I remember sitting with my parents at their friend’s home, listening while this friend recounted an incident with his daughter. The Georgia heat was finally giving way to cooler breezes, and parents were trading shorts and t-shirts for jeans and light jackets for their children. However, this parent related the story of how his daughter, maybe eight or nine years old at the time, pitched a fit that she wanted to wear shorts to school. So he let her. “When she comes home freezing from school, she’ll realize that it’s too cold for shorts and wear pants tomorrow,” he explained.
He then went on to share the difference between his wife and himself. She would leave the house frazzled and frustrated as she tried to slide tights up the wiggling thighs of a two-year-old and deal with the strong will of the older daughter. “Who cares if they leave the house and don’t match? It’s not worth it!” he declared.
And I found my college-aged self feeling sorry for his wife. The judgment storm was swirling around in my mind as I thought of this mom trying to dress her children nicely while their dad chose to let them win. He’s the parent; if he says it’s too cold for shorts, shouldn’t that be the end of the it? Couldn’t his daughter get sick if he let her wear shorts to school and it really was cold outside? What’s wrong with a mom wanting to put her girls in pretty dresses?
And while I thought through this father’s logic, I didn’t feel comfortable with his parenting technique. When I became a mother someday, my children would learn to obey and do as I said simply because I said it. They wouldn’t be allowed to wear shorts if the weather were chilly–I would be the parent, not them! I’d never let them leave the house wearing an outfit that wasn’t appropriate for the weather.
It’s about ten years later. I now have three children. This past Sunday, the temperature reached 87 degrees, and I allowed my daughter to wear this outfit to church.
At least she ditched the tie-up black boots that she originally wanted to wear.
My daughter went to church, and she didn’t match. It was 87 degrees, and after church, she took off the sweater. I’m still her mother, and my daughter knows that she has to obey; I just choose to pick different battles.
It’s amazing how much we know about parenting before we become a parent, isn’t it? It’s equally amazing how much we know about parenting everyone else’s kids, too. The fact of the matter is that each child is different, and part of being a parent is figuring out which techniques work best for your individual children and which battles to enter.
The sweater battle wasn’t worth it. Even if I had to eat my words from ten years ago, I wasn’t going to go to church frustrated over a mismatched outfit. And I’ll never again judge another parent for letting his or her child wear shorts in the winter–I’d never do that.
What is something you’ve done as a parent that you said you’d never do?