Friday, March 22, 2013

Keep Your Eyes on the Goal (And Take Them Off Your Kids Once in Awhile)

Sometimes I feel like I must be from an alternate universe.

I was reminded of this when a recent discussion at church turned to how we, as women, focus so much time and energy on our children that we never do anything for ourselves.  "I never get a minute to myself!" one woman lamented while the rest nodded their heads in agreement.

Um, you don't?  What's wrong with you?  Once 1:00 hits all my little darlings are sent to their bedrooms for one blissful hour of quiet time, whereupon I do whatever I darn well please.  I don't clean.  I don't cook.  I don't do anything that could be classified as "work."  I read or blog or do something else I enjoy.  Sometimes I even take a nap.

And guess what?  It's not just good for me, it's good for them.

Yes, most things have to be done with the children tagging along (especially when they are young), and children have to come first a lot because they tend to have pressing needs (most of which are discovered as soon as you set foot in the bathroom), but I'm not going to spend my entire day attending to them.  As my sister likes to say, "I am not the entertainment committee!"  Yes, I play with my kids.  I read to them and play hide and seek and jump on the trampoline, but if I'm up to my elbows in dirty dishwater and they complain that they are bored I will not stop what I'm doing to pull out Candy Land.  I'll send them to clean their rooms.

Children need to learn how to entertain themselves.  They need to learn how to play and navigate friendships without their mothers running interference for them every 5 minutes.  This is why I have no problem going to the playground, parking myself on a bench with my i-phone, and shooing them in the direction of the slides.  We are not there so they can play with me, we are there so they can play without me.

Of course, an attitude like this can get you in trouble these days, because there is a huge percentage of people who get all judgy if you're not staring at your children 24 hours a day.  (Hence blog posts like "Dear Mom on the iPhone", the purpose of which is to make everyone who has ever looked away from their little cherub's face feel guilty for doing so).

Today's parenting mantra:  You should never take your eyes off your child!

Are you enjoying that game of Words with Friends?  You shouldn't be!  You should be watching (and cataloguing) every single moment of your child's existence!  No picking up a book when you could be watching your kid play freeze tag.  And don't even think about sending him to the park by himself!  Besides missing out on whatever bliss is derived from watching him go down the same slide 97 times, if you are not there he might get hurt!  Or kidnapped!  Or worse!

My sister and I were discussing this and decided that it's pretty ironic that today's parents tell their kids they can do anything, have anything, be anything, and yet, when it comes down to it, these same parents actually don't believe their children can do anything at all.  You want to walk to your friend's house by yourself?  No!  You might get kidnapped!  You want to go to the bathroom by yourself?  No!  You'll get molested!  Don't talk to strangers!  Don't use that butter knife!  Let me tie your shoes!  I brought your coat in case you get cold!  I called the teacher and got her to change your grade!  

Instead of arming our kids with knowledge and giving them reasonable amounts of responsibility, independence, and accountability, we do everything for them.  "You might hurt yourself!" we say, as we continue slicing apples for our teenagers.  And then we wonder why they graduate from high school and park themselves on our couch for the next fifteen years.

What is the goal of parenting?  To produce an independent adult.  And how does one produce an independent adult?  Well, it's a process.  But you can start by taking your eyes off your child once in awhile.

So take a few minutes for yourself.  Go on.

And don't feel guilty for doing so.


Suzanne Lucas said...

Bonnie, you are brilliant.

Bonnie said...

Awww, thanks, Suz. I take after my brilliant older sister, of course.

Cameron and Nonie said...

perfect. Wouldn't have been able to say that better.

Stephanie Black said...

LOVE this.

Brenna said...

Amen. So very, very, true, and I only wish more people realized it.

Lisa, An American Mom said...

Fan flippin tastic!!!

J White said...

Amen sister!

Amy Lou said...

Here via free range kids blog. What a completely refreshing amazing mom you are! Do you ever get reprimanded?

Bonnie said...

Thanks so much, everyone!

@Amy Lou, I've certainly had my share of sideways looks and snide comments about my parenting skills, but I can only think of two times that I've been told flat out that I was a bad mother. The first time I just chalk up to the fact that the lady was a complete psycho. But here's what I wrote about the second time:

Amy Lou said...

So I went to the post you directed me to re winter coats. I've done that with each of my kids; most of them only required it once. Also read "Dear Mom on the Iphone." What self-rightious drivel! Those are the kids who, in high school, wander around with their lunch tray with no welcoming table at which to sit.

I'm pretty sure this is the best blog in the history of the blog universe. I share your feelings but have felt uneasy because, I think, people who parent this way these days are less vocal and societal norms create a subtle, persistent pressure to over-parent.

Sandie Waters said...

Bonnie...I just saw you quoted ( by Lenore Skenazy. I was thrilled that now more of the world get to enjoy your blog posts. You are wonderful, witty, and wise...thanks for sharing with me and with the world. many words can I worm into one wordy sentence...LOL

Bonnie said...

@Amy Lou, Thank you for your kind words, and I agree - so much pressure to over-parent these days. I guess that means we need to be a little bit louder. :)

@Sandie, thank you! Nice to see you poking around my blog again. :)

Let Her Eat Dirt said...

I saw your post on Free Range kids -- well said! I get so frustrated with the expectation that parents are expected to be hovering over their children at all times. It drives both parents and kids nuts!

The most important point you make is that it actually benefits kids to have more time alone, without supervision and intervention.

Let Her Eat Dirt

Shay said...

Bonnie, I came over from Free Range Kids and am delighted to not only have found an intelligent new blog to read, but to have found another mom who believes that a mom with her own interests is a good thing for kids. Sometimes I feel like the only alien. Thanks for sharing your article!