Choose your battles.
It’s a common saying, but how many times do we actually stop to think about it and what it really means. I mean, I’ve used it countless times throughout my life, but often I say it in a very figurative way. Most of us aren’t in daily knock-out, drag-down fights and battles with others, at least I hope we aren’t.
The thing about a battle is that it requires someone to win and someone to lose. Essentially, there is no middle ground. You fight, you put your all into it and either come out victorious or you come out hanging your head in defeat. While this may be the way we win wars, it isn’t the way I want to live my life as a parent.
So I choose my battles wisely and I have given most of them up.
This isn’t to say that we live a life of total anarchy, where our children are allowed to run amuck doing whatever they please. Instead, this means that I’m not willing to fight so hard to be the winner while my child becomes the loser. I’d rather create a framework of morals and values in our home that we all work toward and let the rest fall where it may.
After almost 11 years of motherhood, I’ve found that battling my kids for most things isn’t worth it and the reason isn’t because I am lazy or too tired to implement rules. We have plenty of rules. The reason is because I started giving a good, hard look at why I was battling. Why did I need to win? Why was this act so important to me? And you know what I came up with? It wasn’t that important to me. I was fighting a battle I didn’t even care about winning. I was fighting a battle that somewhere along the way, I decided I was supposed to fight. Society has done an excellent job of spoon-feeding guilt to us parents if we don’t adhere to the norms of child-raising.
My husband and I have given up the fight on a number of topics, because it just doesn’t matter to us. Love, compassion, trust, honesty, morality, self-confidence and tolerance of others is what we’ll battle to the bitter end with our kids. These things, we won’t.
Rigid sleep schedules: Look, I want my kids to sleep through the night and I am fully aware that a good sleep schedule is paramount while kids are growing and staying healthy, but good grief with the rigidity of bedtimes. I read a hilarious article recently where a mother said that these days, bedtime routines seem to begin at 3:30PM. How true that is. I remember as a kid my mother saying, "I don't care where you sleep, as long as you sleep and don't bother me." That is exactly our philosophy. Sometimes my kids fall asleep and stay on the couch. Sometimes my husband does the same. Most nights at the point, they are sound in their beds by 9PM, but the long-winded sleep routine that just causes fights back and forth isn't worth it to us. We'd rather they understand the joy and purpose of a good night's sleep rather than force them into bedtime rituals that only serve to annoy everyone and require a big glass of wine.
Eating (what and when): I am completely uninterested in sitting at the table for 3 hours, forcing my child to down those last 2 peas. That standoff doesn’t serve me and it doesn’t serve my kids. I’ve seen the after effects of what making food a constant issue in the house and it won’t be done in mine. We all have to do what is right for our family and for us, food is something I want my kids to enjoy. I want them to love trying new things. I want them to develop their own tastes and know that they have the ability to say no to things they truly dislike. This doesn’t mean I cater to their every desire (which would probably just be pizza by default) but it does mean that we don’t stress so much about what they eat, how much they eat or when they eat. What works for us, works for us.
Perfectly-matched clothing: “Susie wanted to wear her plaid pants with her striped shirt today, but I said absolutely not. They don’t even match.” Minus the name Susie, which I changed to protect the parties involved, this was a sentence I heard come out of a mom’s mouth once and it stuck with me. I don’t care if my kids’ clothes match. Why? Because of all the things as an adult that I have to worry about every day, whether my cardigan matches my pants ain’t one of them. While I will always teach my children how to dress appropriately for the occasion, I refuse to battle over clothing. Wear what you want, within reason and go to school with unmatched socks for all I care.
Grades in school: I realize there will be people who disagree hardcore with this one and girl, that’s fine. But for me, I refuse to spend my children’s precious time on this earth fussing and fighting over grades or worse yet, making them believe that their worth in this world is determined by test scores. I grew up getting straight As and believed that it was my ticket to an amazing life. I was wrong. While getting good grades helped me get into college, I didn't actually finish college and honestly, it wasn't the grades that brought me to where I am now. I want my children to excel and learn to give their best, all the time, but giving you're 100% doesn't always guarantee an A and I think that'd as important a lesson as any.
Staying clean: I was at the playground with my kiddos 2 years ago after a rainstorm and of course, at the bottom of the slide sat a rather wide puddle of water. While I watched another mother scurry her child away and say, "NO! Don't go down the slide. You'll get all wet and dirty!" I yelled, "Have fun, Everett!" and let him go. We weren't on our way to meet the president or have dinner at The Four Seasons. We were at a park, where play is the name of the game. I no longer give much attention to how dirty my kids get. We own a shower and a washing machine, both of which can undo any damage done. And if the washing machine can't, well then shame of me for sending my kid to the park in anything that cost me more than $4. I want my children to thoroughly enjoy all aspect of childhood before the getting old and forget how to have fun in the dirt.
Your battles and which ones you're willing to fight should be about you, not about what society has dictated. We only have a finite amount of energy as moms and I don't want to spend mine getting bloodied in a war I don't even care about winning.
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