Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Three Words That Suck The Joy Out of Parenting

 

Consistent

Oh dear God, I hate this one. “You need to be consistent” “Children need consistency” “If you don’t have consistency – you don’t have anything.” Seriously people? I want consistency’s PR person. Holy wow someone somewhere really pushed this one. It is all you hear about. “If you don’t have consistency – you don’t have anything?” Not true, actually; you have flexibility.

Look, if you are someone who likes consistency and you enjoy relying on it to parent your children – yay! That is great and you are going to be able to be your genuine self in the journey of consistent parenting. However, if you are not that person (I am not that person), no matter how much people may try to convince you otherwise, you are not a criminal. I am not a criminal.

Lots of people tell me stability is important, that moving from one place to another (instead of giving my kids a consistent environment for their first 20 years) is as abusive as tying them to the front porch with a bowl of water while I go on vacation. [Editor’s note: Bora Bora, here we come!]

What these people say is not true; it is way worse to do the bowl thing. [Editor’s note: Fine. We’ll get a babysitter] 

Moving is not abuse, it is an opportunity for kids to adapt to new situations and for us to grow as a family. My family is happy and flexible, but you really never know what to expect in our house. Consistent? No. Fun? You betcha.

I understand the sentiment of wanting kids to have consistency. We want kids to feel safe. Here is another way to help them feel safe: love them no matter what. Oh, and make sure they wear bike helmets. And also, don’t do the bowl thing – that was just to make a point.

If your flexible reactions to the chaos come from your true self, they will be consistent because you are reacting genuinely in the same way. Consistency for consistency’s sake rings false, and leads to needless anxiety when the unexpected comes your way. Think for yourself and evaluate each situation as it comes up.

So please, please, please – don’t use the “C” word around me.

Should

Here’s another word that bunches my panties and wrinkles my brow. You can’t have a conversation about kids without this one coming up – but how does anyone get to the point where they can tell others what they SHOULD be doing? If you hear yourself saying this word frequently you may want to look down at your nametag to see if you’re the tour director of the Pretentious Judgment Cruise; if so, go get a Mai Tai and relax on the Lido deck. In fact, Mai Tais for all my readers!

CruiseDirector

Sometimes people call my blog an advice column and I am like “Whoaaaa whoaaaa whoa speed racer! Slow down! In no way should I be looked at as someone who tells others what to do, or really as someone who has an even tentative grasp on the “right way” to do stuff, or even someone who lives in the “real world”. I am just someone who does my thing and talks about it. Maybe it helps folks think of things in a way they hadn’t before, or maybe it empowers readers to make choices that classify them as criminally insane – I don’t know – it is just a blog, people.

The point is, there is no “should” that exists in the world of parenting.

Be yourself, do your thing, and only use the word should when you say things like “Hey Karen, you should come out with us to the Karaoke/bull riding dance club.” or “Karen, you should really stop depriving yourself of doughnuts and vodka.” or “Karen, you should look out for that (smack!) pole….”  But keep the judgment stuff to yourself because who are you trying to kid? You have no idea what you are doing either. Seriously. You don’t. Look at yourself. OK, but don’t get all down. Because you’re awesome. No really, you are. You are awesome and you have no idea what you’re doing. And I love you. I do. But don’t call me. Don’t.

Appropriate

This one definitely has its place. I often say “You need to wear an appropriate outfit that does not include high heels and a sequined butterfly tank top” or  “it is not appropriate to swear outside the home; it makes the masses uncomfortable”  or “when making mommy a frozen Margarita, it is inappropriate to add ice cubes after you pour it from the blender.” After all, I want to raise my kids right.

The problem with this one is the word brings with it additional baggage that keeps kids from being themselves. “You need to choose an instrument appropriate for a young lady - not the drums” or “it is never appropriate to correct a grown-up” or “it is inappropriate to wear a cape and get up and dance when you hear music.” I have even heard kids refer to their genitals as the “inappropriate part” of their body. Wow. I get the idea that it is not always appropriate be naked – but how can you possibly have a body part that is “inappropriate”? I am not sure I even understand this one.

If it is very important for you to have children who are seen and not heard and behave like lovely obedient little showcase kids, then go ahead and constantly tell them what is appropriate – but just know it will suck the joy out of being a kid, and a parent, and someone will probably be paying for that later in the form of a raging Zoloft addiction.

My stepchildren once told me their mom declined my invitation for Thanksgiving dinner because it was “inappropriate”. Again, wow. If gathering to be thankful and celebrate with all the important grown-ups in the lives of children is inappropriate, I don’t want to be appropriate. And I often am not. Or so I hear. Whatevs. I still know how to rock a Karaoke/bull riding dance club.

3 comments:

  1. Comment on "consistency" - the only way I think it is truly necessary is in things like rules - as in, if you praise a child one day for doing something, yell at them the next for doing it, and then ask why they aren't doing it the day after? You are setting everyone up for trouble. But consistency in schedule, location, yada yada? Who cares?? There are different challenges associated with different choices - but it all works out in the end so long as the kids know they are loved.

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  2. Wow you should like me. I am a teacher and a mother and I am constantly and CONSISTENTLY say what my kids SHOULD do and say! Not to mention trying to get them to understand what is APPROPRIATE and what is not. So welcome to my world. I am a new blogger, I am following you. Please follow me back. Thanks

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