I broke out an old sketch book today to do some duck drawings and came across a list that Trish & I made several years back. It’s called Things to do differently with our children and was probably written some evening when the dream of being parents devolved into a round robin on stuff our parents did that we didn’t like. What’s interesting is that we’ve followed it almost 100%:
- Non-stressful, non-regimented buffet bbqs: Some of our family have bbqs that are pretty much outdoor equivalents of proper, full-course dinners. This involves several people for various food prep jobs, stress-oriented cooking on a grill, place settings and all that. We’ve avoided this one very well, including a couple of large friends & family bbqs. People eat when they’re hungry, what they want and spend the time enjoying company instead.
- More than 3 cookies per serving: Trish’s mom had a rule that you could have only 3 cookies at a time with no exceptions whatsoever. If you had 3 cookies that were only 1/2″ in size you were totally SOL. She should prolly add the other Random Yet Mean Food rule from her youth: no chocolate at breakfast. Again, no exceptions and yes – that meant that Cocoa Pebbles were out. Same with Cocoa Puffs. I’ll have to ask my MIL to clarify if having 4 pieces of Cookie Crisp was enough to break both rules and ensure a week of hell.
- Bedtime suspended during parties: This is one of the worst rules my parents had – sending me to bed at the Right Time regardless of what was going on – including having a houseful of people. This also meant they wouldn’t let me stay up late one night a week to watch ‘The Incredible Hulk.’
- No TVs in the bedroom: The kids’ rooms, that is. We staunchly againt tvs in living rooms, and while we lived in a one-bedroom apartment, we had a 12″ tv in the bedroom. This remained and was useful for midnight nursing when M & J were babies, but once we got rid of the cable, our one working tv is in a small room we call the sun room.
- Interaction with bugs & snakes encouraged: Neither of our parents really promoted checking out bugs, snakes and whatever else nature has on display. I saw a praying mantis once in my life and thought it was really cool. We point out every single bug & the one snake we found to the kids. This must be ingrained behavior since the first time J ever said ‘That cool!’ was while looking at a picture of a red tarantula.
- Yummier sandwiches: I was a quiet kid. So quiet that I never actually told my mom that I don’t like munster or her sandwiches. I figured that coming home with an uneaten sandwich would get the message across. It did, but WAY longer than it should have. I don’t recall what the improved lunch item was tho. I just remember that the sandwiches sucked.
- No scissor threats: This was, according to my mom, a long-running joke. In reality, it’s not funny in the least. Occasionally when I misbehaved, she’d make a scissor motion for a possible consequence involving, my, um, boyhood. (it was definitely not manhood at that time, not with the tighty whities with the single blue & yellow pinstripes on the waist) I have a faint memory of an occasion where I had clearly pissed her off and she made a big deal of searching for an actual pair of scissors. As you might imagine, I still don’t like it.
- No asking ‘who do you like the most’ and other variants: I wonder if this is an Indian thing, or just common to our friends and family there but it was a question that happened all the time. Someone would ask me who I liked more, sometimes picking between 2 uncles and invariably ending with Mom & Dad. It was an incredibly childish, black & white question with a black & white answer (not very different from ‘if you’re not with us you’re against us’). Now add a room full of hooting friends & family and it becomes a bit of a pressure-cooker. I haven’t seen most of my relatives in years so the next trip to India should be interesting. Otoh, having Trish around – aka the second whitey to ever set foot in our house – might keep them on their best behavior.
- No clothing in gender-defined colors: This one’s been easy, for the clothes we’ve bought. We don’t have control over hand-me-downs, but we always picked bright & happy non-blue colors for M that now look great on J.
- No prohibition for ‘getting dirty’: Another easy one, as we believe in the twin superpowers of Baths & Laundry. And after reading how farm children tend to have fewer allergies, getting dirty has its benefits.
- Let kids wade in streams: This was a really harsh one for Trish as she loved wading in streams, looking for crayfish and the like. What really sucked was that she lived across the street from a stream, so she’d have to pick her spots & hope not to get caught. I think her neighbor was nice and occasionally dried her pants before she went home.
- No ‘Because I said so’: We try to reason with them and teach all the time, tho Trish did say this in jest last week as M asked the same question for the 20th time in an hour.
So there we are – we’ve become the parents we wanted to be. Who knew that would just be the tip of the iceberg? We’re way more radical than we ever thought we’d be and it stems from how we wanted to parent, how we wanted to birth and everything we’ve searched for & learned since then. I’m curious if the seeds of this change were planted the day we made this list and defined how we wanted to raise our children differently.