Parents everywhere, I have an announcement:
You are free.
You are free from the guilt, shame, and pressure of parenting according to everyone else’s standards and expectations.
You are free from attempting Pinterest birthday parties and Ikea-hack bedrooms.
You are free to be a human parent.
Obviously, you have always had that freedom, but it does us good to remind ourselves every once in a while. It is equally good to be reminded of what specifically we are free to do.
You are free to let your kids watch TV.
Before my wife and I had kids, we made the decision the TV would never babysit our kids.
You who have children can stop laughing now. You said it too.
We do not allow our children to watch a great deal of TV. But they do watch shows and movies on occasion. Sometimes, those occasions are when Mommy and Daddy need to get stuff done they can’t “help” with.
Parents, you are not a failure if your kid watches Moana one more time so you can get dinner cooked. You are not a terrible mother because you had a rough day and could use ten minutes of quiet with a good book and a cup of coffee and you let the little ones watch a toy unboxing on YouTube.
I’m not advocating for the TV to raise your children. But I can say that if you are concerned about that and you feel that twinge of guilt when your kids watch TV, you are probably doing ok.
You are free to let your kids play.
There is a false dichotomy circling parenting circles that you are either a helicopter parent or a lazy parent. That’s crazy. There is a way to keep an eye on your kids while letting them experience risk and fun.
This is obviously going to look different for each family and each situation, but your kids are going to want to play in risky ways. Let them take the risk. Be watchful so they don’t get too crazy, but let them climb a tree. Let them crawl across monkey bars. Let them do the things that might hurt if they fall, but won’t cause permanent damage.
I say that with one caveat: don’t let your kid hold the corner of a bed sheet to see if it will work for a parachute. I can personally attest that it doesn’t work and will only result in a sprained ankle.
Furthermore, you are free to let them play in the dirt. If you are worried about messing up clothes, buy some play clothes from your local thrift store and tell them to go nuts.
You aren’t a passive parent for these things. You are teaching creative play, risk management, and in some cases, pain management. All these are an important part of learning to be an adult.
You are free to let your kids be loud.
Kids are loud. Not just when they are upset and crying, but even when they are just talking, singing, and having fun. They haven’t mastered the art of volume control yet.
When you are at a restaurant, in the grocery store, or standing in line at the bank, your kids are going to be louder than the adults around them.
And that’s okay. Teach them to be respectful of their surroundings, but you are free to let them be kids.
But what about when one is throwing a fit because you didn’t get her favorite candy bar?
Sometimes you have to give yourself the freedom to let her throw her fit and deal with it when you get to the car.
I know what it is to have a screaming kid in a basket and, no matter how you deal with it, the screams only get louder. Sometimes you can leave your basket, go to the car, and deal with it. And most of the time, that is the best approach. But sometimes you can’t. And sometimes it is best not to.
There are situations where your kid will learn the lesson best by being made to stay in the basket or continue walking down aisles until you have finished shopping. This will teach them the world does not revolve around what they want or don’t want. If the best way to teach your child is to keep him in the store, you are free to keep him in the store.
Is it going to bother people? Yep. But your responsibility is to the growing and maturing of your child, not to the ensure a pleasant shopping experience for everyone in the store.
You are free to let them have imperfect childhoods.
Whether it is tea parties, Ninja Turtle pajamas, trips to Disney, or all-you-can-eat Chik-fil-A, you have an idea of what a perfect childhood looks like. Spoiler alert: Your kid won’t have it.
And it will make her a better adult.
When we think of perfect childhoods, so much of them center on things that have been marketed to us and our children. These marketing campaigns tell us kids need toys, stuffed animals, huge gifts under the tree, and vacations to have a magical, perfect childhood.
It’s a sham.
No kid has ever had that childhood. You know has the best childhoods? Those who get to play, even risky play. Those who are allowed to be kids. Those who are taught, disciplined, and matured by adults who love and cherish them.
If your aim is to give your child the perfect childhood and be the perfect parent, you are only giving yourself two targets you will never hit. As a parent, you are free to give your kid the gift of learning contentment, humility, and gratitude. These are things that will last much longer than anything marketed on TV.