I’ve been a member of the motherhood for ten years and three kids now and in that time, I’ve learned a few things about parenting that no one could have prepared me for. For example, my couch is an oasis of gross, my laundry will never be totally done, and my youngest child gets away with murder and that’s totally okay. It’s this last point that I want to stress because it comes with some major wisdom that I am grateful to have figured out while my kids are still young.
Like many mothers who have come before me, I had some pretty wild ideas about how parenting would go before my first child took his first breath. I was totally, unshakably convinced that good kids come from good rules set by good moms. Things like tantrums, according to my know-it-all philosophy, were a result of lazy parenting. If you are laughing at me, I don’t blame you, I still can’t believe how naïve and ridiculous I was before having babies.
But after my first trip through the land of toddlerhood, I realized that my binary view of rules and obedience just were not working. Sure, there needed to be routines and boundaries but what I lacked was flexibility. Never would I have allowed my child to stay up past bedtime or eat sweets before dinner. I was raising a perfect kid, after all.
And then baby number two came. And guess what? I was so busy trying to stay sane with two small children that those tendencies toward rigidness began to bend and warp. Breakfast for dinner? If it means getting everyone to stop complaining while also getting some laundry folded, sure. Extra screen time? If it means silence so that I can wrap my head around organizing the family schedule, then you bet.
For my oldest child, having a little brother had some major perks. I was too exhausted to care about being strict but we still had some pretty tough boundaries that I wasn’t budging on. Toys were never allowed downstairs, roughhousing was basically banned, and I still dug my heels in when it came to sweets before meals.
And then our third and final baby joined our family tree. Let me tell you, things got a lot laxer almost right away. To say that I am running around in survival mode is an understatement and strictness feels more like a punishment for me than for my kids.
My third baby gets away with murder. She has never known the rules about no roughhousing (kids gonna be kids, man) or set time limits of screen time, and yes, she has definitely had a sweet before a meal.
But where some may see a failure on my part, I am celebrating something of a victory over here in my coffee-stained sweatpants and unwashed hair. My kids have taught me to chill TF out with the rules. Instead of hard and fast rules, we have routines for getting the needful done, in other words, we make sure everyone is clean, fed, well-rested, and gets to where they need to be on time) or at least not too late.) The mess in the car can wait. Sometimes the laundry can wait. The point is, instead of focusing on raising perfect kids because I was a perfect mom, we focus on being a healthy family that is flexible and is learning how to give and take when it comes to meeting needs and wants.
My oldest child is turning 10 in a few short weeks and he recently told me that he is so much happier now that I’m the mom who plays and goofs off. Make no mistake, though, my kids still make good grades, have chores, and follow a daily routine but nowadays we do it with less focus on strictness.
The fact that my youngest child can “get away with murder” as my oldest likes to say, is okay with me. It’s a sign that I’ve chilled out.