Statistics aside, what gives anyone the right to define the perfect parent? How many of you bought the Sears book or the Spock book when you had your first baby? I won’t shake my head at you if you raised your hand to the Spock book. 😛 How many of you bought into exact methods outlined in any book? I will shake my head at you if you “Ferberized” your baby. But that’s fine because I know there are people shaking their heads at me for being so lenient with my kids. Shake away, my friends!
A friend sparked this blog topic this morning with her post on being a good mom. I applaud her for not parenting “by the book”! You go, girlfriend! None of us really do 100% of the time. Do you know why? None of our kids fit the mold for which any of those books were written. Children do not come from cookie cutters. What works for one, will not work for all. My side of the family comes from very stubborn and independent stock. (No, we weren’t raised by cattle.)
I won’t write about my downfalls because I really don’t see them as downfalls like others who may point their fingers and judge. How our kids turn out is a reflection of how they were raised.
Let me start with one of my oldest as an example. He is in college. Yes, we signed a PLUS loan to help him with tuition. He intends on repaying that himself, though. We also cover his cell phone bill on our family plan as well as his auto insurance while he’s in school. Gasp away! I can just see some of your chins dropping as you read. Are you trying to catch flies? There are parents who foot the entire college bill (they are so fortunate to afford that), and there are some who can only afford to help a little with college expenses. We fall into that category. But instead of messing with figuring out payments for the school, we help by covering these two other items. It works for us. Not that I felt compelled to explain our reasons, but I’m sure there were some out there passing judgment on this very thing. In no way is this wrong or a bad parenting decision. What would be a bad parenting decision in my mind and for my family would be to say, “Sorry bud, no can do” and then he misses out on college completely.
I do worry about keeping things “fair” for all four kids. However, I don’t necessarily believe that what you do for one, you must do for each one thereafter. Again, they are not cookie cutter kids. The first one chose to go to a trade school (Redstone College) for an 18-month program, where he will earn an associates degree.
The next, same age, is still trying to find his way. Some would consider kicking him out. <Cut to me gasping now.> Keep any judgmental opinions to yourself on this one; they aren’t helpful. What would be helpful, since he doesn’t have tons of friends to pull him into a live social network, is to keep an eye out for job openings and make recommendations (something with computers would be great – building them, repairing them, etc. – but retail is a fine start, too). This seems to be about the only way to get a job these days. You have to know someone or else your application seems to disappear into a black hole.
The next one wants to go to UNC. She wants to go into theater education, and this college has an amazing theater arts program. Between whatever scholarships she can earn in high school and the continued search and submission of applications for the abundance of scholarships available out there while in college, hopefully my husband and I will still be able to afford to travel someday.
Oh, but wait! There’s one more child. At least this one came four years later, so she will be in college (if she chooses) after the rest are done. She’s only just now finishing 7th grade, so she still changes her mind about her future. Like her sister, she will probably earn some scholarships in high school. They’re both great students, who don’t need prodding to get their homework done. Weird, huh? I must have done something right by not actually doing much at all. Just lucky? I don’t think I really believe in luck. Things are what they are.
I believe in guidance but not forcefulness. I believe in teaching by not teaching but by example. By example, we can teach our kids to be controlling and stressed out or to be relaxed, happy, and able to roll with the punches. There is no such thing as perfect. There is only an idea of “ideal”, and that is different for each of us.
That being said, my cluttered house may not be ideal for me, but a spit-spot, sparkling clean house may not be ideal for me either. A happy medium would be a great place to start, though. This is my pain point. Every one of us in this house has certain messes, some larger than others. Leading by example there didn’t really work out very well.
College and futures aside, our kids are for the most part happy, fairly laid back, fun people to be around. They aren’t hung up on perfection, yet most of them show determination. They’ve never shouted they hate me. We really don’t fight, scream, or cry at one another at all. Never have. That right there, if there were such a thing, would be a little slice of perfection in my book. It makes every day Mother’s Day!