Before I got pregnant there were several things that I swore I would never do when I became a parent. It’s even possible I made some snap judgments about parents I observed doing these very things, raising my eyebrows with high and mighty plans to do things differently. I probably even enjoyed some smug pity laughter in my own head about this parent who just didn’t know any better.
Needless to say, now that I am a parent, the joke’s on me.
These are the top three things I swore I’d never do… that I totally do.
I take my child to McDonald’s and order him a Happy Meal. I know that there are many that will cringe at this, but I’m not sorry – it’s convenient and cheap. And not that terrible.
On Tuesday evenings, Happy Meals are only $1.99. At that price, I can get plenty of food for Ev, a cheap toy that buys me a little bit of peace before bedtime, and I don’t have to fight him to eat a meal I’ve spent time preparing. Frankly, that’s priceless.
That said, we don’t go often. But we do go, even though I swore my child would never eat at fast food restaurants, especially not McDonald’s.
I let my child watch TV and play with an iPad. Here’s the thing, I could tell you that he watches programs that are educational and thought-provoking and plays games that are engaging and require cognitive ability (which are true statements), but that’s not why I let him do these things. Allowing Ev to watch TV or play on a computer gives me and my husband time to do things that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do without constant interruptions, like catching up on house work or even just enjoying each other’s company.
We work hard on limiting screen time and on “stay-at-home” days, as we call them, the TV gets turned off. But, being a parent is exhausting and sometimes I want a break. I read a blog recently where a parent wrote about how they felt about TV, that she “used to feel guilty about it. I’ve read the studies that say too much TV will give my kids some sort of disorder and that screen time is nothing but bad. I’ve felt like an awful parent.” I can relate, and like the writer, I feel guilty sometimes, too. But also like the writer, I’m over it.
I bribe my child with candy or treats. I’m still a little uncomfortable admitting this. I thought under no circumstance would I ever stoop so low as to use bribery to get my child to do what I wanted him to do. I know that we as parents should be teaching our children to do things because they are intrinsically motivated, that it comes from within. I want my child to do things because it’s the right thing to do.
But it doesn’t always work like that.
When I am in a hurry and already 15 minutes late for a meeting with my supervisor, I don’t think twice about telling Ev he can have five M&Ms if he gets his coat on and out the door in two minutes. Or if he will just let me get the last five items on my grocery list without wailing, he can have six mini-marshmallows out of the bag that I will open the minutet we get into the car. Bribery goes against what I believe in, but it works so well. I get by remembering that there are still ample opportunities to encourage Ev to do things because it’s the right thing to do, or because there is a consequence he won’t like otherwise.
So, what about you? What did you swear you’d never do?