We spend so much time as parents thinking about how (or how not) to establish a precedent. We are constantly aware of the importance (and the risk) of setting up patterns and long-term habits and routines that will follow our families in our daily lives. Ever present in our minds is the end result, the long term, the end of the road. Ideally, when we reach our destination, after we have followed our carefully laid out the map, we will pass under the magical rainbow arches of parental victory–the victory of course being well-behaved, well-adjusted, imaginative and incredibly HAPPY children. This HAPPINESS that will belong to our children, whom we’ve guided down the twisted and torqued path of life, will of course be totally due to our parental wisdom both in the short and long term decisions for their lives.
Their ideal eating habits will obviously be the result of the meals we have meticulously and diligently planned and prepared. Their intellectual curiosity will naturally be the result of the countless books we read to them when they were kids. And, because we limited tv usage and made up math problems for them during dinner, our children will hunger for knowledge. Their sense of communal obligation will be due to the fact that we encouraged service and volunteerism in the local community. For this reason, we figure, no decision is a decision in a vacuum. Each time we allow or do not allow something has weight for all those future momentous life events.
Almost daily I hear myself thinking or saying, “Yeah but….I don’t want her to think she’ll get an Oreo EVERY time she cries. …Yeah, but I don’t want her to think I will rock her to sleep EVERY single night. …Yeah but if I let her out of clean-up time now, she’ll never clean up. …Yeah, but if he is allowed to be rude today, he’ll be rude tomorrow and he’ll never learn manners.” Lord does it go on, and on, and on.
I mean look. I don’t want asshole kids. I really don’t. None of us do. And I like to think that I might have a hand in how they turn out or else, what am I doing?
It is of course incredibly important to adhere to overarching principles in our daily lives. Those principles make us who we are, and make our families truly unique.
But today, I was able to see very clearly that the long haul was not the determining factor. Today the determining factor was….today. It felt so good to step out of the box, chill out, and enjoy. So we got ice cream immediately after school. We played at the park, came home and watched a movie. We read a few extra stories at bed time. Today I did what I needed to do to keep everyone smiling as much as possible (including me.) Long-term life goals be damned. Will they think they can watch a movie every day after school? Will they think an ice cream cone is a right rather than a privilege? Who knows. They’ll figure those answers out soon enough.
But maybe by keeping everyone smiling as much as possible, maybe by relaxing, going with the flow and not worrying so much, I actually WAS taking the long view. Maybe casting those principles out the door was not only OK, but beneficial.
A strung-out Mom can cause sadness and pain that can last forever. Ice cream and tv? Not so much. So I am thinking that my short-term ice cream park movie taco night late bedtime solution was in fact also a long-term solution. At least, for today. Sometimes, it’s OK to let go in order to keep the peace. Because I truly believe it’s the peace that stays with us. And the rest falls away.