better than they by default they are not, so they should knock down the intentional liver with cruel/sarcastic, biting comments and digs until everyone is reduced to tears, shouting, or silent gross misunderstandings happen that take until New Years to sort out.

If you are one of the lucky few who enjoys the holiday season, never feels stress and thinks all your friends and family are the cat’s pajamas then congratulations, you have arrived at nirvana, or probably the closest you are going to get this time of year. If you are not one of those people, then this time of year can drive you to emotional eating/drinking, reverting to old habits you have been trying to shake, most definitely not living intentionally, and scurrying around trying to make everyone else happy while you fall apart. hint hint… if we all spent a little time making ourselves happy, then we would be happy. But I digress…

Please, stop. Just stop. For one holiday season try something brand new and see how it feels. It can’t be worse than previous years. You cannot change the way other people act. You cannot change their choices or their words. But you can change yourself and how you react. You can help maneuver others into feeling better so they act better.

The first step is to acknowledge how awesome you are. You aren’t perfect, but you are pretty great and if you have been following me on this path of trying to live intentionally then you have also accomplished a lot and hopefully changed some in the last 6 months. With any luck you feel better, look better, and have more inner peace that allows you to think before you speak or lose your temper. You’ve come a long way, and there is no shame in that. At all. Anyone who tries to make you feel differently, you can politely ignore.

Here are the rest of your survival tips in an easy to use list format:

  1. review your awesomeness
  2. limit your to do list so you don’t feel stressed. Seriously, it does NOT all need to get done.
  3. delegate responsibilities to others and be relaxed and flexible if they don’t get done, and some of them won’t
  4. do not make any decisions based on what other people expect of you (who hasn’t picked out a specific outfit because you know it is what others expect you to wear? but you hate it)
  5. do make decisions that make you happy and are true to your intentional life (If you always feel terrible after going to celebrate with a relative then politely decline and say your sticking close to home this year)
  6. when your relative gets angry, say you are sorry once and then move on (you probably are sorry, you do wish they were nicer and you could spend the holidays together). If they can’t move on it isn’t your problem, it is theirs. Remember that one of your expectations in life is to be treated fairly and respectfully by people who claim to love you. If they don’t offer that, then you owe them nothing.
  7. stop feeling like you need to live up to another’s expectation of you. You are your only judge and trust me you are already too hard on yourself, you don’t need anyone else telling you your job isn’t good enough, your husband drinks too much, or a second piece of pie will go straight to your thighs.
  8. offer peace and love to everyone you care about, even those who have trouble returning it in kind. This is about your choices in life and how you choose to live, live with love and kindness. Eventually, it will be returned to you.
  9. take care of yourself so you are in top shape to cope with unexpected barbs and daggers. Get lots of sleep, drink lots of water, do not overindulged in alcohol or food, take your vitamins, and above all keep a smile on your face.
  10. Fill your holidays with the things that will bring joy to you and those around you. Do not allow negativity to seep in, it has a tendency to grow and fester like a bad flesh-eating bacteria. If your decorations go array just laugh it off, I bet its funny if you look at it just so. If your relative is cruel, remember your awesomeness, people are cruel and withholding for only one reason, they are insecure. Do not let them draw you in. If you gain 5 pounds, just remember a little insulation is okay sometimes.

I used to love the holidays as a kid, probably because I was too young to see what the adults had to go through to pull it all off. As an adult I tried to capture the magic and eventually gave up because of the stress and negative feelings that always seemed to result in my trying. But ever since I started living intentionally, making decisions that benefit my family and myself, cutting the fat of my life, recognizing who my real family and friends are, the holidays have been something I breeze thru with nary a scratch. I suspect this year will be the best season for me in many years. I am surrounded by those who love me. I’ve learned how to cope with negativity. I’m working on my patience. I have finally found a balance for taking care of myself. Plus, I have two little people who are already wrapped up in the excitement and wonder the season provides. Two little people who will not be disappointed by my sub par turkey, my unbrushed hair, my 10-year-old sweater, my muffin top, my empty bank account, my blue carpet, or my fake tree.

I am lucky. I am fortunate. But I am also strong and brave. I made this happen. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a fluke. I wanted it. I worked for it. Now its time to have my pie and eat it too!

What I am reading: Divergent by Veronica Roth. Super quick read, I can’t put it down. I love dystopia!

What I am listening to: Best Day of my Life by American Authors

Now moment of the week: Snuggling with my four-legged children. No wonder people who share their lives with dogs are healthier.

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Inspirations from the ether: 14 habits of highly miserable people thank you Jessica for bringing this to my attention. Everyone should just double check it real quick to make sure they aren’t doing these.

Theory of Opposites

I’m currently reading an interesting bit of fiction that I was drawn to because of its story line of choice and what would happen if you made every single choice intentionally the polar opposite of what you thought you really wanted or had initially planned to make. The idea piqued my interest not just as a fun book to read but the concept itself and what might my life REALLY be like if I indeed attempted to do just that. How might my now look different if I had started doing this 10 years ago, and what might my ten years from now look like if I did this right now?

The book assumes one of two things when it postulates this concept to the heroine. Either she one, must not be making decisions at all, aka just going with the flow of life and allowing life to happen to her; with the idea being that no matter what you do you are destined to end up in the same place so what is the point of fighting the inevitable. Or two, that she is making decisions but those decisions are still based on the initial concept of her actions truly have no impact on the eventual result so she might as well just make the easy choice if it is all going to be the same in the end. No risk, no muss, no fuss.

So if I am going to truly consider this concept I have to decide if I think my fate or destiny is in fact static and pre determined. hm… this is a tough one for me to buy into. Perhaps because I have seen first hand how my intentional choices, purposeful actions, and seemingly wild decisions have sent me down pathways I am convinced I never would have gone down otherwise. I don’t really buy this theory to being with. I think my fate, my future, is something still in flux and being altered daily depending on my choices. The choice to get up or sleep in. The choice to read to my children or make them play outside. The decision to pursue writing or just forget it and be happy with my 9-5 job. All of these choices will no doubt have an impact on where I will be in the future.

or will they?

When I was 23 I moved from my home town to Oregon. A state I didn’t know much about, and a city I knew even less about. I took a fairly big risk. I knew no one, I had no income, and no where to live. That road lead me to owning my own successful business, a string of useless relationships, becoming a home owner, a failed business, and the addition of two more dogs. Had I stayed in Colorado, and even more to the point stayed in my then relationship, I can almost guarantee I would not have done any of that. But here in lies the rub, it is now many years later and I am back in my home town, by choice, but still, does this possibly mean that inevitably this is where I was always meant to be and I could have saved myself the struggle of the last 15 years if I’d just stayed put in the first place? Would I have met my husband? had my crazy children? found a work from home job?

I don’t know. Highly doubtful. Or is it just that I would have met some husband, had some children, and worked some job, potato patato?

I think I have actually subscribed more to the logic of infinite universes. You know the nerd theory that there are an infinite you in an infinite universes and each one is slightly different because they all made just slightly different choices in their world than the ones I make in mine, and for each choice there is a subsequent split into two more universes. There is a me who chose to stay in bed this morning is by chance having a better or worse day because of it. For instance, there is a universe where I might have tried illegal drugs, married my high school sweetheart, or even died in a motorcycle accident. All because of choices the me in those worlds have made as they live every day life. To go to college or not go? To marry or not marry? Have children or not? Read this book or that? eat this or that?

This theory, that our choices matter so much that the resulting life possibilities is limitless is by far a more reasonable and logical theory than the idea that everything is inevitable no matter what you do so just let life take you like a river and enjoy the easy ride down stream. I will say, often, I am envious of those who seem perfectly content to take the easy ride down steam, then I remind myself how limited their life experiences usually are and what they are probably missing out on just by lack of variation alone. I wonder if it is fear or anxiety that stops them from taking chances, leaping, or even just standing a little bit on the edge.

So I believe we impact our own lives and our futures with every choice we make. I believe there is no pre determined fate or destiny. I believe we can alter our path at any moment if we are willing to make decisions that are hard, different, sometimes scary, often wonderful, but never just going with the flow. So, if I find any inspiration in this work of fiction, it would be that maybe my decisions are not always the best. Perhaps they are clouded with over thinking or past mistakes. Maybe over time choices and decisions become less authentic as we are clouded by life experience and disappointment. It is the old adage of learning rom our mistakes or saying “if I could go back in time”. Sure if you could go back you might make a different choice, hoping against hope that the new choice would avoid whatever outcome it is you found so displeasing, but there is no guarantee that the new choice won’t lead to something worse than you already experienced. So what would be the point?

But, this isn’t about fixing old choices and their outcomes, this is about making new choice without the bas of thought and experience. This is about making decisions based on the decision alone, not the outcome. So you feel like a burger? then you get the salad. Want to sleep in? Too bad, get up. Planning on avoiding the holiday Christmas party? Nope, you’re going. Maybe listening to our gut limits our lie and the opportunities that we are presented with. Maybe playing it safe, or in our comfort zone, or basing decisions on rational thought prevents us from truly living? I’m not advocating walking into fire because you gut tells you not to, duh. I’m just saying that the next time you think you know what is best for you, you think you already have the answer, its just right there on the tip of your tongue, maybe this time you just do the opposite. After all, it was your choices that got you where you are, now where would you be if your choices were just the opposite?

What I am reading: The Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch. I was up till 1 am reading this. I really like it.

What I am listening to: Ways to go, by Grouplove

Inspirations from the ether: So many this week, wow. Anything about the Batkid, seriously if you don’t know what I’m talking about Google Batkid.

Now moment of the week: Scavenging the yard with little men looking for tennis balls on their “bikes” while dogs stalk us looking to steal said tennis balls.