Let’s play “I Never.”
No, I’m not about to take us down memory lane to a junior high slumber party. I’m talking about examining those things we said we’d “NEVER” do when WE had kids… and then laughing out loud at how naïve/idealistic/very well-rested we were before we became parents. Ha ha. We were adorable.
The church I used to serve shared space with a wonderful preschool. It was the only program in the whole metro area that was co-op, so they were always full, with a waiting list. I used to laugh at the parents who came the night before registration and camped out in lawn chairs to get their kids into a class. Like it was Springsteen tickets or a new Star Wars movie. I would get up really early on registration day and take donuts and coffee to those mothers who braved the elements for their kids' education. But I also thought they were nuts.
I still kind of think they were nuts. However—last week, I went a full hour early to pre-K registration, because my little guy is totally attached to his school, and I really wanted him in a particular class that is convenient to our schedule.
So, what I'm saying is I SAID I'd never wait in long lines to get my kid into a school or activity but...
In the spirit of getting over myself, (which is a healthy spiritual discipline), here are a few more things I swore I’d never do/allow, but had to eat, eventually:
- Let my kids watch more than an hour of television per day.
- Buy a toy when it is not Christmas or their birthday. Because sometimes you are on a road trip, and $7 can buy you a whole lot of peace and quiet. Like, at least 20 minutes.
- Give in to a tantrum. I know! Don’t respond to terrorism! Mostly, I don’t. Mostly. But some days, it is still a long way to bedtime and everybody’s coping skills are shot, and I have to acknowledge that I, perhaps—in my weakened state--played a significant role in the epic meltdown that I now have to endure. That being the case… I’ve been known to cave. And recognize that I probably would have said yes in the first place, if I weren’t being such a grouch.
- Let sugar become a food group. I never aimed to be a ‘no sugar’ house. My brother had a friend from one of those houses, and that poor kid would come to our house and dust off an entire bag of Oreos in about 90 seconds flat, because he was so deprived. It was kind of sad. Birthday cake and warm cookies and Halloween candy are among the greatest joys of childhood. Still… I never meant for sugar to become a daily guest at our (nearly) every meal. And yet, there it is. I try to keep it in check with healthy stuff, and then I give us some grace to enjoy dessert. Because life is short. And delicious.
All this said, there are still some “nevers” that I maintain. I know that kids change and the world is complicated and stuff happens. But still, it is important to know where your boundaries are as a parent. This means articulating values, checking in with your partner, communicating the ‘whys’ of things with kids … and knowing where you will compromise, and where you won’t.
Here are the things that I (still) won’t do:
- There will never be a dvd player in my car, or a computer/iPad game at the dinner table. While we give in to the occasional laptop viewing on a long trip, the car is a place from which to view the world. Kind of hard to do if there is a screen permanently affixed to the roof over your head. Also, meals are for conversation. And even if I didn’t care about talking to my kids at dinner (which I do) I would still care that they are definitely going to spill chocolate milk on my Kindle. So there’s that.
- “Busy” will never be a family value at our house. I know there will be seasons when we are rushed, over-booked, and exhausted. But as my kids get older, it is important that we have downtime together built into the rhythm of our life; and that we don’t let our collective self-worth get wrapped up in how much stuff we ‘do.’
- I will never call my daughter a princess. I will never tell my son to “man up.”
- I will never compare my children to each other, or pit them against each other for my approval or affection.
- I will not force religion. This one is especially tricky, because I am clergy. Church, and the Christian narrative (at least, our progressive, inclusive version of it) is a big part of my life. I want it to be a big part of my kids’ life too. But more importantly, I want them to feel safe in their own home. I will do everything that I can to make church a safe place for them too. But if ever, for some reason, it is not, I will not sacrifice my relationship with them for the appearance of having them in the front row on Sunday mornings. Of course, I plan to drag them kicking and screaming for as long as I’m able… it’s biblical! But if ever it starts to feel like a fight about who they are, and not just how they spend their time, I’ll gladly forfeit for the sake my kids’ trust.
What about you? What did you say you’d “never” do that you can laugh about now? Where do you still draw limits and place priorities?
I’m sure our lists are as different as our families, but our evolving boundaries all have the same intent—to build lasting, meaningful connections with our kids; and to make them feel so safe and loved at home that they will be able to do anything, out there in the world. I’d love to hear what your ‘list’ looks like.
Meanwhile, I’ll be over here putting war paint on my face, cranking AC/DC and pounding coffee to gear up for dance class registration. I know I said I’d never wait in line for such a thing, but y’all… It’s a jungle out there.
Rev. Erin Wathen is the Senior Pastor of Saint Andrew Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in the Kansas City area. Her husband Jeremy is a stay-home dad to their two kids, 4 and 6. Erin also has a blog on the Patheos interfaith network. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/irreverin/