When I was pregnant with my first child, I had a whole list of things that I swore I’d NEVER do as a parent. On the other hand, there were a few things that I absolutely swore I WOULD do, without fail. Keep reading to see what they are and whether reality matched up to my expectations.
Things I Never Thought I’d Do as a Parent
Let’s start with the things I swore I’d never do as a parent. It’s actually a pretty short list. I had enough parent friends before my kids came along to know that the universe takes words like “never will I ever” as a sort of dare. Still, there were a few things that I was 100,000% convinced I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever do. Let’s see how the universe reacted to those dares!
1. Let my kids cry or throw tantrums in public
I think this is the one universal thing that we all swear we’ll never do as a parent. It usually pops into our heads after seeing a toddler have a meltdown in aisle 5. We cast sidelong glances and smugly tell ourselves that if our kids did that, we’d immediately leave the store. Of course, our kids wouldn’t do it in the first place because we’d be such rockstar parents that they’d never even dream of acting out in such an undignified manner.
Then it happens. Without rhyme, reason, or explanation our typically sweet, charming toddler has an epic “break the sound barrier” tantrum, right in the middle of aisle 5. Our carts are full, our pantries at home are empty. If we don’t check out, we’ll all starve or go broke from ordering takeout.
As we’re checking out as fast as humanely possible we hear the woman behind us turn to her husband and say, “Our kids will NEVER do that!” We laugh. We laugh so hard that we practically cry (because let’s be honest, we were already on the verge of tears anyway). Then, we look up at the sky and say to the universe, “Well played.”
2. Co-sleep or lay with my kids until they fell asleep
I read all of the parenting books before my son was born, so I knew the importance of a really good bedtime routine. I thought for sure I’d have it down pat by the time my son was old enough to argue with me about bedtimes. He’d have his bath, brush his teeth, and drift peacefully off to sleep while listening to a story. No problem! I mean, how hard can it be to get a child to go to sleep?
Turns out, very hard. Kids become expert negotiators the moment their head hits the pillow. I swear, they could negotiate a hostage situation to the point that the bad guy asks what he can do for them!
I quickly learned, though, that nine times out of ten my kids aren’t trying to “con” me into letting them stay up late so they can have extra playtime. It’s actually more about keeping me in the room with them. Maybe they’re scared or feeling lonely, or just want a few more moments of my attention.
So, I started laying with my kids until they either fell asleep or told me that they didn’t need me to stay with them anymore. Some nights I was out of their room within minutes. Other nights, I stayed for hours. And yes, sometimes they even slept with me all night. I didn’t do it to “spoil” or “coddle” them. I did it because they deserve to know that I will always be there when they need me.
3. Let my kids win
I’m not just talking about not letting them win games, although that’s part of it. I’m talking about things like letting them argue with me to the point that I change my mind. Basically, I swore that my kids would always respect my authority and just do what they’re told.
Then, sometime before my son was even old enough to start “talking back,” I read an article somewhere that talked about how it’s actually very important to let kids “win” from time to time. I don’t remember the original article, but this one is pretty similar.
As psychology professor, Dr. Nancy Darling explains, “Letting a child win an argument is a great way to increase your authority. Because you want them to know when they come to you with a disagreement, you’ll argue it out and then sometimes they win. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind.”
Plus, letting them win teaches them important life skills, like how to stand up for what they believe in, how to properly negotiate, and how to choose their battles. So while I still don’t let them win when we’re playing board games, I do let them “convince” me to change my mind sometimes.
4. Let my daughter be a “princess”
I mentioned this when I was talking about how to raise independent and self-confident daughters, so if you read that post you already know how this one went. If you didn’t, here’s the gist:
When I found out I was having a girl, I swore I wouldn’t buy her Barbies, dress her in all pink, or surround her with images of princesses. I didn’t want her to think that she had to like those things just because she was a girl or think that those things represented the “ideal” woman. I wanted her to feel free to like whatever she wanted, even if it didn’t fit the archaic idea of “girl stuff.”
The thing is, she ended up liking all of those things on her own. She wanted to wear pink frills, get her nails done, and play princess with Barbie dolls. That’s who she is. I’d be a hypocrite if I told her she couldn’t like those things. I’d be telling her that she could only feel free to be herself if she did it in a way that I agreed with. So, she’s a princess and that’s that.
5. Judge other parents
Long before having kids, I made a promise to myself to not judge other parents for their choices. I mean, sure, there are exceptions. Abuse should never be tolerated or accepted. But I swore that I wouldn’t be one of those moms who shamed other moms for doing things differently than I do when it comes to basic parenting styles.
You know the type, right? They shame you for using disposable versus cloth diapers or mock you for using cloth versus disposable. They cluck their tongues and wag their fingers at you because you co-sleep, or because you don’t. They write smug little diatribes on a Facebook post about how they never thought about returning their baby to sender after a particularly rough night dealing with colic because they actually love their children, and shame on you for ever thinking such thoughts.
Shame, shame, shame. That’s their favorite little game. So yes, I swore I would never be one of “those” moms. I thought I was doing a pretty good job at keeping that promise, but then I realized that judging judgy moms still counts as judging other moms if that makes sense.
If I really think about it some more, I probably am a bit judgmental about certain parenting choices and styles. I don’t believe in punishing kids for bad grades, for example. So I don’t really understand why others do. I believe that dads don’t babysit their kids, they RAISE them. So my hackles go up when I hear someone say, “My husband is watching the kids for me tonight, isn’t that nice of him?”
But I mostly keep it to myself. So, while I’ve managed to keep my promise to not shame other moms, I do have to be honest with myself and admit that I can be a bit judgmental at times too. I guess it’s just human nature.
Things That I Knew I’d Definitely Do as a Parent
Okay, so as we can see, I pretty much do all of the things that I swore I’d never do as a parent, at least to some degree. Now, how about the things I promised myself I WOULD do? Let’s find out!
1. Avoid yelling
As I’ve said before, I strongly believe yelling at kids doesn’t really accomplish anything except scaring them, and I never wanted them to look at me with fear in their eyes. So, I promised myself that I wouldn’t fly off the handle and constantly yell at my kids.
So far, I think I’m doing pretty good at keeping this promise. I’m not saying I never, ever, ever shout. I’m human, after all, and just as prone to outbursts as the next person.
When I do yell, though, it’s usually because my kids are dashing off into mortal danger. Screaming “STOP!!” is a lot more effective than quietly saying, “Darling, I know you think you’re invincible, and yes you really can run very fast, but that oncoming car is much faster, so please consider stopping.”
2. Let my kids be bored
I promised myself that I wouldn’t be the type of parent that feels like I have to fill every single moment of every single day with some sort of activity for my kids. I’d make sure they had plenty of free time to just be kids.
Oh, and if they said, “I’m bored,” I wouldn’t pull out my printed list of “1,000 ways to entertain your children” and give them a Pinterest-perfect craft to do or something. Nope. I’d tell them “Then find something to do!” I’m proud to say I’ve kept this promise, too, and my kids are so much more creative because of it.
3. Model good behavior
I think we all make this promise to ourselves and our future children, but it’s probably the hardest one to live up to. I don’t want to be a “do as I say, not as I do” parent, so I do try my hardest to model the kind of behavior that I want to see in my kids.
I practice gratitude and keep a positive attitude (oops, I wasn’t actually trying to rhyme there). I also model healthy behaviors like eating right, exercising, and expressing my emotions. This is a constant work in progress and something we need to do throughout our kids’ entire lives, so I can’t swear that I’ve kept this promise. I’m not always perfect, but I do think I’m doing pretty well with it, though.
4. Let them fail and make mistakes
While I promised myself that I would always be there for my children, I also swore that I wouldn’t equate “being there” with “doing everything for them.” I’d let them fail and make mistakes so that they could learn from them and grow.
Obviously, I use common sense. I’m not about to let my child fall headfirst off a cliff just so they can learn not to dance so close to the edge. If letting them fail or stepping back to let them figure something out on their own would actually hurt them, then of course I step in.
But for everything else, I encourage them to try. If they still can’t figure it out or need help, then they ask (because knowing when to ask for help is just as important as learning to do things on your own).
5. Let them be kids
One promise that I try to keep above all others is to let my kids actually be kids. I remind myself that they’re children, not mini-adults in training. I really feel like we’re trying to push our kids to grow up way too fast these days.
We expect- no we demand- perfection. Perfect attention, perfect obedience, perfect grades, perfect behavior. We expect them to act like adults. We flat-out tell them to stop being “childish,” to “grow up,” or that “playtime is over.”
Well, guess what? They WILL grow up, and they’ll do it so much faster than you can ever imagine. They WILL stop being childish, stop playing, stop seeing magic, and wonder in a bottle of glitter glue. I see no reason to rush it. I want my kids to have a childhood, not a pre-adulthood.
As you can see, I’ve done pretty much all of the things I never thought I’d do as a parent. I’m okay with that, though, because I’ve also (mostly) kept all of the promises that I made to my future children, and those are the things that really matter most.
As I said, I’m not perfect. No parent is. At the end of the day, though, I feel like I’m being the best possible mom that I can be. That’s enough for me…even if the universe does get the last laugh on the tantrum thing.