One of the numerous times I’ve made my son mad this year was the day I told him he had to go to school when a bunch of other parents were not making their kids go. Here’s the story: My son’s soccer team had a tournament on the last Friday of school before a break. Departure time from school was 10:00 am. Several days before the tournament, my son started asking me if he “had to go to school” that Friday, because “nobody’s going to school.” I asked if the team had been excused from class that morning, and his response was vague. So, on Thursday afternoon, I asked in the office whether or not the soccer team was expected to be in class that morning before departure to the tournament. I told them my son had heard that some of his teammates were not planning on going to school, and that he was questioning whether he needed to go.
They responded that yes, the boys were required to go to school. In fact, if the athletes didn’t go to school that morning, they would not be allowed to play soccer (per league rules). Having that information, I got in my car and waited for my kids. Predictably, my son’s first question upon sitting down in the passenger seat was, “Do I have to go to school tomorrow?”
Also, just as predictably, I said, “Yes.”
I explained what the office staff had told me. On the silent drive home, I could see the fumes coming out my son’s ears. I knew what he was thinking. He didn’t even need to say it out loud. “No one else is going to school. Everyone else’s parents are letting them stay home. I have the lamest mom.”
I’ve heard several times before how uncool I am compared to other parents:
“No one else’s parents don’t allow phones and devices in bedrooms.”
“No other parents make their kids turn off devices at 8:00 on school nights.”
“No one makes their kids go to bed at 9:30.”
So, I’m quite familiar with being the “uncool” mom with too many rules. From my son’s perspective, I am super strict, and it would be so much better to be in one of the “anything goes” kind of families. According to my son, I’m the only parent in the universe with all these unreasonable family rules.
Back at home later that same afternoon, while sitting at the kitchen counter having a snack, he asked me, “Would Nani (that’s what he calls my mom) have made you go to school?”
I thought about it for a moment and replied, “Yes, I can’t really remember ever missing school unless I was sick.”
A conversation followed about how our family doesn’t share the same values with many other families, and that in our house we think that if a teacher is going to be at school teaching, and we’re not sick, we go to school out of both respect for them and for our education. I told him that I’m not responsible for any one else’s kids, but I am responsible for mine, and so I will make decisions based on what I think is most important in the long run rather than what will make him happy in the moment.
I also told him that I didn’t mind him being mad, because I thought I had made the right decision. I was reminded of Brene Brown’s The Gift of Imperfect Parenting, when she talked about interviewing college students about how strict their parents were. The kids spoke with pride as they tried to “out strict” each other with their stories of parental strictness. Even just a few years later, they were already able to equate the rules and strictness with love and caring. And I’m pretty sure they did not feel that way while their friends were being allowed to do things they were not. The silent college kids during the strictness conversation, whom she later interviewed individually, were not proud when they recounted an adolescence with no boundaries or rules.
My son stayed quiet while digesting both his snack and what I had said. After about 10 minutes, still in a somewhat negative tone, he said, “I’m going to make my kids go to school, too.”
I smiled (only on the inside so he wouldn’t see). Even now, while still enmeshed in the “unreasonable” confines of my rules, he’s already beginning to understand the reason I’m so uncool.
There are about a billion different ways you could have spent the last five minutes, and you spent them reading my post. Thank you! If you like Sunshine Parenting, please subscribe to get an email update each time I post (use box in right column of my blog). Follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter for links to articles and ideas about camp and parenting. Have a happy day!
Does Our Family’s Time Reflect Our Family’s Values?, Sunshine Parenting
The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, Brene Brown audio
The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting, excerpt on YouTube
My 2016 Reading List, Sunshine Parenting
Why It’s Important to Set Healthy Boundaries with Your Kids, mindbodygreen
Strong Boundaries Create Secure Children, Natural News
Parental Roles: How to Set Healthy Boundaries with Your Child, Empowering Parents
My Parents Aren’t Cool, Steve Baskin