Stay Closeish and Don’t be a Douche, and Other Parenting Philosophies that Aide in My SurvivalAs my husband loves to remind me “just because someone doesn’t do something your way doesn’t mean they are doing it the wrong way”. Keep that in mind as you peruse my general parenting guidelines. Also keep in mind that these aren’t even working for me, so certainly don’t take this list as any sort of advice.
Don’t do Things for them that they are Capable of Doing Themselves or that will Help to Teach them Life Skills.
Okay, maybe I’m just lazy, but I don’t like doing things for my kids that they can do themselves. Want help getting dressed? Fine. But show me you tried, or I’ll help you with your shirt, but you do the pants. Thirsty and I’m busy? Grab your cup and head to the bathroom sink where there is a stool. Want to order for yourself? Go for it! Plus, is there anything cuter than a four-year-old asking, “Can I please try a sample of the day of the flavor?”? I think not. Want to help fold clothes? Great! Use your bulldozer to sort out the different types of clothing, match up your socks, fold the towels, and put your pajamas and bathing suits away. (I’m trying to foster independence, but I’m not dumb. Nobody messes with the order of folded shirts in drawers). I think it’s important for kids to do things alongside adults so that they can learn how to function independent of them, in age appropriate intervals, of course. A couple of weeks ago the kids said they were hungry but I had something I needed to finish up, so I asked them to get their own snacks. I was very involved in what I was doing and oblivious to any noise they were making in the kitchen. When I finally worked my way there, I found them at a table with cutting boards, knives, peelers, prepped food, and no injuries. They proudly told me that they were eating their healthy items first (aka carrots before strawberries. My poor, poor deprived children). Just this morning my kids wanted a snack and chose a pear and an apple. They wanted it cut, so my son asked me for cutting boards and “a knife that is sharp but not super sharp, so I don’t cut off my finger”.
Screen Time, Schmeem Time
We don’t do all that much television around here. Sure, some of this philosophy is based on selective research I’ve done while conveniently omitting anything that doesn’t support what I want to believe, but it’s mostly stemmed from laziness (are you sensing a theme yet?). Simply put, I don’t want to argue with my kids all day about when they can or can’t watch tv or when it’s time to turn it off. It just eliminates one more potential source of friction between them and me. My husband gets up with the kids before me most mornings and a couple of times a week the kids watch about twenty minutes of tv with him. While I’d prefer that they don’t watch any, I must remember that a) I get twenty minutes to stay in bed and scroll through Facebook instead of getting up and b) The kids never think of tv as an option with me. In their minds, tv only exists when they first wake up in the morning and it only exists with Dad. They have literally never asked me to watch tv during the day. Added bonuses of lack of screen time? I save money by not purchasing additional tablets, movies, and toys that match their favorite characters and I don’t have to share my phone and iPad because they know they are off limits for small humans. While my husband is the one that introduces them to all of their screen time, he knows that I’m a control freak, so he treads carefully. For our family, I prefer any media that they are exposed to serve some type of purpose. The kids watch discovery channel, shows with a nonfiction basis, books on video and those based off of classics/fairy tales. It’s almost kind of humorous at this point how out of touch they are with popular trends. Just recently they were gifted stuffed animals from Paw Patrol. While they love them dearly and play with them often, they promptly named them Puppy Jar and Black-White Fuzz. Turns out their names are actually Chase and Skye (neither of which live in a jar or are black and white). Now would be a good time to pay tribute to my continually deprived children.
Parent with Intention and a Basis of Learning
I know, I know. This makes me sound like the most boring parent ever…but hear me out. Last week we went to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. The reason we went was twofold: it would be fun and it would provide opportunities for learning. They have an art room for creative expression and fine motor skills, galleries for appreciating art and learning about artists, a library to spend time together, get sensory input, and delve into written word, an outdoor area with musical instruments and ways to integrate learning into nature, and so much more. My kids don’t know any of that though; they just think they had a great time! Just about everything we do in any given day has some educational motivation tied behind it. While we were at the Eric Carle Museum we watched a short video about Eric Carle, his work, and his life. In the video he mentioned how he didn’t intend to go out and teach children, yet every one of his books has a lesson or something to learn hidden within it. I found this relatable and it reminded me how I aim to parent. I want my kids to be kids, but I also want them to continue to expand their knowledge base while doing so. I am beyond thankful that I found a preschool for my children that strongly believe this as well. Marlborough Cooperative Nursery School does a fantastic job of following a play based approach to teaching.
Learning through play at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
Annnnd, here we are with another philosophy that stems from laziness and cost-effectiveness. This started with me making the decision to cloth diaper our kids and to make their own baby food. I did these things to save money, certainly not from the “I’m better than you” attitude. I spent hours upon hours researching cloth diapers and making excel spreadsheets to see how long it would take to break even, and I downright refused to buy a jar of banana baby food when I could just smash up a banana and call it a day. The semi-crunchy lifestyle works for us and it’s something that gives me arbitrary positive feedback about my parenting. If I’m screwing up everything (including my kids’ mental health), at least I can find some solace in knowing we clean the house chemical free and that the kids’ sunscreen isn’t harming them. Of course, I’m frequently reminded that I’m crazy. Like when I started watching ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and Aleida told her daughter, “And don’t kid yourself; babies hate wood toys. They don’t make noise or nothing. That’s some yuppie bullshit.” It’s true though, right? I bought all these “crunchy” baby toys and all my kids cared about were learning to crawl so they could grab the cat’s tail and make her meow.
Even if it didn’t save money, can cloth diaper cuteness really be beat?
Force the Kids to be Creative and Play Imaginatively
I want so badly to be one of those minimalist parents and get rid of most of the toys, but that type of extremity just isn’t going to happen. For now, I’ll settle with integrating my beliefs on play into what I think I can implement. Just as each daily activity has learning tied in, the toys I purchase for the kids have a thought process behind them. Anything that fosters imagination, creativity, and open play welcomed into my household. I try to shy away from toys that make noise (read: I have zero patience and my daughter likes pushing my buttons…and buttons on toys) or serve a single purpose. We do a lot of manipulatives, STEM based toys, and mingling of toy groups. As much as it drives me insane (because I may or may not be a bit of a control freak), you’ll rarely see me discourage the kids from mixing a couple of different bins of toys together. I let them bring the entire contents of their kitchen to use as garbage or supplies for their trucks, even if then appears that a real garbage truck accidentally tipped over in my living room. But bear in mind one of my earlier tidbits- there ain’t no way I’m cleaning that up for them! If they want to be creative and mix toys, then they can go for it. But you can be sure that I am not the one cleaning it up for them; they are perfectly capable of doing that themselves. Open ended toys are my personal favorites for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is it helps me fully embrace my lazy parenting style. The mud kitchen and Nugget have provided hours of play with minimal arguments or parental intervention.
If They’re not going to Die, then I’ll Allow It
If the kids can’t die from doing something, then it is fair game. Sure, I’ll discourage them getting involved in anything too risky, but once they know the potential hazards it is in their own hands. I think that kids can gain a lot from testing their own boundaries, limits, and playing out what’s in their imaginations. I’d rather let my kids have experiences and try out their own ideas than shelter them from a possible, non-life-threatening injury (long term injuries are also off the table. Broken bones, stitches, and the like have a green light though). So go ahead, kids! Walk on those slippery rocks, climb a wobbly tower you built, play with those sticks, and make slides going down the stairs! Keep in mind that all these risky behaviors are allowed after I assess the safety of the situation and/or discuss ways to cautiously and mindfully approach what is at hand.
Dress Them Cute or Let Them Dress Themselves
This one is simple…I either put way too much thought my kids’ outfits or let them dress themselves. Why? Well, two reasons. First, it’s one thing that’s helped with depression since having my daughter. I know it sounds lame but getting positive feedback about how my kids are dressed is a ridiculously sad piece of pride for me. Second, and infinitely more importantly, if your kids are dressed adorably or look like they clearly dressed themselves, strangers almost always overlook their less than stellar behavior in public places. Attention is magically diverted from my daughter not giving a lick at to what I’m asking her to do to “Aw, look at her pigtails and that adorable shirt!” and my son instigating his sister to “how cute! He is wearing a tie!”. Added tip: Matching siblings evokes a similar reaction.
Stay Closeish and Don’t be a Douche
If I could only pick one rule to have with my kids, this would be it. A friend and I were talking the other day about our parenting styles and I ended up summing mine up with this statement. She then abandoned the conversation and came back with proof that she’s my kind of people by updating her letter board. I would’ve done the same, but #iaintnolauriefrucce, so I don’t own a letter board (and if I did, I’d never update it).
I love my kids. Honestly, I do. It’s fairly important to me that they stay relatively safe, and alive is always a plus. However, I want them to explore, be confident, and not rely on me for every little thing. I’m sure a lot of people would have opposing views to this, but I don’t always have eyes on my kids and I don’t live by “if you can’t see me then you are too far”. I allow my kids to walk ahead of me on our adventures, I let my three-year-old walk two houses down to the neighbor’s house by herself, and I encourage my kids to play outside while I am making dinner. Why? Again, I’m lazy. But also, I trust them. Yes, they are only three and four, but how else are they going to learn to function once they are in school and don’t have my husband and I around? How else are they going to learn to think for themselves and be given opportunities to make responsible decisions? They need to be given a little bit of freedom to test out their abilities to not be a douche. I say the words “respectful” and “kind” a bagillion times a day, give or take. If nothing else, I want my kids to be respectful and kind human beings. I expect them to be polite and I expect them to be emotionally intelligent and thoughtful of others. It’s imperative that I give them a little space to achieve this though, because I want to know that they are growing into decent people even when I’m not around to monitor their every step. I think the best way to help them get there is by falling back on the most important parenting philosophy I have: stay closeish and don’t be a douche.