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Friday, April 14, 2017

Пятница Ponderings: Parenting via the Internet

Ponder: to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate 
Пятница (PYAHT-nee-tsuh): Friday in Russian


I read a blog post this week that was all about the things you MUST do with your daughter before she's grown. Now, I have sons, not daughters, but I was raised in a family of all daughters. And I'm not linking to the specific blog post I read because I am not slamming it or the author. Truly. Her points were good for her family. What I have a problem with is people who think they have all the answers.

The reason I saw that particular blog post was because my sweet mother shared it on Facebook with the caption: "I did some of this with my girls. Wish I had known to do more." That caption bugged the hell out of me and I hated that post for making my Mom feel like she wasn't an adequate mother. She is a fantastic mother and grandmother.

For everything I like about social media, there are things I hate. And I absolutely hate that social media just makes our self-worth plummet. Social media is all about extremes. It's either "my life is perfect" or "my life is a train wreck". People overshare and only put up things that make them look perfect or they overshare and all we see are the troubles and drama.

Reality television has made living your life in front of an audience appealing and it gives people the impression that their lives and opinions are important to strangers. And it leaves the viewers or readers believing that their own lives are so much less than the lives that they see on the screen. The reality is that reality television, honest true-life reality, wouldn't get very many viewers.

All of these lifestyle/family/mommy blogs are great, but the idea that anyone has the best way/style/whatever for raising children grates on me.

"Hi! Look at me! Here's my perfect little family, documented in thousands of perfectly-styled and posed pictures. Listen to us as we tell you how you can raise perfect little angels in a perfectly decorated house just like ours."

I started this blog to remember what books I read. I keep my family life fairly private, but I share things here and there. I try to be honest though and I would never presume to tell you how to think or feel or parent. Heck, I didn't even tell you how I voted or who you should vote for. If you're a regular visitor, you know I'm snarky and opinionated, but I'm never cruel.

So here's my two cents about the parenting thing: parent what works for you just don't presume to tell the rest of us how we need to do it.

If you have suggestions or want to share your parenting styles and tips, go ahead. But in this case, wouldn't a better title be: "The things WE want to do with (or teach) our daughters before they're grown" instead of "you MUST do"? And, how about asking readers to share the things they think are important in raising their own children?

This was what I commented on the post my mother shared:

You did just fine! You excelled at the reading, the cooking and the traditions thing! 😉 We didn't go to the Nutcracker until we were all adults, but you did manage that one, too... 😉 And, my childhood wasn't ruined because we didn't make mailboxes together. You talked to us face to face and I still have notes that you and Dad wrote to me. We didn't need to have special days out in nature, because we played outside all the time and we went camping. I don't remember visiting BYU or USU as a child, but guess what? We all went to college anyway! You and Dad gave us a great childhood and raised 4 pretty awesome daughters, quirks and all, who contribute and serve. I think that this day of over sharing and social media comparisons only serves to make us all feel inadequate. Kudos to this woman for choosing 12 things she thinks are important. I have my own ideas of what things are important in raising two boys and that list does not include manufacturing little vignettes of perfectness. I think that knowing you're loved is the most important thing you can give your kids and you and Dad certainly did a wonderful job with that. 

Our boys don't have scrapbooks full of picture-perfect experiences. I bribe them not to go trick or treating and we see a movie on Halloween instead. They've only each had one actual birthday party with invited friends and decorations. When I have joked before that our Family Motto is rule #5 from Alcatraz, I am not kidding. They can quote it to you. They vacuum the floor and clean the bathroom. I send them outside to play. Their rooms aren't decorated. Honestly, The Boy's room? It still has the floral border around it from when we first moved into this house. He just put up his posters over it. He sleeps on our old futon and loves it. The Artist? He sleeps on an old queen mattress on the floor of his room. No kidding. He likes it. His room is decorated with his art work and is still the original paint color it was when we moved in.

I'm snarky and often say things out of frustration. I forgot to take a new school picture of them at the first of the school year and even when I do, it's not color coordinated and posed. (Those of you who do that? Kudos. They're gorgeous.)

I worked full-time when my boys were little, because The Doctor was in Chiropractic school. From the time they were 3 months old until The Boy was 6 and The Artist 4, they were in daycare. And guess what? I have no regrets for doing that. I didn't miss out on anything important with my boys. It worked for us and our situation in life. They were in a fantastic home; The Boy has good memories of being there, The Artist doesn't and we are still close friends with the family who cared for them.

I make the boys talk to their teachers themselves about their grades and assignments. When they were little, we even took them out of church when they cried and were disruptive, rather than disturb everyone around us. And we made them sit quietly in the foyer and not run around when other toddlers did. We were so mean. We still are. Seriously. They don't even get to have overnighters with friends unless it's a scout camp out.

And horror of horrors: They. Have. Never. Been. To. Disneyland.

I should be locked up.

You want to know what our parenting style is? The Doctor and I want our boys to know they're loved. We think that is the most important thing we can do as parents. We have worked for 18 years at having relationships with the boys that ensure that they talk to us. We also say, "Yes" as much we can. Sometimes our humor might be questionable, but we laugh. A lot. They know that we love them. They know that they can ask questions and they do. We have some great discussions.  They know that home is a safe place. They're 16 and 18 and they're not afraid to say, "I love you" to us and to each other. They're not afraid to hug us or each other and show affection.

We have created traditions. Some have come about by accident, some by design. A tradition is simply something that becomes important to you and your family and something you want to do more than once. Some of our traditions have come about because the boys wanted them. Like this weekend. Last year we were in Utah visiting friends over Easter and we went to Music and the Spoken Word on Easter Sunday. The choir did selections from Handel's Messiah. It was awesome and the boys decided that we needed to do that every Easter. So, we're going to Utah this weekend. We didn't contrive a tradition, it happened naturally. We created other traditions like new Christmas ornaments every year and snuggle nights with Dad where they sleep out in the living room. When The Boy learned how to drive, they created their own brotherly tradition of ice cream runs (which is going out together to get ice cream shakes because after 8:00 they're only $1.00).

We took our boys out to dinner and to museums at an early age and taught them how we expect them to behave in those circumstances.

I read to them when they were little and they've been surrounded by books all their lives. While they like books and like reading, things like games and streaming came into the world and so neither one is the ultimate bookworm I had hoped to foster. I'm surprised at how little that bothers me, although I cherish the moments I catch them reading.

They know how to work hard. They can still fight with each other like tiger cubs (giant tiger cubs), but they're kind and they help others. We're incredibly proud of them and I think they just came to us good and we have managed to not screw them up too terribly, so far.

So, parent the way you think is best. Parent what works for you. And what works for one child, might not work the same for another. Do your best. Parenting is such an individual thing. I personally believe the most important thing is that your kids know they are loved and will talk to you and that is more important to me than color-coordinated birthday parties or manufactured vignettes of perfectness, but to each his own.

Make your own lists of what you think is important as parents, don't worry about someone else's.

Keep doing what you're doing if it's working for you, and stop comparing yourself to others, because you're all fantastic parents. Don't let some anonymous person on the Internet let you feel differently.

What is your parenting style or philosophy? What's worked for you?

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