It’s true. It takes a village to raise children. I think I have been a village for my family and friends; I’ve diagnosed dehydration or croup over the phone, I’ve made emergency trips to elementary schools to help the children of friends, I’ve offered sleeping strategies to strung-out moms. But now I need a village.
I am old-fashioned. I know that. So things that may seem antiquated or ridiculous to other parents are important to me.
My children go to bed early. Jack goes to bed at 7:30 and Caroline goes to bed between 8:00 and 8:30. I know preschoolers who don’t go to bed until 10:00, so Caroline (correctly) tells me she has an earlier bedtime than anyone she knows. Well, guess what? Those are the times when my kids are tired. If they stay up later, they’re pretty much disasters the next day. If they stay up later, they’re still up at the crack of dawn the next day, and then they’re miserable and falling asleep at the table.
I hate sleepovers. See the previous item on the list.
I think food groups are important. I want my kids to have learned that protein and fruits and calcium matter. I want them to know they can eat sweets after they’ve filled up on the healthy stuff. I want them to know that almost anything in moderation is okay. I think I am dooming them to a life of bad eating habits if I don’t consistently focus on good eating habits now.
I think it’s important to give my children the gift of faith and then practice it. In our family, that means going to church. In some families, it means taking a walk and appreciating nature. Whatever it is, it instills a sense of comfort that can be monumental as they get older and life gets harder.
My kids aren’t allowed to watch the news. They don’t know who Osama Bin Laden is, even today. They don’t need to hear about war and rape and fires and murder and economic upheaval. I believe they’ll learn about those things in time, but they’re too young to see the dirty underbelly of the world right now.
I think respect is crucial. My children call my friends Mrs. Smith or Mr. Hall. They don’t call them “Annie” or “Mr. Matt.” They don’t call my pediatrician friend by her first name, despite the eye-rolling she gives me when they address her as “Dr. Collins.” I think respect, gratitude and good manners are all such important lessons that need to be taught.
I flatly refuse to spoil my children with anything other than love. For Jack, it’s hard that I won’t run through the grocery store buying him toys because they’re there and they’ve caught his eye. Caroline has figured out you have to save money to buy the things you really want, particularly when you’re caught right between your birthday and Christmas. I don’t want them to grow up with a sense of entitlement because they get everything they want as soon as they want it. I want them to work for things, or appreciate things when they are given to them.
I won’t pay my children, or buy them things, for good grades. I will hug and kiss and congratulate them and talk about how proud they must be and I am, but I won’t equate grades with money or presents. I think that screws up their motivation.
I think grammar is important. I don’t do LOL or OMG or LMFAO. I know what they mean, and I know they’re part of our lexicon now, but I hate those acronyms. If you use the words right, you don’t need emoticons or acronyms to drive home your point.
I don’t think elementary-age kids should be allowed to say “shut up” and “you suck.” I also heartily disagree with the third grader who likes to play beer pong (with water) when she has friends over. I am not happy with the third grader who looked up the f-word and asked Jack to read it out loud to give her a laugh. I don’t want my kids to be like any of those kids.
I don’t like the Wii and the DSi and the tween tv shows and the obsession kids have with anything on a screen. Jack was excited to watch Caroline’s class presentation because there was a Powerpoint element and she told him he’d get to see a movie...he wasn't excited to learn about blue fairy whales and komodo dragons, he was sold on the idea of a movie. Yuck. I think these things pull kids into solitary little bubbles and take away from imaginative play, reading, fresh air and human beings.
Okay, so now you understand why I felt sort of sorry for Amy Chua. We are all doing the best we can. We are all parenting the way we think is right. And then (some of us are) getting criticized. Because, frankly, some of us are wrong. Some of us are making mistakes that we refuse to see.
For every item on my list, I could relate at least two snarky and critical comments I’ve received from my friends. They do roll their eyes and probably whisper about me behind my back, and I get plenty of digs to my face. My own husband thinks I make the kids go to bed too early, based solely on the fact we're usually the first to leave family dinner parties. I’m starting to be a little concerned that I should be paying attention to all of them.
So here’s my question, and I’d seriously like an answer. Am I harming my kids, socially, by making them so different from their peers? Should I let Caroline stay up as late as she wants when she’s with her friends and just suck it up when she’s a crying mess? Should I let Jack forgo a game of tag outside with the neighbors to play a video game? Should I embrace McDonalds because they’re the only kids on the planet who have never had a Happy Meal?
Can I parent the way I want to, or is the way I want so out-of-touch and old-fashioned that it’s not what’s best for my children?
If you have an answer, or an opinion, please leave me a comment. I’d really like to know what you think!