My friend Robin sent me a journal she found ("I'm a Parent?: A journal to ponder the unfathomable circumstance that I somehow have offspring...). It's really funny and each entry offers you the prompt: Why I'm a Less-Than-Perfect Parent Today. But she really sent it to me because there are TONS of quotes that she knew I would love. I may or may not use the journal but I'm definitely going to use the quotes as inspiration for this blog (because sometimes I just can't post another photo of a cute child at the park/sleeping/in stroller/outside/etc). So, let’s begin.
“I don’t really know what to discipline my kids about because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. My son does outrageous things like taking his pants off at the table, and I know I should object but I find them so amusing. Maybe I’m making monsters of them but I can’t help myself.”
-- Uma Thurman
This was the first quote I read that made me stop and think about things so I’m going to use this one as my first “discussion quote” (now you know I’m serious when I name something).
Here are my immediate reactions to this quote:
· I’m not fond of Uma Thurman as an actor. She always seems to disappear in things. I'll say it – her paleness creeps me out.
· Taking pants off at the table is outrageous? Evan often takes off his pants and pull-ups – naked dinners are not unusual in our house.
· This is going to make her children a monster? According to whom.
And then it hit me, according to “Them”… those ubiquitous people out there who are judging us all the time (even when you are alone in your house, no one is around, and you put on the same socks you wore yesterday because you smelled them and they don’t smell all that bad… They saw it and have judged you). And you know what, whether or not They are right I’m on Uma’s side and this quote hits to the core of a constant parenting struggle I have (turns out I don’t dislike Uma all that much).
On most days my basic parenting dogma is that Evan and Chloe should be allowed to have as much exploratory fun and learning as they can without disrespecting anyone else’s rights to the same existence AND without ruining property (mine or anyone else’s… although I’m still on the fence about them ruining their own property). Therefore, when Evan takes off his pants at the table I can’t see how this goes against my dogma. Where is he in violation?
But there is a voice in my head that says, “Evan shouldn’t be doing that. Make him stop.” Typically the voice sounds like my mother. And it isn’t because she sticks her nose in my parenting (she is actually really good about trying to step back and even succeeds 90% of the time) but because that was how she raised me (and probably how most people in her generation raised children). There were all these rules about what children had to do. They had to sit to eat, ask to be dismissed, be fully clothed at the table, have their elbows down when they cut their meat (my poor sister got poked in her elbow at almost every dinner for this one), etc, etc, etc. I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about.
And why did kids need to do this? Because these were the rules that They set forth. And I learned to do them well and in most cases I still do them (although I no longer ask to be dismissed). But I’m not sure how I benefited from these rules. Yes, they let me fit in well. I can sit down and eat with old money, new money, and no money and not stick out as someone “without manners”. I’m sure there are other benefits that I’m overlooking but when I try to push this on my 3-year old I can’t think of any.
I’ve become this split parent. Some days I try to do what They want me to. On those days I have power struggles, screaming, tears, and Evan doesn’t like it either. Some days I try to do what I think I should do. On those days I have indoor picnics, play hide-and-seek, make forts, paint Styrofoam coolers and string them together to make a train (and by the way, what I think I should do still includes things like respecting other human beings, sharing, and other things that are not so fun for a 3-year old).
So here’s the thing (and They aren’t going to like this), but it turns out I don’t really care about Them. I don’t care if I offend Them, I don’t care if They decide I’m a crappy parent (okay, well sometimes I do care which is what makes me think I should parent how They want me to but I’m really going to fight against that), so I’m done with Them (until a moment of weakness and I make Evan do something ridiculous like use a fork instead of eating like a dog). I’m going to try and parent like I think I should and not let Their judgment sway me to abandon my beliefs. And this means that my children might:
· Eat dinner while standing on a turtle stool,
· Not wear shoes on their walk home from the playground,
· Put stickers on our refrigerator,
· Carry his chair throughout the house, and
· Other nefarious things that will someday make them monsters in society.
And be forewarned, if you come to our house for dinner, clothing is only optional for those under 5 years old (and I reserve the right to change that age at any time).