#1: It’s okay to be the bad parent
Can we just start here? Seriously. Between filling out the multiple school start up online forms, followed by the emergency preparedness sheet in triplicate, then the electronic device agreement, on to the hot lunch orders and then signing out the uniforms and gear… how is a parent of one let alone three, four or five supposed to stay on top of all the other things were supposed to do like: make healthy snacks, reduce our use of plastic wrap, ensure zero toxic off-gassing from our back packs and stuff and never, ever, ever support buying ‘made in sweatshop’ apparel, all the while staying on the positive side of the family budget? How are we supposed to breathe let alone feel like giving birth to these expensive charmers was even worth it? I’m being dramatic, well, about the worthy part, but not the school forms part.
Here’s the advice: RISK IT. Be a BAD PARENT. Send your forms in late. Send your son with the crazy kitty back pack he loves for no other reason than he LOVES it and it makes him happy. Buy the bag of two bite brownies once in awhile instead of baking. It’s ok to smile, to laugh, and to cut corners some times. You may be the ‘bad parent’ now and then but you’ll be happy, and probably even sane.
#2: Know how to find the free stuff
Trust me, you’re going to pay for a lot this year. This is the way education budgets are going. Whether in the public school system or the private one, parents with high desires for their kids’ education are filling the gap between what the government can pay for and what we want. My grade 8 son just had an ‘outdoor’ field trip that cost $70 per kid. What is that about? This was in the public school system. I digress.. So here’s the thing: where’s there’s free stuff like: books, an awesome library program, lectures, cool people and more…GRAB IT! Not only will it help to balance the financial scales in your mind, enjoying these perks may also expand your heart.
#3: Let them eat cake and lots of it
This is another way of saying SLOW DOWN. Bake together. Cook together. Bring them HOME for lunch once a week or once a month. Why? Because this is SPECIAL. It’s DIFFERENT. It’s what no one ‘has time’ for anymore, but you do. You can even grab them on your break if you have to. Even if you can only muster up 30 minutes together and you have to resort to fast food – the fries you gobble down together (and there are always healthy options) may not be good for their body, but the time together is the best medicine for their connection to you and their world.
#4: Make memories instead of deadlines
I can’t stress this enough: Sometimes let them be late. Pull them out for their birthday. Book a quarterly Pajama day. You can surrender to their timing sometimes and still be in charge. Yes, working to deadlines is a skill that is required for success in life; however, knowing what is truly important like: compassion, listening, patience and self-care is the learning that will serve them forever. How you actually live creates the memories they’ll draw on as life lessons when they need them later in life.
#5: Don’t sign up for that
This is an easy one to understand but really difficult to implement. Here is how we clean it up: if you can’t truly say no, you’ll never truly say yes. A yes that isn’t whole hearted or honest is really a maybe in disguise. Guess what happens when we do that? Yep that’s right, we become the inconsistent parent who may technically be a ‘volunteer’ but the reality is, we’re really the reliable, guilt ridden no-show. Why do that to ourselves? Why do that to others? What are you saying NO to this year so that you can say YES to something you really want?
#6: Sweet sweet sweet rewards
For you. I’m talking about giving sweet sweet sweet rewards to yourself. When your kid gets an A, remembers his gym strip all month, or solves a word problem for the first time, celebrate both him/her AND you. Why? Because no one has a breakthrough on their own which means, somewhere along the way YOU made a difference with your patience, your focus, and your determination. As you take him or her out for their favourite meal to celebrate, give yourself a little thumbs up too – you’re a super parent of the most awesome kind and don’t you forget it.
#7: Bang that drum
This is about remembering that childhood is noisy and teenage life is a little bit out of control. Wouldn’t you rather have the noise of them experiencing life around you instead of the quiet procrastination that happens behind a screen? Noise means expression means deep breaths means oxygen means brain food. I know that it can be noisy, even aggravating sometimes, but at least it’s happening in real time, and not virtually as a replay.
#8: Run with scissors
Am I suggesting you follow these instructions literally? No, that would be ridiculous and highly irresponsible. What I am suggesting is that you be willing to challenge your own rules sometimes. As our kids grow up, some rules don’t apply anymore, or they need to be adapted. Where once upon a time what was needed was a sticker chart by the door reminding them to brush their teeth, grab their lunch and wear a jacket, as they get older, you might want to try letting them forget and have stinky breath, be hungry and even get rained on. Why? Because then their learning is experiential and with no shame attached to the outcome. Being the kid who didn’t get a sticker because he/she didn’t grab their jacket feels a lot different than being the kid who came home soaked to the bone and needing a cup of cocoa and a hug from you.
#9: Who needs math?
I need math. You need math. We all need math, but for some it’s merely a required life skill while for others it’s an avenue of self-expression and still others an invitation for pride and challenge. What I’m trying to say is, learn who your kid is and let them be the math kid they are instead of the arithmetic whiz you think they need to be in order to succeed. Let’s build awesome math esteem instead of their math skills.
#10: Leave your jacket at home
I once grabbed two completely different shoes on my way out the door to go to a meeting. Both were gold. Both had a gold toe, and both were from a different pair of shoes. They did not match. I had no idea until I needed to put them on. I was heading into a business meeting in a suit with two different shoes. What to do? Now I was a grown up so one would think that I would just figure it out right? Well yes, I did, but do you know what I see over and over again out there? Twenty somethings who have no idea how to solve a problem let alone deal with the emotional bi-product of circumstances gone sideways.
Let your kids make choices they have to live with and sort out on their own. Teach them how to adapt as well as how to commit to their decisions by letting them solve the dilemmas that can come up. You can help them grow into the responsible, self-assured and resilient grown ups they need to be by being there to debrief them with your wisdom after. Oh yeah, but a word of advice first: never say I told you so… But you know that.
I encourage you to be a bad parent. Be seen as a real person with all the idiosyncrasies that come with the territory and give your kid the gift of really living. You’ll also be letting your child’s educators know that you see them as real people too and then you’ll all end up a little more sane and certainly a lot happier too.
Tina Overbury is an at home mom and has been for the last eleven years. She’s an Arbonne consultant who supports her family of five by working part time helping families make healthier choices both their their products and their lifestyle.