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Choices. And dates. & stuff.

August 24, 2010

Over at Motherhood Uncensored, the challenges keep on coming.

Dates with the Kids (No. 22).

While they may not always happen at night, and it doesn’t always have to be a major outing, setting aside 1:1 and special time with one kid – regardless of the age – is always a great idea.  I feel like it’s become even more important as my kids get older.  They don’t tend to come out with personal things casually at the dinner table, and they tend to roll their eyes at my questions if they pop out in th day-to-day.  But when there is a purposed event or outing, we just connect better.  Even if I don’t get a major heart-to-heart, I get a different insight on what that person is thinking about, who they are talking to and how, and how they’re feeling about themselves – unfiltered through their own defensiveness over how their sibling will perceive what they said, or through the distraction of other conversations happening in the house or computers on the lap or text messages buzzing in the hand.

Choices (No. 23)

Limited choices was a huge parenting breakthrough for me when my kids were little, and I was making the journey from the parent I was raised to be (spanking, threats, punishments) to the parent that I wanted to be (discipline through teaching, respectful, positive).  I don’t know that I use it so much anymore, though.  Maybe when apportioning out chores: “do you want to vacuum, or dust?”  Also in budgeting situations – thinking about how there are not infinite resources.  That’s not really the point.

Now that the girls’ brains have developed – at least a little, I don’t need the “limited choices” to give them the feeling of some control.  They do have some control.  It’s a reality.  While they can’t stand in the middle of our kitchen and demand fried chicken (if there is no fried chicken), I can tell them, “if you’re hungry, go find something to eat.”  I really am having a hard time finding a place where the concept fits in for a 12 and 14 year old.  I will probably need to update when something comes to mind.

“Good” or “Bad” Choices (no. 24 – current!)

Eh.  I don’t know about this.  Doesn’t it sort of go back to the whole “good job” point from the earlier challenges?  I’m not as keen on labeling things “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.”  And I wasn’t when I was at my best back in the day, either.  Especially now, my kids need to know less about the subjective label that could be assigned to their choices, and need to understand more how their choices affect their future, how they affect others, what the consequences would be.  If Mouse decides to go along with her friends in shunning another girl in their class, is that “bad choice”?  Or a “wrong choice?”  Yah.  But I’d rather not deal with her throwing up walls at the insult, at my categorization when I, an adult, “don’t understand” or maybe “don’t know what it’s like,” or some other subjective complaint.  I’d rather talk through with her what that choice meant to the child who was shunned.  What it means to her own reputation, to her friends’ ability to trust her.   How she would feel if she were in that situation.  I’d like to let her come to a place of understanding the “wrong” choice on her own, and to find & assign such a label herself.

Same thing if Lemon chooses to spend all her allowance on a dress at the mall.  Even knowing she had plans to go out to lunch with friends the next day.  Maybe her choice was “wrong” because now she has to cancel her plans because I’m sure as hell not giving her more money than her already-generous allowance.  But the “wrongness” of that is better felt and internalized when the consequences of that choice are allowed to unfold (and I don’t give her more $$).

Now what about a Mom’s bad choices?  Like when I make a mistake thinking that those action movies from the 1980s were totally fine, and not at all violent, and it would be FINE to bring my 14yo to her first rated R movie in a theater to see the bloody, horrible, detestable “Expendables”?  I promise you, Lemon labeled that choice for me.  And jeered at me for it, the entire way home.   And the movie, in general, sucked.  Bad day, there.  Good thing we didn’t bring Mouse along.  I would have warped her for life.

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