Lisa writes: It is easy for us, as moms, to get down on ourselves about our parental transgressions. All too often we remember the days when we shrieked at our kids for, truly, little more than being kids. Focusing on our missteps as moms and dads has become almost a national pastime, as we berate ourselves for not being the perfect parent.
While I am happy to leap onto the bandwagon of self-indictment, and admit to more than my share of errors in judgment and practice, I am going to search out the glass half-full here. I have asked a few experienced moms to jump in and, without crowing, just reflect on what went right. Here are eight of their best parenting practices that we can all consider. After all, as we like to say, parenting never ends.
No Pity Parties:
We support, but we don’t do excuses. We are all kinds of available. Whether our kids need a ride, a good meal, help conjugating a verb, or advice, we make the time to listen and be there. We are their shoulder to cry on. But if they skip practices and don’t make the team or they blow off studying and get a “D,” we are here to tell them they got the results that equaled the effort they put forth. No pity parties.
We respect their successes as THEIRS alone. NOT ours. We revel in their achievements and are thrilled for them, but when it’s their moment to shine, we step out of the limelight. We have chronic shoulder injuries; we refuse to tweak them by straining to pat ourselves on the back.
Ellen Williams and Erin Dymowski, Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms
When my youngest was 8 and my oldest 12 I decided to travel as much and as often as we could. I saw a window between the time the youngest was fully able to keep up and the oldest wanted less and less to do with us and decided to leap through the opening. The benefits of travel, whether it was to the next state or further afield, was that it broadened all of our worlds and kept us in a family bubble, bound close together for days or a week. Memories often seem sharper against an unfamiliar backdrop and my recollections of our trips stand out as some of the brightest.
Say Yes to the Dog:
Dogs, with the furry, messy and wonderful companionship they provide, were not only our children’s playmates but were also their guides in life lessons. I would like to say that owning our four chocolate Labradors (over 20+ years) taught our children responsibility but that would be a falsehood as, in truth, my husband and I shared most of the duties. But what the dogs showed our children about life exists at both ends of the happy/sad spectrum. On the bright side, there are few joys greater for a child than being on the receiving end of their dog’s unquestioning and constant affection. As for sadness, our first two dogs died at 14 years old, a very old age for Labradors. Learning to endure the grief caused by the death of a loved one (dog or human) and having the knowledge that time dulls the edge of sadness is one of life’s most important coping skills.
Lessons of Money and Priorities:
I now see that my husband and I did the right thing in making our three daughters pay for “the extras” when they were teens. We helped them get their first cars, but they were required to have a job to cover the cost of upkeep, insurance, gas and such. If they wanted something above and beyond what we could afford when it came to clothing and extracurricular activities, they knew it was up to them to earn the money. Because we also required them to have good grades and participate in at least one sport per year, I worried at times that we may have been asking too much of them. Now that they’re all adults with a strong work ethic and appreciation for spending their hard-earned dollars wisely, we all — including our daughters — feel that though it was tough, it was right. Lisa Carpenter, Grandma’s Briefs
Offer a Choice, But Make it a Tough One:
Spring break 2013, finds our son on the sofa…”How’s the internship search going?” my husband and I asked. ”I’m working on it, don’t worry,” he replied. He was under the impression that if he didn’t have an internship, he could come home for the summer and, well, sit on the sofa. Oh, and, being newly 21, run around with his friends. We told him if he didn’t have an internship or a job he could stay in Tucson, in the heat, and find a job. We had never been so stern with him in 20 years. He had never been so angry at us.
Guess what? He got an internship, and he’s having a great summer. Sharon Greenthall, Empty House Full Mind
First, Let’s Eat:
We made sure at least one, if not both of us, had breakfast and dinner with our kids almost everyday, which often meant passing on our own social activities. Now that one is in college and the other in law school, they still love to spend time with us. Clearly, as parents, we did something right. Linda Wolf, Carpool Goddess
Dinosaurs to the Rescue:
My husband and I would often share the juggling of picking the kids up from school, various activities, parties, etc. Every once in a while our plans would change (often my husband’s !) and someone else would volunteer to do the deed. If we hadn’t told them beforehand (the kids were still too young to have phones at this point) the boys knew we had a code word that the person who was picking them up had to know before they would get into the car with them. (I can tell you it now, since I don’t think they use it any longer–it was “Stegosaurus.” ) They didn’t have to use it too often, but we (and they) felt more comfortable knowing we had, a not very scientific plan, but a plan nonetheless, in place. Mindy Trotta Better After 50
A New School:
When my older sons were 9 and 10, I switched their school. They were not at a school that suited them and there was another school that I knew would be much better for them. They screamed and yelled. They said that if I was doing something that made them so unhappy, I must not care about them. I teetered on giving in. I told them if they were unhappy after a year they could go back to their old school. But in truth, I covered my ears and disregarded their pleas. I bet on the fact that I knew what was better for a fourth and fifth grader than they knew themselves.
We began this list with eight ideas of the best parenting practices from a small group of experienced moms. Will you consider adding your own tried-and-true advice in the comments below?
*Been There, Done That
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