Without a doubt, parenting has been the most wonderful and most challenging experience of my life.
I believe most people will agree that at the moment you hear your unborn child’s heartbeat you fall instantly in love. By the time that sweet little baby turns ten; however, you are starting to wonder if you can send him or her back until they are twenty-five.
Before having my first child, I was certain that I had it all figured out. Now, two kids and fifteen years later, I know that I know nothing and my daughters are more than happy to remind me of that.
Most recently, my youngest, eleven, told me that my parenting is “old-fashioned.” To be honest, I’m not even sure what that means. I believe in seat belts, kids sitting in the back seat of the car, brushing three times a day, and praying before going to sleep. No matter how old they are, I will always worry about them crossing the street.
Like most parents, in furtherance of my “old-fashioned” parenting techniques, I have tried to teach my children responsibility for themselves, respect for others and their property, not to steal, not to lie and to work hard and give their best effort in everything.
I will admit that on more occasions than one I have been known to sweat the small stuff. I have allowed myself to become upset about messy bedrooms, dishes that are left strewn about the house and laundry that makes it in the vicinity of the basket, but not in the basket.
My recognition of the insignificance of some of our conflicts came to a head when my youngest and I had a debate over cereal. Yes, cereal. I believe cereal is a breakfast food and was constantly aggravated that my daughter would not quit eating cereal after school despite my frequent requests to STOP.
I would like to say that there was some great reasons why I said “no”, like “she should be eating a healthier snack” (which are amply available in our house), or “I don’t want her to ruin her appetite before dinner”, but alas, neither was the reason for my opposition.
My reason can best be explained with a story that I heard once, it goes something like this…a young woman was helping her mother prepare for Easter dinner when she saw her mother slice the top off the ham. Curious as to why her mother did this she asked. Her mother replied “because that is just the way it’s done. My mother did it like that and her mother did it like that.” The young woman, not being satisfied with the answer, went to her grandmother and asked the same question. Again, she was told “that’s just the way it’s done. I did it like that and my mother did it like that.” Still not being satisfied with the answer, the young woman went to her great-grandmother and asked “Grandma, why is it that you cut the top off the ham. Does it make it juicier? Does it make it taste better?” “No”, her grandmother replied “my oven was too small.”
There was the reason for not allowing my daughter to eat cereal after school, because as a child, I was not allowed to eat cereal after school. I started to wonder about all of the other things I say “no” to as a part of a conditioned response and not because it has anything to do with what is in their best interest.
Now, before I have a knee-jerk reaction to something my kids want, I ask myself “am I doing this because my oven is too small?”