I have made some bold statements about my parenting in the past. I was The Mom Who Only Buys Wooden Toys. I was The Mom Who Doesn’t Let Her Kid Play Pirates. I was The Mom Who Refuses To Go To Disney. Eat artificially dyed foods. Play on my phone in a restaurant. Eat in front of the television. Wear characters on his clothing. Play with weapons. Slowly but surely, most of these edicts fell by the wayside due to circumstance, his strong opinions, or my laziness. These are all still my preferences, but with the passing of each year, I get a little more realistic. I wish none of his toys were made of plastic and painted with probably-toxic colors. I wish that none of his toys had batteries, made noises, or flashed lights. (I even wish Lego made a wooden set, even though I know how actually ridiculous that sounds.) I still think pirate-play romanticizes actual criminal activity. But I think I’m beginning to understand ways in which I can, well, I guess lower my standards and still not feel like I need to turn in my hippie parent card.
Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to play with any weapons of any sort. We couldn’t even play with toys that suggested that it might be modeled after a weapon (like those foam ice cream cones that were spring-loaded and popped out when you pressed a button.) I grew up to be a pacifist. Is that because I didn’t play with weapons? Maybe that was part of it. Or maybe it was actually that my parents made clear to me their stance on fighting and war and were straightforward about the reasons behind it. The Who, of course, is an experiment still in progress. Neither m* nor I are inclined to buy weapons as toys, though she grew up shooting bb guns, etc. If The Who turns a toilet paper tube into a pirate sword (a double whammy!) I don’t make him put it down.
The sound of my standards crashing down is sometimes the loudest noise in my head. I can make an argument for why I allowed my kid to buy an orange sports drink to wash down his yucky-tasting antibiotic even though I have been almost aggressively anti-Gatorade (and any other chemical-laden, sugary, artificially colored food or beverage) but it doesn’t change the fact that, in the end, I allowed it. And I probably will again. Just as I will allow him (encourage him, even) to park himself on a bench with his eyes glued to my iPhone so I can get some shopping done.
It’s not wrong to have standards. And it’s not wrong to be idealistic. It’s not even wrong to stick to the things that feel really important. He’s still not allowed to drink anything carbonated, “diet”, or caffeinated. Or chew gum. I still don’t prefer for him to be a walking advertisement for Disney and for the third year in a row, I denied permission to buy Spiderman light-up sneakers. But he does, finally, know who Mickey Mouse is and his shoes, though not Spidey, do light up.
I try not to be too hard on parents who come out with these bold proclamations when their kids haven’t even yet mastered holding their heads steady. I was one of those parents. And I also try not to be too hard on parents who change their song after a year or two. I understand that we’re all trying to find the balance between holding firm to our values and honoring the individual interests and preferences of our kids.
But…I still draw the line at Disney World, though. So far.