I think parent guilt is a new thing. I don’t know that it existed in previous generations to the degree it does today. I think parents were more focused on life than overachieving with their parenting. When I mention to my mom, who was ever present and a huge inspiration to me, that I feel guilty about an aspect of my parenting, she always says that this generation is nuts. She’s probably right.
But that doesn’t erase the guilt that creeps in. I don’t make Pinterest-worthy snacks, I don’t spend my rare free moments upcycling furniture or sewing elaborate doll clothes for Piper. I don’t build pillow forts when the kids are bored. My kids don’t speak multiple languages or do advanced algebra. Sometimes, I lose my cool with them. Sometimes, when the day is over, I think of how I should have reacted and I feel like I have failed my kids.
These days, we spend our time and energy shielding our kids from any discomfort, any unease. We hide our true emotions so that they never see us stressed or sad. When they forget their swim bag for school, we cancel our meetings and plans so we can race back to school with their bag. We sneak-argue with our hubby so the kids won’t hear any trouble in paradise.
In short, we are teaching our children that they live in utopia, and should be devoid of any unpleasant emotion or responsibility. Way to go, us.
I attended a parents coffee this week at Piper’s school. The elementary school principal encouraged us to let our kids learn consequences now, in ways that won’t ruin their lives or futures. She said, if they forget their lunches, let them see what the day is like without lunch. Let them go to the school office to ask for a lunch ticket and bring a letter home with an IOU. Let them come back and pay their debts. Let them sit out of swim class because they forgot their bag. Let them have those wake-up-call moments. Let them turn in homework that isn’t perfect so that their teacher can see errors and help them push through. It was the quietest room you have ever seen. A room full of moms thinking, “What?! Let my kids experience discomfort? Are you nuts?” Talk about crickets. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about all the lessons I am shielding the kids from.
It’s okay for kids to see you disagree with your spouse. They will learn that two intelligent humans don’t always agree, and it’s not divorce, it’s life. That you can talk things through to a compromise and move on.
It’s okay for your kids to see you stressed or sad or quiet. To know that we all feel the full range of emotion. And to learn how to get through it.
It’s okay for your children to want things and not receive them.
It’s okay for your kids to be bored! Teach them how to find things to do, how to entertain themselves. In an age of instant gratification, teach them to work hard at something and set a goal. Teach them that they don’t need to be entertained all the time or always need an electronic device in their hands.
I’m working hard to live with open eyes. I’m looking for teachable moments in nearly every situation. Letting the kids fight and try to settle their differences without Batmom swooping in to fight their fights for them. Turning off the devices and reading to the kiddos and spending time with them. Talking to them. Loving them. Being where I say I will be. Actually listening when they talk.
And when I have free time, I sit. In the quiet. It’s beautiful. We shouldn’t feel guilty for sitting. For taking a moment. We are teaching the kids that everyone needs a break. Even SuperMom. ;)
*If you liked what you read, please subscribe to my blog! You can click the orange RSS feed button to get my posts delivered right to your email box! And you can paste the link to this post on Facebook. :)