Earlier today, I was thinking about the difference between my young mom parenting and my now older mom parenting. I want the same things for my children. I want secure, well-adjusted children who can practice self-control, think of others, and use their talents to the best of their abilities. What has changed is how I think they best get there.
There is a huge paradigm shift that happens as you change from parenting small children to teens and then to adults. What you thought was important turns out to be not nearly as important as you believed, plus you also realize that as much as you want the nurture half of the equation to be the bigger piece, you just cannot escape a child's nature, either. Pretty much my parenting method these days is pretty simple. Love them a lot, be a safe place to land, love them a lot, have reasonable expectations, and love them a lot. This is not to say that we are one step removed from being the modern version of Lord of the Flies, we do ask for common decent behavior, but I'm far more concerned about my relationship with my children than I am with knee jerk obedience. My young mom self would look at my old mom self with absolute horror, I promise you.
One of the ways that I know I have loosened up over the years is my willingness to say yes to things. My young mom self needed to be in control. If an idea didn't come from me, I just wasn't comfortable saying yes to it. I needed to think about it. I needed to figure out how big a mess it would make. I needed to be in control of it. Now? Eh, not so much. As we went through the afternoon I realized that I had made a habit of saying yes to my children more. I am more relaxed and I think my children are, too.
Some of the things I said yes to included, copying pages on the printer from coloring books so they could be colored; having snacks; using tape and glue; copying their show program (scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving... it seems to be some sort of Thanksgiving pageant) that they had carefully written out, but needed more copies; working on some hand sewing; having hot chocolate. I'm sure there were more, but you get the idea. None of these are huge things. None are particularly difficult or costly or messy. All of them brought joy to my children. But I can guarantee you, that 15 years ago, it would have been difficult for me to say yes to any, much less all, of them, unless the activity happened to be a part of my plan for the day.
Some of this is just the mellowing that happens with age. The other piece is that I've learned that our children really do need to hear yes, especially our children who come from hard backgrounds. For hurt children the no's they hear are hard. They, the no's, just confirm that the world is indeed out to get them; that nothing ever works out for them. Yes's are what happen for other people, but not them. No's play into their already extremely low feelings of self worth. Saying yes all the time is not going to fix this. I also realize that saying yes all the time isn't possible for a variety of reasons. But saying yes, a lot, can help to begin the healing. It can help to confirm to the child that you really are in their corner and want good things for them. Saying yes helps to create understanding and relationship.
So take a lesson from this old mom, especially if you are a young mom. Say yes. Take a deep breath and just say yes. You don't need to be in control of every single minute of your child's life. And I hate to break it to you, your control is just an illusion anyway. At some point, someone will think your a bad mom, whether or not you have done everything 'right'. Take a deep breath, and realize that it's okay. If you love your children, and are working in their interests, then you are a good mom. Saying yes more to your children will give them joy, and cut you some slack all at the same time.