Monday, February 4, 2019

Making My Own Rules

What works for other people doesn’t always work for us.

I mean, fair, right? No one else has our kids, in our house, with our schedule and needs and strengths and weaknesses.

I have a few friends who keep very strict bedtimes for their school aged kids - no matter what. They’ll turn down evening activities if they can’t make it home by bedtime, even if they’re on vacation. It seems a little excessive to me, but according to the mom, one late night sets one of her kids off for DAYS. So staying up on a Friday or Saturday night means that school on Monday can be a disaster, and it’s not worth it. Now that her kids are older, it’s starting to be a battle because she’s starting to feel more alone - and her kids know it.

I know some who are strict about screentime. They go beyond just a daily limit and have very clear “blackout times”, whether it’s morning or evening. One family I know allows their kids no screen at all Sunday evening through Friday afternoon. No TV, no games, no texting friends. Weekdays are for focus on school. They keep a consistent movie night on Friday and allow the kids access to their devices again on Saturday.

Some parents are very regimented in how they structure chores. There are daily and weekly jobs that are carefully monitored and recorded on a chart. 

Some families are strict about food, both what you can eat and where you can eat it. Sometimes it’s that food can’t be taken out of the kitchen. Sometimes it is about the amount of sugar - or any sugar at all. Some families don’t believe in dessert and are shocked to hear that there are families who have dessert as an expected end to a meal. 

When is the right time to get a phone? What is the right approach to homework and grades? How do we feel about allowance and how kids manage their money? 

There are plenty of blogs telling you what we should all agree to do - call out activities for time spent, agree to technology rules, etc. To be honest, they really annoy me. When I see an article that wants parents to all stand together and agree that after school activities take up too much time or a phone before eighth grade or goody bags should be banned, I roll my eyes. Yes, there are things that bug each and every family. But really, this call to arms doesn’t make much sense.

Sometimes, as a parent, you want to draw a line in the sand that you know your kids won’t like. Maybe it’s a ban on technology or multiple soccer practices a week or refined sugar. Maybe it’s an 8:00 bedtime or a chore chart. And you know that your kids talk to other kids, and it would be SO MUCH EASIER if you didn’t have to make this stand on your own. If everyone could just agree that three soccer practices are too much, the league would have to change it and you wouldn’t be the bad guy saying no, because it doesn’t work for your family. If everyone could agree to one bedtime, you wouldn’t have to hear that your kid is the only fourth grader not going to this evening activity because it doesn’t start until 7:30. It stinks to be the parent who isn’t allowing food in the car, or TV during the week, but you feel like it’s important. But sometimes, we need to own that we’re the rule maker here, and instead of imploring society to agree with us, we’re ok with saying, “this is how it is in our house”.

Because my kids just realized they don’t get snow days. We homeschool, so really, there’s no need. We can do a normal school day and still manage to play outside and drink hot chocolate. And honestly, it’s great, because we just keep on with our schedule. My kids didn’t even notice this until this past year, but now they both have plenty of friends to clue them in that they’re different. During the last snowfall, both of them came to me, whining that they had been texting with their friends and it was totally unfair that they weren't getting a "day off".

I could have told them about how we take plenty of days that public schools don't - sometimes just because we feel like it. I could have told them that we're on track to finish WEEKS ahead of their friends, and they'll have a longer summer. I could have told them that snow prevents travel - not learning - so kids in boarding schools and colleges don't get a day off. I could have caved and thought "can't we just all agree?"

But instead, I said, "Cool. In this house, we're doing school today."

And I'm fine with being the mean mom here.

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