Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Learning to let go. Learning to let my kids

When Elliana was 4 months old, I remember sitting at night reading a blog post written by an experienced mom of 4. She talked about a woman who had let her child have a candy bar at the checkout and how this type of parenting was frowned upon. It was giving in. It was letting the child win. It was essentially lazy parenting.

I knew it was judgmental. The tone was harsh. The message seemed wrong. Yet, I took mental notes, reminded myself to never do such thing, and went along to the next post about motherhood.

I read a lot in those early days.

A lot of posts of what to do and what not to do. How to raise good children, and how to raise spoiled children. The way you teach children, and the way you neglect them. There was seriously a blog post for every parenting decision out there. And in a way, I thought this was actually... helpful to us new moms. I believed it was helpful. I thought that we, the new moms, were at an advantage. Advice at our fingertips. Resources just a click a way. Experiences witnessed, shared, and learned from.

But I was wrong. It led me to be a parent I never wanted to be. It led me to focus on the things I never wanted for my children. It painted an image for me of motherhood that was far from rewarding. But in the eyes of others, it was perfection.

I didn't want perfect out of my child. I didn't want to be perfect myself. I wanted more than anything to see happiness in our family. And I couldn't help but ask myself a very important question... since when did our society forget the most important part about childhood: letting kids be, well kids.

No candy. No bribery. No toys. No presents. No jumping. No running. No touching. Please share. Please clean. Please listen. Please be quiet.  Play nice, be gentle, and wait your turn.

I've said all those things, and I've regretted just about most of it all. And slowly I began to change. 

And if you were to walk into our home... this is what you would see:

They jump on furniture. They jump off it too. But they know that's not allowed in other people's homes, and they know that there is a potential to going to the hospital, and that if they make a mess with the pillows as their cushion when they jump.. that they better put it right back when they're done.

They  get treats at the checkout, or while walking through the store. Not every time, but definitely sometimes. But guess what? They also walk in the store with no problem. They stay next to me, they know to say excuse me, and they listen well. They even push their own carts around at Trader Joes, empty their stuff at the checkout, and then go to put the carts back.

They can touch stuff. I used to be so against this. And then I realized how crazy it was. They are so curious and so why not? They know they have to put things back where they found it, and they know that if we break something we buy it. But they touch, and they know, and so all is ok in the world.

They get rewarded with bribery. And we threaten {things will get thrown away}, and we tell fibs like: you drink that water, bugs will grow in your belly {the lake water}. And you know what, it's not going to kill them. How else do you think I convince my children to take family photos and to actually... smile? Treats!

They don't have to share all the time. At our house, the rule is that you wait your turn. If someone is playing with something, then you shouldn't expect them to give it to you to play with. Once you are done, then you can pass it to the next person. However, they also know that nothing in our home is "mine". All the things belong to all our family members.

They have ice cream almost every day. After dinner, pretty much if there is ice cream in the freezer, then they get it. They also know that they need to eat their fruit and vegetables, or no ice cream it is. And don't even get me started on chocolate and cheesecake for breakfast. Look, if I'm eating it, how fair is it for me to tell them no.

They watch TV almost every day. They get anywhere from 20-40 minutes of screen time on the TV, and a little on the ipad. They double that time in reading books and playing outside. And then there are days when we spend watching movie marathons. Those are fair game for any kind of "sick day."

Speaking of sick day, if they need a "day off" school {when they start going to school}, then they get a day off. There will never be such thing as a perfect attendance. My mom let us stay home about 6-7 times a year. And if your birthday fell on a school day, then a day off you got! Everyone needs a break from work, including our children. Needless to say, you can probably understand my stance on taking a "vacation" even in the middle of a school year.

They don't have a limit on presents under the tree. Because we put no limit on giving. We donate anywhere that is needed, and our trunk is always full during the holiday season. And so, I try to teach my children the power of giving to not only those in need, but also to those we love dearly. But you know what my daughter squealed with excitement about when she opened up her birthday present? UNDERWEAR!

They climb up the slide. When we are only with our friends at the park, or by themselves. But they know that when other kids are around, they need to be courteous and go up the stairs instead. I let them be monkeys at the park, and I watch from afar. I cringe every time that Graham climbs those large gap stairs up, but I've seen him do it many times, and I encourage him every time.

They have toys. I know this may sound like a strange one, but I read so many posts last year of this trend about taking all toys away from children and letting them depend only on their imagination. I mean... what. Yes, my kids have toys, and they can spend hours playing with them... but even with all the toys in the house, nothing compares to the hours spent playing Jake and the Never land Pirates.

They don't have to finish everything on their plate. In fact, they don't have to it at all. I simply ask that they try. I won't make a new meal for them, they may eat their fruit and vegetables, however, I do not force them to eat anything. They have to take a bite... and trust me when I say this... after "hating" it 20 times, after that 20th bite... they learn to one day love it. Look I don't love everything out there, so why should I expect my kids to? Everyone has different interests, likes, and desires. That includes children.

Look, I'm not here to compare my kids to your kids or his kids or her kids. What I'm trying to say is that I've started to let go, and I'm not longer ashamed of it. I've gone from the mom that said no so many times, that tried to be perfect in every way possible, that tried never to scream or say the wrong thing, give too much TV, or to have kids that actually made messes. I followed everything by the book. I followed those blog posts that I read, and I took those notes into action. And slowly, I became that mom that wanted my kids to look perfect in public, to get that stamp of approval from others, and to be a picture perfect family on the cover of a magazine. I've been that mom. I'm still that mom at times---the one so worried about what others think. But I find myself stopping in my tracks before I react, before I set high expectations, and before I make a mistake I regret.

The reason I write all this is because I am far from being that free-spirited parent that I so badly want to be. I'm getting there, I'm learning as we go, I'm trying my best to be open-minded, but I still admit that I struggle and that I am constantly learning. And I want you to know that you're doing okay. Whatever you are doing. That no matter what you read, what you see, or what others tell you... trust your instinct first. There is no "too much" or "too little" in the book of parenting. And when I'm still unsure of which direction to go... I go with my gut.

Trust your gut.

If it seems wrong, then it's wrong. If it seems right... then keep doing and never look back.

And so far... that's led me to the happiness that I was searching in motherhood for so long. No longer am I reading blog posts about how "time-out" is detrimental to children, and questioned whether we should or shouldn't do it. No longer am I reading posts about only doing 4 Christmas presents under the tree, and thinking that perhaps we need to change our ways. No longer am I wondering if we are harming our children in some sort of way by the way that we choose to say "yes" or how often we say "no." We just... PARENT. We go with it, day by day, moment by moment, child by child. We've made mistakes. We still make mistakes. We don't know what we are always doing, and we are always seeking to be better. But we just do.

And for us? It's working out.


  1. I love this! Trusting your instincts is the way to go, and it's almost stressful at times when you aren't following the newest parenting "trend" (i.e. only 4 presents under the tree) and you feel like people might be judging you for it.

  2. This is one of the best "parenting" posts I have ever read. I am 100% with you on this! I try really hard not to compare my kids or my parenting to other families, because everyone and every situation is so different. I love your perspective on this!

  3. This post is spot on and the best I have ever read! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. I definitely agree with everything!

  5. I could have written this myself. This time is so special and fleeting. They will have enough to deal with as they grow up. Let their childhood be magical. Mine was and I turned out just fine ;)

  6. This post is so refreshing. A while ago I wrote a post about how I always let my daughter climb UP the slide (as long as other kids aren't waiting) because why the heck not? She loves it and I'm okay with her not following 'rules' that don't make sense for little kids who just want to be kids. My daughter is only 17 months old, but I love your perspective on everything on this list and have a feeling I will be a similar-style parent in the coming weeks/months/years! -- Lisa | Two Martinis


 photo copyright.jpg
blogger template by envye