Pick your battles. It’s a cliche, an overused phrase that gets tossed around so much we barely even acknowledge it when someone says it, but it’s so true. It applies to everything: marriage, work, friendships, and most of all, motherhood.
Think about it. We have approximately 1,256,878 lessons we’re supposed to teach our children before they reach adulthood. Of course we want to teach them everything we possibly can so that they will be kind, content, and fair adults, but is that reality? There is no possible way we’ll be able to teach them everything. My suggestion? Pick your battles.
Around the time my daughter turned one, I realized I was spending 80 percent of my day telling her what not to do, why she shouldn’t do it, why I can’t do it for her, etc. It started to sound really old . . . to me. I can’t even imagine how annoying it was for her. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not a post on saying “no” — I say “no” all the time. I know there are moms that don’t, and while I marvel at your magical powers, I have no idea how you do that.
What I’m talking about it choosing a few things that you’re willing to let slide. I wouldn’t choose rules that you’re continually having to enforce and discuss (those are usually the most important), but I would choose things that you enforce but don’t exactly know why you’re doing it. Maybe it’s something you’ve heard from other moms, your mom . . . or perhaps even a blog like this. We won’t take it personally if you don’t follow our advice. Just don’t tell us. 😉 It’s always best to enforce rules and teach lessons that you really believe in and can back up. New parents: If you can’t back yourself up with a sound argument, I wish you luck with your future two-year-old, who you’ll soon find out is also an attorney.
My husband and I have given up several rules over the past couple of years because we determined they weren’t that important to us as a family, we felt our daughter was adjusting fine without enforcing them, and we didn’t wholeheartedly believe in their purpose. Those things are as follows. (Prepare yourself, your mom brain might combust in disbelief and/or horror.)
-Watching TV (every day . . . GASP).
-Saying certain words (like “butt” and “yeah” . . . again, GASP).
-Eating dessert (on a regular basis and not just at birthday parties and holidays).
At the end of the day, we realized that severely limiting two of these things (TV and dessert) is extremely important to our generation (with good reason), but not necessarily to us. We both were raised in homes of balance, and, as children, and therefore adults, we responded well to that balance. As kids, we both watched a lot of TV, but we also read (A TON, and much more often than we watched TV). We also ate dessert on a regular basis but certainly weren’t allowed to gorge on a box of Little Debbie’s while ignoring our fruits and vegetables. That balance worked for our parents, and it’s how we’ve chosen to raise our daughter because so far she’s responding very well. Even at two, she pays much more attention to her books than the television, and while she gets a few desserts per week, her favorite foods are beets, cucumbers, strawberries, peas, edamame, and apples.
Regarding the forbidden words issue, I wasn’t allowed to say “butt” in school, and my dad regularly corrected me when I said “yeah” instead of “yes,” but we still decided to let this go. I won’t explain our reasons for this (I’ve already spent more time defending our decisions than I promised myself I would), but suffice it to say, we think it’s a generational issue that no longer applies. She’ll still be required to say her “sirs” and “ma’ams,” and that’s enough for me.
Those are the battles we’ve decided to let go of so far, and I know for a fact there will be more in the future. The rules and lessons will only grow exponentially from here on out (heaven help us: dating, cell phones and short-shorts are all in our future), but we will still have to decide what is most important to teach her and focus on those things.
What battles have you chosen to let go of? Are there rules the you don’t enforce that most other parents do?