Never Say Never (Toss out the Rules), and Happy Mother’s Day!

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By Dr. Allison Belger

*Happy Mother’s Day to my amazing mother/editor/adviser/teacher/friend.  Thank you for setting and breaking your own rules in the manner you have!

These past few days, I’ve had reason to reflect on the massive role of parenting, as I have many times before. While having children allows one to understand more about parenting than one could prior to having children, being a parent does not allow us to understand or appreciate what it’s like for each individual parent in relation to each individual child. Despite having a background as a psychologist in the field of special education, for example, I can’t possibly appreciate what it’s like to parent a child with significant special needs.

We often have “rules” in our lives—codes of conduct we set for ourselves and aspire to follow as we make our way. Set with the best intentions, these rules may work for us in theory but may be difficult to put into practice as we encounter unanticipated challenges.  And while it’s easy to assume that our own rules would be optimal for everyone (judging others when they stray from our personal code), it’s best to refrain from this unproductive pastime. As I’ve written before, everyone has a story to tell; our rules simply might not apply to someone else’s history or set of current challenges.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I encourage you to reflect on your own hard and fast rules, either in relation to your role as a parent or in your life in general.  Remember that hard and fast rules are often unrealistic and unsustainable. In fact, our own set of rules will change with new obstacles and realities in the life of our own family. If we continue to say NEVER, even internally, we will set ourselves up for feelings of failure and defeat when we stray from our rigid rulebook. And, until you walk in someone’s shoes, it’s best not to assume that you know how you would behave if you did.

Being a mother is a profound undertaking and experience, when I realized I was my babies planet and universe, it changed me forever.  Despite the best intentions, things don’t always go as planned.  In celebration of mothers everywhere, toss out the rules and judgments and embrace the intentions—as they’re mostly good.  Moms (and dads) are usually doing the best they can, given the complexity of the human experience. In fact, most people are doing just that. Keep this in mind, too, when you’re judging your co-worker who chose to have plastic surgery, or your neighbor who doesn’t compost, or the obese man you see at the market buying cookies, or the guy at the Globo gym doing bicep curls in the mirror.

Listed below are examples of some common parenting rules in our modern, enlightened, organic world. Many of these were/are my own, either created before I had children or after I’d already become a parent.  Some of these are rules other parents in my life have established for themselves.  All of these have gone by the wayside at one time or another—many of them more often than not! I confess to having broken the majority of them many times over. Indeed, they are here, in large part, to make parents among you chuckle.

I’ll never curse in front of my kids.

I’ll never let my kids watch TV all day.

I’ll never feed my kids pizza for breakfast.

I’ll never make my daughters wear a dress when they don’t want to.

I’ll never bribe my kids with treats.

I’ll never let my kids go three days without brushing their long hair.

I’ll never let on that I’m frustrated when my kids don’t have a good game.

I’ll never let my kids see me change outfits because I don’t like the way my first choice looks.

I’ll never be the parent yelling a bit too much from the sidelines of a game.

I’ll never curse AT my kids.

I’ll never let my kids eat sugar for seven consecutive days.

I’ll never ask my kids to change their clothes because I am worried about how their outfit reflects on me. 

I’ll never forget to pick my kids up from school on early dismissal days.

I’ll never buy a toy for my kids just to keep them from melting down in public.

I’ll never drive my kids around to get them to fall asleep.

I’ll never forget to pack my kids’ lunch.

I’ll never bail out my kids when they forget a homework assignment and want me to bring it to school in the middle of the day.

I’ll never NOT bail out my kids when they forget a homework assignment and want me to bring it to school in the middle of the day.

I’ll never volunteer at school in order to get in good graces with my kids’ teacher.

I’ll never go a full year without contributing to a volunteer project in my kids’ classes.

I’ll never sign my kids’ reading logs when they didn’t actually read the full 20 required minutes. 

I’ll never let my kids have pasta and pizza and doughnuts on the same day.

I’ll never give my kids juice or Twinkies.

I’ll never let my kids see me drink too much.

I’ll never buy my kids a cell phone before age 13.

I’ll never let my daughters get their ears pierced before age 13.

I’ll never spend too much money on my kids’ birthday parties

I’ll never feed my baby formula before age one.

I’ll never spend too much on an outfit for my daughters for a party just because it’s trendy.

I’ll never raise my voice at my kids in public.

I’ll never pack my kids’ backpacks for them once they get to high school.

I’ll never completely rewrite a sentence in one of my kids’ essays. 

I’ll never let my kids go home with a parent I don’t know.

I’ll never leave my kids home alone before the legal age minimum.

I’ll never check my work emails or Facebook feed during a school concert.

I’ll never leave my kid in the car playing video games while I run into the store to get ice cream. 

I’ll never snap at my kids because I’m managing a frustrating situation at work.

I’ll never say anything but “I love to watch you play” after my kids’ sporting events. 

I’ll never say anything but “I love to watch you perform” after my kids dance, act, or sing. 

I’ll never let my kids watch Modern Family before they are old enough for the mature content.

I’ll never gossip with my kids and their friends.

I’ll never get so caught up in a moment that I miss something important my kids are trying to tell me.

Never say “Never,” and Happy Mother’s Day!

Related reading from the archives:

Who are we to Judge

There is Not One Right Way

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Trackbacks

  1. […] Happy Mother’s Day, Everyone!  Here’s a great post from Psychologywod.com with a parenting theme but a message for us all. […]

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