In a conversation with a friend the other day, she mentioned that someone once asked her if I was seriously okay with letting my 7-year-old go to the bathroom by himself. A little while later I read Mama B’s post about how her house is a dungeon of rules, and I suddenly felt extremely guilty for not imposing more rules on my son.
I’m a laid back parent. I have been from the start. When my son (born premature) came home from the hospital, I didn’t scrub every surface with disinfectant every day or make people wash their hands before touching him. Sometimes they did it of their own freewill, but I didn’t really pay attention. I didn’t even always wash my hands before touching him, unless I’d just changed his diaper or something.
I’m not super strict when it comes to dietary habits either. I’ll let him eat McDonald’s chicken nuggets occasionally, or try a non-caffeinated soda, or allow him to have cookies before bed. He mostly prefers broccoli and asparagus and apples anyway. I don’t keep a ton of sugary snacks around the house, but that’s mostly because I lack willpower to not scarf them down myself. I make healthier food choices for the both of us, and so the occasional fast food trip doesn’t bother me.
My son is allowed to go to the bathroom in public places by himself, but only restaurants or stores that I know he’s familiar with and knows where the bathrooms are. The one time I let him go without checking, he ended up getting lost, and I had to retrieve him from the customer service desk. Sometimes, I’ll go with him and stand outside to wait for him. Other times I’ll set myself up somewhere I can watch over him to make sure he goes the right way, or so I can see the front door from where I am.
I take some precautions. But not all the time. There is no bedtime. I have no idea if he’s getting 8 or 10 or 19 hours of sleep each night. He might be getting less. Sometimes he won’t go to bed until 10 or 10:30 at night.
If he seems to be getting tired or cranky, I’ll start the bedtime routine. If he’s extra cranky one morning, I’ll get him to bed a little bit earlier. Or I’ll let him sleep in a little extra while I get myself ready. He takes less time to get ready in the morning than I do, so there’s room for adjustment.
I worry about my son all the time. We talk about stranger danger, what to do if he can’t find me or gets lost, and what he should do if something happens to me. I’m a single mom. I live in fear of my son waking up one morning to find me lying dead in bed and not knowing what to do and having no one to go to.
So he knows how to dial 9-1-1, which neighbors we trust to go to in an emergency, and who else he can call if he needs anything. He has my cell phone number memorized. I take necessary precautions, all while still allowing him to not become the paranoid and scared child that I was.
I am conscious of the differences in parenting, and I embrace the fact that we all have our own ways of raising our children (as long as they are safe, healthy, and happy, right?). If I see a parent being more protective than me, or wiping a child’s hands after playing on the playground with the ever-ready baby wipes, or not allowing a child to even go in the bathroom stall alone, I’m aware of the difference.
But I’m not sitting there judging them. I use to; I’ll admit it. I did it because I believed that they were judging me. Now I see that it’s all a part of embracing our differences in parenting. We’re not the same, and that’s okay.
What are the rules like in your household?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Roxanne of Nevada, USA. You can find Roxanne at her editorial website, RoxannePiskel.com, and her personal blog, Unintentionally Brilliant.
Photo credit to the author.
My older boys go to the mens’ public toilets alone and have done for a while. The four yo has just started to want to, too, and at that age I find it difficult. They’re all trained up on safe and unsafe behaviours in people – and our eldest dealt with an inappropriate instance really well when we were on holiday.
Our rules? I’m really fussy about manners and doing chores cheerfully, bedtimes were pretty strict when they were small and on school nights, but have become a bit more relaxed on weekends and during holidays. I don’t buy much rubbish food, so that takes that out of the equation. What happened with electronics is a whole series of posts on my blog…we had some interesting experiences there!
Everything else is pretty relaxed, we’re not super-hygiene freaks and the boys get to choose and control all of their play/games. They don’t get a lot of homework or have many after school activities, and I like that they get the freedom to be kids and relax with their friends. They get to choose the order they do things in and they get to choose what they’ll wear etc. They make a lot of their own food, especially on the weekends and they pretty much have free-range there.
I think that parenting, and motherhood especially, is about letting go. And we all let go in different ways, and at different speeds. The letting go is so painful…but we must do it.
I love the way you wrote this; the voice is honest and open.
I understand where you are coming from. OMG, never thought about this cause I had 2 girls. Reading your post gave me this feeling in my gut…it’s tough being a mom. Even if you’re not a single mom, I think as moms we just don’t have that barrier that “a lot” of men put up, or don’t have to think about. I don’t think my husband would lose sleep over something like this, lol.
I agree, we all have our own ways of parenting…it is what it is.
Well, I really reckognized a LOT in the post of Mama B you mention, but in your post as well!
Having a lot of rules doesn’t mean you are stressed and overly worried all the time. My kids are very independent. To follow your example, not only my 7 yo but also my 4 yo goes to the bathroom alone 🙂
They do get ‘unhealthy’ food every once in a while. It’s like you said: because I am quite ‘strict’ on what I cook for them, I don’t worry about the occasional take out or junk food.
But I guess it also depends on your kid. I know mine really need the structure and the rules to feel ‘safe’. If they would have no fixed bed-time, we would have a battle each evening to convince them to go to sleep.
Actually, in our case, the rules allow us to be quite laid back parents, really. We don’t have to make a lot of decisions, because most things are already set. So they don’t even ask for television on a week day. I don’t ‘helicopter’ on the playground or at school, because I trust them. There are less frustrations, less conflicts.
Of course they violate the rules. More than often. But they also know what that means: less free choices, less responsibility.
I don’t think it would work for everyone, parent of children. But it works for us 😉
Oh, and as a microbiologist, I’m not overly clean, on purpose. I know about good and bad microbes. So they don’t even get to wash their hands before dinner, unless they’re dripping from mud. Gives their immune system a boost 😉
My son is 21 years old and my daughter is 17 so I have “hindsight”. What I have learnt is that no 2 children are the same and what works like a charm for one won’t necessarily work for the other. I wish someone had told me when I was a new mom to simply trust my instincts! What I know now is that (as long as the children know they have your unconditional love) they’ll turn out just fine! 🙂
You are so right! There is no right or wrong way of doing things. There is what’s right for you and your child. And that’s just what we all try to do. Sometimes we get it wrong, and then we adjust for next time, so we’ll get it a little less wrong!
I think you’ve put this so well. So many times the reason we judge other people is because we think someone else is judging us. Great post.
Roxanne, as a fellow single mom this post hits so close to home. My son was also a premie (thus the sometimes too protective motherhood approach) and I’ve been struggling with disciplining and being laid back enough. He haven’t been to a public toilet alone and he’s also 7 just like your boy. This post is just what I needed to read tonight.