I have three daughters, each as different as the next, but all can be called bold and feisty. I recently thought about the ways I parent differently than I expected. Before I had children, when I knew more than I do now, I thought I could provide them with this wonderful, edited atmosphere in which to flourish. Something very much like what Maria Montessori called a “rich environment.”
Indeed, my three lovelies are products of years of Montessori education and my husband and I are very grateful that we could provide that for them. They all attend a very fine public school now and we are glad to be part of our community in this way.
With all of our wonderful intentions to provide a holistic, gender-neutral, organic (food and clothing), television-free environment, the reality is much farther from that than I like to admit. However, our girls are happy, healthy and curious.
I thought about all of my parenting rules that I have broken and I thought about how I would condense my parenting philosophy and it is this: I try my very best to encourage their creativity. I believe that if you give your children enough room to have a creative life then this will positively impact everything: intellect, academics, social skills, and their emotional and mental well-being.
So, here is a list of things I thought I would never do/say/have/allow and a thought or two about each.
As a baby, we dressed my eldest daughter in every color of the rainbow except pink. When she got old enough to have an opinion, around 22months, she started insisting on pinks and purples to wear every day. When I asked her why she liked those colors, she said “Because they are fun and strong colors!” Now her favorite color is black (”It goes with everything, Mom!”) and one twin’s favorite color is orange, the other twin we call “Pinkalicious” because of her affinity for what we refer to as her signature color.
I really liked Barbie when I was a child. I loved her house that folded up, I loved my Truly Scrumptious limited edition Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Barbie. I loved her clothes and I wished I had some just like them. As a grown up, before I had children, I thought Barbies were evil destroyers of healthy body image. Then various relatives gave my eldest daughter Barbies for her second birthday. Yes, second. And she loved them and I never got around to removing them while she wasn’t looking. So, I bought her some Barbies of different ethnicities, along with the doctor garb and the veterinarian set. My three girls now play super hero with Barbie and her multicultural friends and have them do some girl-on-girl kissing. I think that if I don’t make a big deal about what’s wrong with Barbie, then they will accept girl power and alternative life styles as non-issues.
My kids love candy. They also love kale, artichokes, pears, any kind of Mexican food, mangoes and roast chicken. Seems okay to me.
I admit that we have struggled with this. All parents of small children will find themselves wishing for an electronic babysitter on bad days. During any given week, my kids might watch Electric Company, Project Runway, The Wonder Pets, or most embarrassingly: The Biggest Loser. A stay at my sister’s got them hooked on this show and now they exercise during the commercials and cheer on their favorites. But. On any given day, they are also likely to: play Super Powers with the boys next door, ride their scooters, bake cookies, draw with chalk pastels or play Chinese Mutant Pirates with aforementioned boys. I figure it evens out.
I have one child who still gets in bed with us every night. When I tuck her in her bed each night,she tells me she knows that I miss her and that she will come and cuddle me in the night. I am too exhausted to return her to her bed after she falls asleep next to me. I tell myself that this will not last very long and I will miss it when she doesn’t like me when she is thirteen.
We do not buy organic cotton clothing. We buy most of our clothes at Target, which are probably made by twelve year olds in some third world country, making pennies per day. I am sorry about that, but I am not sure how to address it. I don’t buy them anything with “Princess” on it, but their grandparents do. However, we make sure that the girls wear age-appropriate clothing. No high heels or skimpy clothes, no smart-alecky t-shirts. If they cannot run and play in it, then it doesn’t come home with us. And with the rare exception of formal occasions, all of them are allowed to choose what they wear, as long as it is weather-appropriate. This has entertained me and my husband to no end for a decade now. I highly recommend it. My theory is that if I let them choose what they want to wear now, then when they are fourteen, they will not embarrass me. I’ll keep you posted.
I fantasize about my girls having beautiful Pottery Barn-inspired-little-girl rooms, but my children enjoy living like squirrels, padding their nests with their stuff. I can’t stand it. I was a child who enjoyed order, and while I have let go of a lot of that, the state of their rooms scrambles my brain. I keep trying to organize them and meanwhile, they will congregate in another sister’s bedroom and mess it up. I am trying to come to grips with their lack of interest in order and remember that their rooms belong to them.