Dear Fellow Parents:
Fess up–this parenting thing is harder than you thought it would be. When they were babies and you were living in that dark tunnel of no sleep-crying-poop, you thought, “It’s going to get better.” And it did, depending on the how terrible twos and threes went for you. Or you at least got used to it. (Side note: have you noticed every time you figure out something, like how to handle tantrums, your child evolves and creates a new nightmare of crazy that you never imagined you’d have to deal with?)
Here’s the thing: parenting is hard and for me, the older they get, the more challenging it gets. Now we’re not just responsible for feeding and changing; we are responsible for creating members of society. I think one big step toward that is stopping all this holiday blow out nonsense. I’ve complained about it. Others have complained about it. It’s like a runaway train of ridiculous.
For today though, I’d like to address a specific issue: rules. Our world is constructed of rules. It’s how we train the id that it’s not okay to just do whatever it wants. It’s why my toddler gets so frustrated with me (“No Alex, we do not pull down our pants and wiggle our hips and boy parts at passing ladies”). Kids have a hard enough time learning to make moral decisions and obey the rules. Please stop picking which rules they follow.
At my daughter’s school, the kids are not supposed to bring toys to school, wear sandals, or wear short skirts. From my perspective, these are all logical rules: toys get broken, lost, or cause outbreaks of “It’s mine!” Sandals are not the best footwear for playing outside or going to PE. And as for the skirts? They are little girls, not contestants on The Bachelor.
When we first enrolled in our current school, I sat down and read the handbook cover to cover. Our family talked about the rules and expectations so everyone was aware of them. And we follow them.
Where this gets hard is that other parents pick and choose which rules their children should follow. Every time I dropped my daughter off last fall, I got to watch a number of little girls in ribboned, jeweled, or otherwise adorned sandals tromp into school. A friend of my daughter keeps bringing her entire collection of My Little Pony for recess. And when I pick my daughter up I’ve seen way too much little girl bootie exposed when bending over to pick up backpacks.
So what, Amber? Who cares? It’s just silly stuff. It’s not like they’re breaking important rules. They’re kids! Let them enjoy it.
My point is this: when a parent allows a child to knowingly break a rule, especially one established by someone else, they are teaching their child two things. First, that they can pick and choose which rules they want to follow depending on what they want. Second, they are more important and special than other people because the rules don’t apply to them.
I’m not saying we should all raise little conformists. My daughter electing to bring vegan snacks for her week as snack helper proves that. But when we model from an early age a disregard for rules and guidelines, we are teaching children that those types of behaviors are acceptable.
About once a week I have to explain to Lili why she can’t wear sandals or take her toys. We’ve actually gone and read the handbook now that her reading is better and I try to explain why these rules exist. Still, a few weeks ago she went against the rules and took a pony stowaway to school so she would have one to play with at recess. When we found out about it, she lost the privilege of playing with the pony for two days (“what you abuse, you lose”). She was upset, arguing that other little girls got to bring their toys. My reply was merely, “That’s between them and their parents. We follow the rules.”
These children are going to grow into young adults and adults who need to at least understand the importance of rules. Certainly they can and should question them, but in the end part of being a grownup in following rules, particularly those set up for good reasons.
I’m your biggest fan, fellow parents, because I know how hard this is for all of us. Just please make your daughters wear tennis shoes.