19 April 2013

Things We Don't Stress Over

I try really hard not to fall into the trap of if only you knew more, you'd agree with me. So consider this my disclaimer for this post. I'm not writing this in hopes that you'll find my ways brilliantly compelling and immediately change your views to match mine, but more as a way to get to know me and my thoughts better.

Following are seven things we do not stress about at our house:

1. Food. We are not perfect when it comes to eating, but we are not exactly miserable failures either. As far as food goes, I'm a huge fan of the old adage, everything in moderation. We eat (almost) every meal together. We don't enforce a one-bite rule, or a clean-plate rule, or make our kids eat/try something they don't want to. They might be full, or not like the taste/texture, or have an upset stomach, or just not feel like eating right at that moment. And that's okay. All three Agents have gone through phases where they eat like ravenous wolves and do a complete 180 and eat basically nothing for days. I make the food. They choose to eat it. Or not. There's always peanut butter and jelly or fruit or yogurt or whatever later on if they change their mind. We also don't avoid any particular type of food (e.g., meat, dairy, wheat) or follow any specific diet. Here, food is just food. It gives us energy to do the things we want to do.

2. Praise/Rewards. I first wrote about this over a year ago, and I still feel the same way so I won't rehash here. This is one of those topics that people tend to get all crazed up about, citing studies and tossing out big psychobabble-y words. I know some will defend to the death the wickedness of even the occasional "good job" and reward charts and stickers (which we don't do, by the way, because they don't work for our children) but honestly people, first. world. problems.

3. PrincessesAre you aware entire books, websites, and blogs exist solely focusing on how to "shield" your daughter(s) from the diabolical influence of the princess culture (whatever that is)?  We consider princesses for what they are: one type of character of many that we enjoy reading about, watching, or pretending to be. We focus on the fun, imaginative parts without imposing adult interpretations and baggage. And here's the crazy part: They know it's just a story and not real. Shocking, I know.


Halloween 2012
(Side note: Doesn't anyone else ever notice that it's often the man in the story who is looking for a wife to complete him, typically at the urging of his own family? Everyone in Prince Eric's kingdom can't wait to marry him off. Prince Charming's Dad throw's an elaborate ball just to encourage a little matchmaking. Prince Phillip's father was more than a little helicopter-ish in that area as well. Why doesn't anyone ever have a problem with that?)

For the record, I see nothing wrong with little boys enjoying the princess stories, too. Agent A is fascinated with the books, movies, and "meeting" the princesses themselves at Disney. He tells me, I like Snow White. She one my peeps.

4. Reading. We love books around here. All kinds of books. We don't label certain books as being more valuable than others. Google something like "book lists for children" and roughly a bazillion options pop up of books that kids "should" be reading, by subject and grade level. Others will insist you never present a watered-down version of any story, instead reading it aloud or waiting until your child is old enough for the unabridged version. (We don't feel that way here.) Many people dismiss any book based on a popular character or television show as "twaddle." I've personally known people to panic just a wee bit when their child only wanted to read books "beneath" their current reading level. We adopt more of a Keep Calm and Read On kind of attitude here.

5. Sleep. We have co-slept or bed-shared with all of our children. Currently the Senior Agents share a room and the Littlest Agent has a bed (mattress on the floor) in our room. Some nights everyone sleeps peacefully in their own beds. Many nights at least one "extra" makes it into mom and dad's bed. Sometimes we wake up resembling a pile of meerkats. But here's the thing: It's such a short time in the overall scheme of things. So we don't stress when someone goes through an I-need-Momma-to-sleep-next-to-me-every-night-for-two-weeks phase, or when the toddler "still" wakes up in the night to nurse, or when "bedtime" shifts to later or earlier than normal. Because like everything else with parenting, as soon as you get used to something, it changes.

6. Television. Another parenting issue that pops up frequently (must everything be an "issue"?) is how much (if any) TV children at various ages "should" be watching. Will it rot their brains from the inside out? Does it take away from time doing other things (reading, art, music, outside play)? Eh. I don't really think so. Here we treat TV (and movies and DVDs) as just one activity of many. Some days the television might be on for several hours, another day it's off most of the time. We watch together a lot. The kids like to watch, but don't bat an eye when it's time to do something else. (And yes, I've read the studies on the purported evils of television.)

7. Toys. As a parent of young children who knows and talks to many other parents of young children, I hear/read a lot of chatter about toys, everything from the type (wooden vs. plastic, electronic vs. quiet, interactive vs. passive) to the amount (is it okay to have a lot? is just a few better? what about none?) to the educational value (are some better than others?). 

I pretty much have the same attitude about toys that I do about
Agent E loves her little brother
television: they are just one thing we do each day. The Agents love to play all day long. They play with dolls, blocks, legos, loud beeping toys, cars, dinosaurs, a little red wagon, stuffed animals, computers (I know; gasp!), books, sand, frisbees, jump ropes, instruments, grass, rocks, water, paint, play dough, dishes . . . I think you get the idea. 

And don't even get me started on gender-specific toys and the acceptability of such. Should we "allow" girls to play with Barbies? Is it "okay" if your daughters want to play with trucks and your son wants to dress up? Please. Anyone who ever raised girls and boys in the same home knows those distinctions are complete hooey. Girls and boys with access to a variety of toys are going to play with them, whatever they are. Period.

Of course, not stressing doesn't necessarily mean we enjoy every single one of these all the time and never complain and never purposely set a kind, firm limit on them. We still encourage the Agents to try new foods, turn the television off at dinner (usually), and sometimes have to shuffle the kids off to bed while they claim but we're not tired! But these seven things are not typically "battles" for us, so to speak. (And, yes, I hate using that word. And, no, I couldn't come up with a better one while drafting this post.)

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