I've never really thought of it as such, but is my style of parenting a vintage one, and is it really that unique? Is my own divorce the reason for it? By offering my kids less, might I actually be offering them more?
I'm not really sure how when or why it happened, but I'm starting to wonder whether I've subscribed to an antiquated form of parenting. My children, whom are rarely blogged abut these days, aren't coddled on a daily basis. They're not catered to, (though my own parents might disagree with this) privileged, entitled or spoiled. They hardly have everything they want; they do have everything they need. They are, for the most part, well behaved. In the privacy of our own home, however, their table manners are sub-par no matter how much I nag. They are respectful of their elders and polite. I think they're on their way to being very good, kind, caring people.
My kids, however, are quite different from most of today's kids. They aren't otherwise occupied by sports, languages and instruments every afternoon after school. They aren't captains of their teams. Or most valuable players. Or most improved. They don't even, at the moment, play any sport. They've not mastered three languages or several instruments. They're not in choir practice three days a week. I don't schlepp them to ballet, tap or basketball. They don't (not to be confused with can't) swim or play tennis, squash or golf. They don't ride or jump.
They're not in the top 10 percent of their enormous classes, but they are good students, usually on the Honor Roll. They sometimes forget to do and misplace their homework. They often misplace their books and when they don't study they don't do well. If they forget to bring something to school, whether it's a book, homework or gym clothes, I will not deliver unless it is of my own fault. Rescuing them is not helping them. When they get marked down, they'll remember and take care to make sure it doesn't happen again. I have one exception to this rule. I will bring a forgotten lunch. Nourishment is important.
For mistakes made I don't blame anyone but them. Only they can be held accountable. I don't berate, get angry or even disagree with a teacher should he or she, come down hard on a child of mine. My kids aren't in school to be doted on. They're there to learn, even if learning comes at an expense. I would rather have them mess up now, while they're at home with me, than when they're off and on their own. Will I coddle them, praise them, for a mistake made? No. But I will always offer support and encouragement. And I will always tell them that everything will be Ok. Because in the end, I absolutely believe this to be true. Sometimes we have to wait a bit longer to find out.
I do not believe in praising my children for no reason at all. This does not mean that I don't tell them daily (hourly?) how much I love and adore them. False praise does no good. It creates egomaniacs and narcissists. The world does not evolve around my children. I do not put them up on pedestals. My children have talents but they are not talented in everything. I happily and quietly sing their praises. My Facebook page is not plastered with images and texts shouting out how perfect they are. They're not and even if they were that's not the kind of parent I am. When merited I will absolutely extol their virtues.
I do not replace lost or broken things. If they lose something it is not replaced unless they do so themselves. My children need to understand and appreciate the value of things and the importance of taking care of them. (I've learned over the years that you can say no until you are blue in the face and it means nothing unless they mess up first hand.)
I believe in letting them fall so they can learn to get back up. I will take care of every skinned knee and kiss and wipe away every tear. I let my little one climb into bed with me when he's not feeling well, has a bad dream or simply because he wants to be with me. I know this won't continue much longer and his youth is fleeting. I'll look back on those days more often than I will the days I spent driving them back and forth to all their activities. Time spent together. Now that's the stuff that memories are made from.
My kids spend much too much time on their "devices" the iPads, laptops and whatnot... They should be outside and running around more. Their rooms should be tidier and their beds, I do believe, should be made daily. I have learned to be realistic and to pick my battles. That said they each have responsibilities. They must pitch in and help as they are part of this family. I do not pay them to help me out, rather I just expect them to do so. They empty the garbage on a regular basis and take the garbage and recycling bins to the curb once a week. They must help with dishes and clean up and every now and then I have each of them cook a meal.
Sometimes I ask them to help with the laundry - tossing items into the machine and or the dryer. When it snows they help me shovel. When the leaves have fallen, they help me rake or pick up sticks. If somebody makes a mess, they clean it up. I'm no one's maid. Nor am I a short order cook. I prepare one meal. If someone does't like it, well too bad. That said, there's nothing I enjoy more than making a late breakfast for the kids be it pancakes or egg sandwiches on lazy weekend mornings. Yes we have lazy weekends once again! And I can't tell you how amazing they are.
Before I know it they'll be off and on their own in the vast world out there. I won't be there for them, physically, and I don't want to be. I won't be there for them to cook, clean or make their beds. (I fully expect them to bring their laundry when they visit, though. That's almost a rite of passage!) It's important for me to know that they can fend for and take care of themselves. And it's important that they understand the importance of a good work ethic.
When they were all little they were all signed up for various activities and sports. They were, one might say, busy little beavers, perhaps over-programmed. And who did that benefit? It benefited me, of course. It was part ego, a bragging right... And it was part a matter of keeping them busy so I didn't have to. Don't misunderstand me, I did plenty with my children and I was a very hands-on parent. When not in ballet, at soccer, or music class, we were home crafting, painting, cooking and baking. We took trips to museums, libraries and shows. There was plenty of time for television and tablets weren't really a thing back then. And then something changed.
Life changed. My kids got a bit older and I got a divorce. Gone were the funds that allowed the luxuries of all these extra-curricular activities. We had to pick and choose and what this meant was a lot of idle time on our hands... their hands. I felt guilty about no longer being able to over-program them as though this new world would be a huge detriment to their livelihoods. After a couple of years I see that not much has changed. So they're home from school a little earlier, that's about it. (This gives them more time to help me out around the house!) When I look back to my equally full childhood with Sunday school, ballet, music and art lessons, team sports and school musical productions I have to wonder, what did this all really get me? I'm still fairly tone deaf. Despite 6+ years of ballet I'm still the same uncoordinated klutz I was back the. I don't remember which key is which on a keyboard. They were all wonderful opportunities, but I don't think they really enriched my life.
My life was made fuller and better by the experiences in and out of the classroom, with friends and my own family, from traveling, seeing and doing. My kids, therefore, really aren't missing out. And now that I'm working to rebuild my own career, I often have Latchkey kids who are sometimes home by themselves for a few hours after the school day. And that's OK too. On the weekends when they're with me and I'm not working on a project we spend time together. This time could be creating in the kitchen, playing old fashioned board games or taking little trips to zoos and museums, botanical gardens, etc.
I'm far from a perfect parent and I have made many mistakes over the years, but I have to wonder if my own shortcomings and my own divorce, as challenging as it has been at times, might actually be a positive in their lives. Nothing has come easily for my children and they certainly take nothing for granted. Despite the fact that I would love to be able to offer them so much more, and hope to be able to again soon, I have to wonder if their current no-frills lifestyle might give them an edge... By offering less might I be giving them more?