When Children Don’t Get a Choice
Recently, I had a parenting moment that made me question my parenting approach. What kind of parent am I going to be? Up until this moment, my husband and I had made the majority of our kids’ decision. Occassionally, letting the girls pick out their own clothes, choose dinner, and decide which bedtime story. My oldest daughter is cautious and laid back and is perfectly fine having her decisions made for her. But my youngest daughter, Everly, is a bit more strong-willed and opinionated.
I’ve learned to pick my battles. When Everly wanted to wear Frozen Anna pajamas and slippers to the grocery store, I, hesitantly, gave in. She put on her pink cowgirl boots with a summer romper, I tried to convince her that it looked silly… but she liked it and that is what she wore while we ran errands. She requested pickles, cantaloupe, and marshmallows for lunch and I gagged as I fixed her a plate. Everly doesn’t always get her way or what she wants but she definitely puts up more of a battle. Recently, she came home from school upset about a decision I made. She let me know she wasn’t happy.
Earlier in the week, I had received a letter from Everly’s Kindergarten teacher suggesting an extra tutoring class would be beneficial for her. I knew Everly confused letters sometimes and she was having a tough time with sight words. Rather than have her fall behind, I agreed to the extra tutoring (not knowing that tutor would come twice a week, during P.E). P.E. is Everly’s favorite class and when she didn’t get to go, she cried. She came home and told her dad and I that she did not want to go to that tutoring class again. And for a split second, I wondered- Should I let her quit? Is it worth if she is going to get upset? Did she really need the extra help?
I stood in the kitchen and pondered: Am I going to be the parent who makes tough decisions for my child (ones that might upset her) or I am going to let my five year old dictate my decisions. Sometimes the best thing a parent can do is NOT give your child a choice.
I thought back to when my oldest daughter was four and I signed her up for ballet. At that time, Emerson wanted to be ‘rina (as she called it) but after just one month, she had changed her mind- all because she hated having her hair put into a bun. Every Tuesday afternoon, I had to convince her to let me fix her hair. I tried all kinds of tricks to make it less painful but nothing worked and soon Emerson didn’t want to go to ballet at all. I would remind myself and her, we committed to this! We will finish what we start!
Emerson would slowly change into her pink leotard, trying to make us late. She would cry as I brushed her hair and pulled it high on top of her head. When we would get to class, I would sit with snooty dance moms who seemed to be in a perpetual competition of who did the more interesting thing that week. I endured them in order to watched Emerson through a small window. She smiled and laughed and danced around in class and I would totally forget about all the pain it took to get her ready. She actually enjoyed the class- she just didn’t like getting ready!
After the final ballet recital, we asked Emerson if she wanted to go back to ballet (reminding her that she would have to wear her hair in a bun). Although she loved the class and recital, she decided that she didn’t want to torture her sensitive head anymore.
Through ballet, we taught our child commitment. She learned that we don’t quit- even if its difficult or not what you thought (or want) it to be. We, as parents, saw the benefits that she couldn’t see. Emerson learned to balance and be graceful. She got to interact with little friends her age- and she had fun!
The next year, Emerson begged to be a cheerleader. Once again, we reminded her that if she started it, she would have to finish the season. She understood. When she started learning cheers, it was difficult. She messed up. She clapped when she was suppose to stomp but she didn’t quit. Emerson loves cheering now.
And… there I stood in the kitchen, contemplating letting Everly quit. Was I THAT mom?
Am I going to be the mom who re-assures my child that everything is easy and fun and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it. We, adults, do things we don’t like ALL the time! Or am I going to be the mom that teaches that there are benefits to hard work, who sees the benefits even when the kids can’t. Am I going to teach my children to value education, commitment, responsibility, and to respect MY decisions?
Ultimately, I was not standing in the kitchen wondering what kind of parent I was going to be… but what kind of person was I going to raise. It’s a tough decision. No one wants to upset their child but this is an instance where Everly just does not get a choice! She will go to tutoring because as the parent, I know that is the best decision for my child.