The desire to be a “good” parent is strong in all of us. It’s an adjective we constantly try to define for ourselves and, let’s face it, other parents. It’s also a slippery slope to feeling like you’re failing if you don’t “do” for your kids every second of the day.
While I indulge my children in plenty of ways and probably do things you’d disagree with, there are certain times I draw the line. My kids are a huge part of my life, but they are not the center of the universe. The faster they learn this, the easier time they’ll have adjusting to life outside of our cozy family bubble.
So, here are the things I guiltlessly don’t do for my kids.
Play kids’ music in the car. One look at our DVR recordings will tell you that children’s television programming dominates our TV. These are the only channels I actually know by heart, and it’s the background noise of my nightly dinner prep. So, by the time we pile into the car for a drive, I refuse to listen to anymore kids’ stuff. Instead, we play the music that my husband and I want to hear. I’m not concerned with them overhearing a few bad words or picking up on lewd lyrics. If they’re anything like I was as a kid, a catchy melody will drown out the nuances of the song. What will stick is an awareness and appreciation for another generation’s music. Let’s face it, the songs of my youth are now in rotation on the classic rock stations. (And if you must play kids’ music, here’s a good list.)
Entertain them. Reading, singing, talking, dancing, playing, hugging, and kissing are all happening on a daily basis in my house, but my primary purpose as their mother is not to amuse them. I have many other things to do, most of which are for their benefit, anyway, so I don’t feel bad for setting a limit on playtime with them. They’ll be better off learning to entertain themselves independently, anyway.
Let them sit on my lap while we eat. With the exception of staving off a tantrum at a restaurant, my kids know they have to sit in their own seats at the dinner table. While there may be some larger etiquette lessons behind this rule, I put it in place simply because I’m very hungry by dinnertime, and I want to have ready access to my food, even if it’s with a screaming toddler next to me, tugging on my leg.
Let them sleep with us. If they had been bad sleepers as infants, maybe I would have given into this one out of desperation, but from day one at home, we put them to sleep in their cribs in their own rooms. We did this for both practical and symbolic reasons. Babies are noisy, and my husband and I wouldn’t have slept well with them around. Plus, we treat our bedroom as a private space, and the kids need to take the hint that we have a relationship separate from them. When they have a bad dream and pay us a visit in the middle of the night, they get a quick snuggle in bed and are escorted back to their own rooms.
Fill all of our free time with kids’ activities. This is partly made possible because I have the opportunity to take my kids to activities during the week, but it’s also by design. As a family, we have to balance time in a way that works for everyone, even if the kids don’t always like it. I don’t know how this principle will apply in the future when they’re on sports teams and in other demanding activities, but I’m pretty confident it means we’ll make them choose between activities, so that we preserve some free time for all of us.
You may whole heartedly disagree with the ways I’ve chosen to say no to my kids, and that’s fine. What I hope you take away is the motivation to set your own boundaries for yourself as a parent. You’ll be better off and so will your children. Kids don’t know they’re not the center of the universe, and without our help, they never will.