If you two ever want a glimpse in to the parenting theory upon which you were raised, look no further than “Confessions of a Slacker Mom” by Muffy Mead-Ferro. I read this book before I had children, while I was pregnant, and again after each of you was born. I dog-eared and underlined it then leant it to my sister – a new mom – who added more dog-ears and underlines. To be honest, I have loaned it to so many moms I don’t know where it is right now and that’s ok. I’ve started buying new copies to give out (although, if you find a copy with my name in it, I would love to have it back).
Based on the book, I’ve developed my favorite parenting guidelines:
1) Keep the kids alive.
2) Make do or do without.
3) Enforce it the first time.
4) Let them make their own mistakes.
5) Limit the stuff.
6) Be prepared to be inconvenienced.
A little more on each guideline:
1) Keep the kids alive. Parenting at it’s most basic. Everything after that is gravy, right?
2) Make do or do without. If Kitten doesn’t want that spoon, she wants Buddy’s spoon, then she is going to have to make do or do without. I’ll be honest, this is hard sometimes. Appeasing a child takes 2 seconds, making a point can take 10-20 minutes (hours?). But I hate whining – hate it – and enforcing this means less whining. It’s also important for kids to learn that not getting what they want is NOT the end of the world.
3) Enforce it the first time. This is the key to ‘slacker’ parenting; front-loading. Do you want to spend your whole shopping trip – every shopping trip – chasing junior down the aisle picking up every thing he’s taken off the shelf? Nobody does. That’s a lot of work! This guideline means taking junior by the hand – every time – and having him put the item back. It’s annoying, but eventually he will get it and you will be the envy of every parent in the grocery store when you say, “Put that back, Junior” and he DOES! Now you can be a slacker – you’ve already done the heavy lifting.
4) Let them make their own mistakes. Mistakes = learning. I think this is something helicopter parenting has really robbed children of – learning by experience. Protect your kids, sure, but don’t over protect them. Let them play in mud and learn that it doesn’t taste good. Let them mix every color in the paint box and learn it makes mud, which (horray!) they already know doesn’t taste good. Let them try something, fail, and try again. It’s fun! It’s life! Our job as parents is to make sure they don’t damage themselves, others, or property (much). Other than that, just see what happens. You might learn how much fun it is to watch your kids discover on their own.
5) Limit the stuff. Limiting toys teaches self control and appreciation for what they have. Every spring and winter Kitten and I – and Buddy when he’s a little older – go through their toys and stuffed animals and take out toys and stuffed animals to give away. This helps control the toy and stuffed animal population and it’s a good lesson in giving. It also helps her appreciate more the toys she keeps. My part in this is encouraging family and friends to give us open-ended toys; toys like blocks, a tea set, dinosaur figurines, cars, pirate sword – all of these can be used in many ways and require you to use your imagination. Dead-end toys, like the ones where you push a button and watch it do one thing over and over, don’t require much imagination or interaction at all and usually don’t last long in our house.
6) Be prepared to be inconvenienced. I can’t overstate it enough. Parenting is inconvenient. Parenting is fun and rewarding, for sure, but the meat of parenting revolves around the inconvenient stuff. Without that stuff, you’re just the fun uncle. It’s leaving a cart full of groceries to take a kid to the bathroom, to take a kid outside for a talk, or to take a kid all the way home. It’s not being able to wait until you get home – even it you’re so close! – for a potty break, a diaper change, a bottle, or a drink. It’s slowing everything down – practically to a halt – so you can explain something, teach something, or correct something. But, even still, or maybe because of all that, parenting is incredibly rewarding…and funny. Sooo funny.