Aug 26, 2013

Parenting philosophies I thought I'd never have

Confession: my girls wore costumes to the YMCA today.  Lexi wore a full pink taffeta dress and hot pink heels fit for a princess.  Kate wore a big purple tutu, complete with a green smocked shirt, heart-patterned socks, and plaid Converse shoes.  The Heidi of 2002 would have balked at such a sight, but in 2008, when Tyler wore a Batman costume everywhere we went for a month, I began to relax my standards.  Today the girls' getups didn't even phase me.  Instead, I applauded myself on allowing the girls freedom of expression. However, some of the clothing choices my other children make drive me nuts.  As long as the clothes abide my general standards, I usually don't interfere. It's funny that blatantly obnoxious outfits don't bother me, but basketball shorts and clashing colors really do.

I have changed in other ways, too.  For example, one of my favorite sayings is "you get what you get and you don't throw a fit."  I used to bend over backwards to offer equality in all things.  Fairness prevailed.  Not so anymore.  While I try to be an equitable parent, I just don't have the energy to distribute cups according to desired colors or count Skittles or green beans.  Kids need to learn that the world isn't always fair (really, it mostly isn't fair).  I must add, though, that my kids are still working on the "and you don't throw a fit" part. I guess I am, too, when it comes to life challenges I don't want to have.  You get what you get....

Another philosophy: Kids have to deal with the consequences of their own actions.  If my child leaves homework on the counter, I don't take it to school for him.  If he can't find his shoes, that's his problem, even if he has to wear athletic shoes to church.  If he misbehaves in sacrament meeting (yesterday: epic fail), he practices reverence at home. My end goal is for my kids to learn responsibility when the stakes are low, rather than discovering in college that Mom isn't there to bail them out.  My struggle with this world view is that sometimes I feel like my sole purpose in life is to dole out consequences.  Where does mercy fit into the equation? Where should gentleness prevail over a firm hand?

Fourth, I no longer cry over spilled milk.  I mean really, if I got super frustrated over every food-related mess in my house, I'd be locked up in the insane asylum.  Today, for instance, I took a little cat nap on the couch. I was only half-asleep for about ten minutes, but when I woke up, Kate was standing on the kitchen counter, wearing only her diaper, with mustard smeared all over her and the kitchen floor. I followed the mustard trail for about 15 feet before I found the end of it. Fortunately it didn't stain the floor (unlike the hot pink food coloring incident last month). I probably err on the side of pushover with this issue.  Surely my kids need more guidance than I provide because they just don't stop spilling the milk, you know?  But I can't handle the contention generated from the heat of an argument over crumbs on the couch.  There must be a middle ground, but I don't know where that is.

Now that Kate is taking a nap, I am going to employ another parenting strategy I thought I'd never have: the television.  It turns out that watching more than 30 minutes a day hasn't ruined my kids' brains, so I'm going to let Lexi watch some of her favorite shows while I work on a project.  She can even wear a tutu.
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