The other day Hyrum (my nine year old & oldest child) said,
“Mom,” (little puppy dog face with tears in his eyes)
Uh-oh, I thought, this isn’t starting well, I hope he’s not getting bullied or something.
“All the kids at school have video games…and I have NO idea what they’re talking about!“
Whew, I thought this was something actually serious.
My response, I’m afraid, wasn’t very sympathetic. I paused for a moment, then blurted out,
Hyrum started to smile too, then said,
“I’m serious too. I think it’s funny you think you need video games. You will have the rest of your life to sit on duff (I actually said duff), but you only have a few short years to really be a kid–to run around, to read books for fun, to play games with your brothers & sisters. My job as your mom is to provide you with things you need to be healthy & strong–like food, this home, opportunities for learning. Video games just don’t even come close to making it on the list of things you need.”
The fact that my kid is on the verge of tears because he doesn’t “have what the other kids have,” is actually a sign of good parenting.
It was one of those, “I’m a mean mom, but in a good way,” moments.
Let me explain.
As parents, from the moment we know we’re expecting, we begin planning & plotting.
We have glorious visions of our kid winning the national spelling bee, of always making the honor roll, attending Harvard someday, & winning a Pulitzer or two.
We daydream about how awesome their childhood will be–trips to Disneyland, vacations to Europe, music & foreign language lessons, competitive sports teams. They’ll always have the latest fashions from baby Gap, their hair will always be perfectly combed, & their face will never be dirty like those other kids.
In short, this kid will be brilliant, just shy of perfect, & will deserve & get everything we never got as a kid plus more. As they approach adulthood their brilliance & talent will be unsurpassed. And because of this hyperbolized view of our child’s special-ness, we’ll want to give them everything.
But the thing is, our natural inclination to give them everything they want, when they want, is actually absolutely not in their best interest.
We’ve got to curb that desire to give into pleasing our kids whims & fancies & temper it by consistently asking ourselves as we make parenting decisions, “Is this a need or want, & is it in their present & future best interest?”
What kids really need is actually quite simple.
Beyond the basic physical needs being met (proper nutrition, shelter, & a safe living environment), you could essentially sum the list up to include these five things.
The 5 things kid’s need most from us:
- asking (ask them questions)
- listening (let them respond & sincerely & actively listen to what they have to say)
- physical demonstrations of love & affection (hugs, kisses)
- & firm but loving discipline based on logic not emotion
Note that none of these things cost any money.
None of these things require that we have a fat bank account.
All of these things require time & attention. And these are things that can’t be farmed out to others. We have to do these things ourselves. And that’s often a hard pill to swallow.
I’m busy! I don’t have time to be patient. I don’t have time to discipline like I know I should. I have to work!
Believe me, I get it. It’s not easy to take the higher parenting road of being present, of spending quality & quantity time with your child.
One thing that our decision not to do paid activities this year has forced me to do is to be utterly present in my kids lives. Sometimes painfully so. Because I’m not the most patient person, & boy wouldn’t I love to pay someone else to teach my kids piano or tutor them.
But the fact is, my kids don’t need lessons from other people as much as they need lessons & time & attention from me, especially at this point in their young lives.
I was thinking the other day how I want to teach my kids the skill of entertaining themselves. Of being able to manage a few hours of unstructured time on their own.
If given an hour or two to just play & be, without computer/video games, without movies or TV, without being shuttled to one structured activity to the next–would they know what to do?
Could they be content with just being at home with their siblings, talking, reading, thinking?
We’re not Amish–we have a computer, a Nook, a flat-screen TV & a few DVD players. And I’ve heard many of the arguments why playing video games is “good” for your child.
But for now, I’m going to stick to being a mean mom & give my kid or book, or worse, tell him to go play outside.
And if I’m lucky, maybe someday he’ll thank me for that.
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