I think most parents come into parenting with a “Parenting Philosophy.” It is probably a mix of things that their parents did with them, as well as some personal observation tweaks on parenting skills they have gleamed by watching the successes and failures of other parents.
I am no different. My parenting philosophy goes something like this:
- I am your father first, and your best friend second (or maybe 5th or 6th after your real friends and your mother)
- I ate vegetables and so can you. If you don’t eat them tonight, when you get hungry enough, you WILL eat them
- After the approximate age of 3, you’re old enough to clean up most of your own messes and get your own toys and blankets from wherever in the house you’ve left them. I’m not your maid
- When you’ve tuned out my threats of taking away your favorite toys, a spanking usually will do the trick
- Just because we have kids, it doesn’t mean the house should look like a pigsty
- You can entertain yourself sometimes
- anything else that I make up along the way
The problem with a philosophy, is that it’s just that—a philosophy. A philosophy is “a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs” (thank you Dictionary.com). The quick among you will see the fallacy at work here—the fact that a philosophy comprises principles. And what is a principle exactly, but a, “personal or specific basis of conduct or management.”
Plainly put, a philosophy consists of a bunch of generally unproven beliefs. Which means then, that a philosophy is not proven and therefore seldom holds true in the real world.
Take last night. I met CareerMom and the boys out for dinner at the local binge-n’-purge. Things went well for the first 20 minutes as our oldest contented himself with coloring the little menu thingy and our youngest donned a bib and commenced to eat pretty much whatever we put in front of him. But then all that wore off and we were left with, “I’m ready to go home” whining from our oldest and, “Hey, let’s see how many times I can make mommy and daddy pick this up off the floor” from our youngest.
Once dinner was over, I volunteered to take our youngest home while CareerMom and my oldest went shopping for a last-minute Christmas gift for her Administrative Assistant at work who had made a point of telling CareerMom as she walked out the door that, “I have a Christmas gift for you tomorrow.”
When we got home, I put our youngest on the floor with some plastic containers to play while I washed up bottles and generally cleaned up. Well, he didn’t like that and he decided to cry.
Now, I had two choices here. I could A) Stand by my philosophies and let him entertain himself (or continue to cry) while I cleaned, or I could B) Pick him up, leave the mess and keep him happy.
Have I mentioned I’m stubborn? Well, I am so I stuck by my philosophy and treated myself to pretty much a nonstop 40-minute cry-fest because once he got started, nothing would stop him. It finally got close enough to bedtime, so I bathed him, put his jammies on and put him to bed.
God Bless the quietness!
But I’m at an impasse here because I don’t think he “learned” anything, which is really the whole point of sticking to your philosophy when things go south. So I’m not sure I won anything here and I’m sure that the next time the situation arises, it’ll play out similarly.
The only question that remains is, “How strong is my resolve?” I don’t know the answer to that, but what I do know for sure is that I will be tested; Oh yes, I will be tested still.