Mom knows best...or does she?

By Susanna Barbee | Nov 15, 2013

Each time my boys stay with one of the grandparents, I write out long to-do lists, tips and suggestions. Why do I do this? Didn’t these folks raise my husband and me just fine? So why do I feel the need to tell them how to take care of my children?

My parents did things a little differently than we do. The hubs and I are both schedule people. We find comfort in routines and have enforced them in our own household. Same bed time every night, same nap time every day.

I know that research says that children crave structure and thrive off of routine; however, I’m sometimes a little confused if the children thrive off of the actual structure or off the fact that the routine makes the parents more sane and in turn, makes them better parents.

My sis and I didn’t have much of a routine when we were little. My parents had us later in life as they were told that children may not be an option for them. So as a parent, you can imagine how elated they were when the doctor told them they were pregnant with my sister and then three years later, with me.

As little girls, we did not have a consistent bed time. In fact, we could giggle late into the night if we wanted to and did not get reprimanded. Had we had a strict 7 p.m. bedtime, perhaps those giggles would have been stifled. I sure did enjoy those giggles.

We were certainly allowed to watch TV after homework. John Wayne and Elvis movies were often on during this time of day, and my dad loved Hill Street Blues. The channel was sometimes turned to Donna Reed or Patty Duke on Nick at Nite. These shows were merely background noise while my sister and I flitted around the house playing and being silly. I know one thing for sure. Our home was warm and fun, and the sounds of these shows were part of the package.

Every New Year’s Eve, we stayed up until midnight and drank sparkling apple juice out of champagne flutes and ate a smorgasbord of snacks that my dad made. We would all snuggle together and watch Dick Clark for hours, anxiously anticipating the ball dropping.

We often ate dinner at the table, but then sometimes we set up TV trays and watched Who’s The Boss? or Family Ties while eating TV dinners. Other times we would make fondue from a fondue set my dad bought at a flea market.

I guess what I’m saying is that the amount of structure depends on the tolerance of the adult. We had some structure solely due to the fact that my parents were teachers and we all had to wake up early and head off to school. With that being said, however, I know for a fact we didn’t have as much structure as my own children do.

Sometimes I wonder if I place too much structure on my boys, but then I know my own personality and know that for me, the structure is needed. There are times, though, where we let them stay up late for this or that because those special, adventurous family times are the things children often remember.

To me, the bottom line is not about structure and routine. It’s about love and attention. When children are loved and attended to, they will be fine, even if a strict bedtime is not enforced or a family dinner every single night is not the norm.

I say all of this because Brooks, my 4-year-old, is away with my parents for the weekend. I started texting my mom all of these suggestions last night, only to stop and think to myself, “What are you doing? Didn’t you love your own childhood? Were the fun and spontaneous moments not your favorite? Yes, they were.”

Childhood is so fleeting that I need to stop trying to control every minute of it for my boys. It’s hard to let go and let other adults make the decisions, but isn’t that part of being a parent, slowly letting go. What’s the Jonas Salk quote? “Good parents give their children roots and wings.”

It’s not always easy, but I want my boys to feel independent, adventurous, and confident. And I certainly want them to feel like they can fly, but they won’t be able to grow their wings if I’m always tying them to the ground.

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