I have been thinking a lot about our parenting choices lately. Specifically, I have been thinking about a conversation I had with a friend last year. She and I don't really get to talk much anymore. We are not as close as we once were...but I love her dearly.
After years of closeness, the differences in our parenting choices became like the proverbial elephant in the room. No longer was it as easy to always agree to disagree. At long last we were realizing that some of our choices were making it harder for us to mesh as well as we once were. Some things that she/I did as parents were choices that the other couldn't condone. Now, realize...this is not two strangers, two acquaintances. We were actively involved with each others families everyday. Like extended members of each others families. So, I don't say condone lightly. I truly don't.
And I'm not talking about little choices. I mean the biggies: vaccinations, health care choices, unschooling, respect, punishments, what being some one's parent means. These were such push button issues that, unfortunately, it came to a head. Things that we should have been calmly discussing over time blew up into a big, ugly mess. I still regret the way it happened because it damaged our relationship. Maybe, if we had been more open and honest all along it wouldn't have. But, this is not about maybe.
In that unfortunate blow up, my friend said she thought we made the decisions we make (like no time-outs, not restraining kids for vaccinations...not even getting vaccinations) because it was easier. That I had said when my first was young that I would do time outs and sit down dinners, but when they got older it was just easier not to.
I come back to that comment often.
That we live this way because it is easier.
One day my family was due to be at a commitment with family and friends. When it was time to get dressed, Declan realized the shirt he wanted to wear was nowhere to be found. After seeing how important this was to him, we looked for the shirt for about a half hour. Of course, when we found it, it was filthy. He was still adamant that he needed to wear that shirt. So, we washed it, and dried it...and he changed his mind.
Now, please don't think I wasn't frustrated. I remember calling Rue mid-shirt hunting and having her remind me that what I was doing was important to Declan. And I also remember thinking how easy this was. NOT! It was not easy. Making him put on a shirt he didn't want (because I'm the mom and he's the kid) would have been easier. For me. For Drew. Certainly not for Declan.
I also remember a time when Maeve refused to get in her car seat. We sat in the car for what seemed like forever until she was ready to sit so we could go. She was a peanut. I could have easily forced her in to her seat, held her down, and driven away with her crying. That would have been easy enough for me. (Physically, anyway.) But, not for Maeve.
And Drue. Drue has always been a child who feels things so deeply. She is so much like me. There have been many times it would have been easier to punish her for being strong willed. (How dare her strong will go against my strong will!)
We want our kids to be free to express their feelings. Sometimes this means laughing and shouting. But sometimes it means yelling, screaming, and crying. Sometimes at their siblings and sometimes at us. There have been many times that I have thought it would be so much easier to punish this behavior. "Don't you yell at me. Go to your room." Then I could walk away and not have to deal with it.
Every single time we make these choices, we put another brick in the foundation of our relationship with our kids. That is the memory we want for them. Feeling safe, in control, accepted, and loved. Not a memory of being bullied, controlled, or minimized.
This road is not always easier. But, we are traveling with great companions...and every day we find more love, trust, and respect along the way.