Thursday, February 9, 2012

I submit to you, my child

We've all heard it said that in parenthood you have to pick your battles. This has never been more true than with my youngest child. See, my youngest has a lot more...how shall I put it?...personality...than her older siblings. She's far more opinionated and strong-willed than they ever were. (My middle child can be extremely stubborn at times, but is usually pretty easy-going.) So the things I have always been accustomed to doing, believing, and "forcing upon" my older kids I haven't exactly been able to do with my youngest child. Which can be maddening, to say the least.

I had a bit of an epiphany about that today. I've primarily viewed my power struggles with my youngest as a a negative thing. I've primarily had the attitude that its my job to get my child to submit to whatever I view as "right." If I say you are wearing the white socks, then you're wearing the white socks, end of story. Or so has been my thinking.

But I think, amongst all the frustration that power struggles can be, there is a wise lesson to be learned, and with the right perspective, can be a very positive, and even healthy, thing for a parent, if they're willing to let it be.


I finally gave up the battle over matching socks a few months ago. The little one has decided that mismatched socks are much more awesome than matching socks, much to my chagrin. I used to fight her on it, worried what other people would think about it. I am not very self-conscious about my parenting, but I do like my kids' appearances to reflect the fact that I do care how they look, and I want them to look presentable. After many months of knock-down-drag-out wrestling matches every single day to try and get her to "submit" to wearing matching socks, I finally decided that my own discomfort about the situation was a better solution than both of us being frustrated about the matching socks, so I finally gave in. It was just the better solution. Lesser of two evils, is the way I have to view it.

Today, she wanted to brush my hair. If you've ever had your hair brushed by a three year old, you know that its not the most enjoyable experience. She was trying really hard to be gentle, but her definition of gentle is a lot rougher than my definition. At first, I started to pull my head away and ask her to stop. Very sweetly she'd say, "But I'm being really gentle." It was endearing, but I still didn't want my head repeatedly swatted with a hair brush, no matter how sweet the intent behind it. Eventually, her tenacity reigned and I just let her brush my hair, figuring she'd get tired of it after a few minutes and move on to something else. I just sucked it up and let her play and be happy, even at the expense of my own slight discomfort. She was happy, I was annoyed, but it was better than me fighting her on it and both of us ending up in frustration.

I am starting to realize that maybe parenting isn't all about me forcing them to submit to my own ways. Lest that be misinterpreted, it is my job to teach them morals, values, and social graces, and those aren't things I will ever budge on. I also don't mean giving into their every want and desire. Its not about yielding to their greed or selfishness. (I know that sounds mean, but let's face it, kids can be pretty self-centered because they haven't learned yet that the world doesn't revolve around them. Child development. Proven fact.)

But socks? Brushing my hair? Do those things really impact me or the world around them in a negative manner?

So today I realized, part of parenting is learning to occasionally submit to my children. To always expect them to yield to me, without any give and take, is just plain unfair. It makes us bossy, and maybe even bully, parents. If we want to teach our kids trust and respect, then we need to show them that we do trust and respect them, even in just small little ways.

And I think its healthy for us to hand that control over now and then. I think its healthy to have to squirm, be uncomfortable, and actually learn a thing or two about ourselves now and then. Just because we're the parent now doesn't mean that we can't still learn and grow. And we should at least try. Its kind of arrogant to assume that just because we're the adult we know everything and don't need to make any changes; that its not all about our own comfort level all the time, and that we need to be open to letting them take the reins and teach us once in a while. We ask them in so many ways every day to submit to another person's (our) point of view, and that's how they learn. Why don't we try to do the same now and then?

So, I'm going to let my little girl wear mismatched socks when she wants to, and brush my hair now and then. I may not enjoy it, but I think its healthy for me to just live and let live and let her be happy with her own (often ridiculous, in my opinion) choices once in a while.

Maybe I should try wearing mismatched socks now and then, too...

What about you? In what little ways do you think you need to let go and "submit" to your own child(ren)? Do you think it'll challenge you as a parent?