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:
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.
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.
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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