I was accidentally watching Caillou this morning (actually, it was on the television because I was letting the boys watch tv longer than I normally do for a variety of reasons) and that little boy makes me insane. Putting that experience together with a couple of awesome essays I read earlier on babble (http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1HTrXR/www.babble.com/kid/school-and-learning/preparing-kids-for-disappointment//r:f and http://babble.com/CS/blogs/holding-down-the-fort/archive/2010/07/26/accommodation-vs-overindulgence.aspx) made me think about my own theories on parenting, what I’ve learned over the past seven and a half years. My beloved Jessica is exceptionally dramatic. This is fabulous, mostly. But not so much when she stubs her toe and screams like it’s been sawed off with a knife. Not so much when she can’t fold the towel to fit in her beach bag and has to throw herself on the bed and sob like someone has died. My son is very easy going, almost all the time, but exceptionally stubborn when he does have a tantrum – to the point where I mostly give in if he’s really, really upset.
Caillou bugs me because he whines and complains and acts younger than he is, just because he’s lazy and a wuss. Okay, I’ve said it. I like kids who try to do stuff, who don’t pretend that they can’t because it’s fun to be babied. I like children who can play independently, “using their brains” is the phrase I use when I flick off the television and insist that they play. I never played baby dolls or cars with my kids – because they are perfectly capable of creating their own games. I encourage my seven year old to get her own clothes together, my four year old to get his own drinks. I want them to grow up. I love this stage, with little kids and babies but have no real desire to keep them this way (other than the wistful little moments when I want to freeze time and keep them like this forever).
But I also really hate making my kids unhappy. I hate it when I have to draw a line in the sand, have a battle of wills and win just because I’m bigger and I’m the parent. I know it’s a necessary part of parenting, and hands down, it’s the area I struggle with the most. How much am I accomodating their needs and how much am I letting them get away with stuff they shouldn’t?
Does every parent always feel a least a little bit inadequate? I think I’m pretty good at this job, and the basic mechanics of it, those I’ve got down cold. I know how often to feed them, how much sleep they require. I know how to give a bath, how to entice a child to eat veggies. How to set limits, teach manners, and how to balance out free time versus structured time. But the other stuff… that’s where I’m constantly questioning myself. Should I let Jess and Sam bicker or do I intercede? Should I try harder to get Julie on a routine, or continue to just let her day sort of flow according to her needs and mine? Where do you draw the line between protecting your kids and encouraging them to take risks and try new things?