So, last night I got a lot of feedback on the situation with Natalie and boys that I wrote about earlier that day. Some thought it was funny, others agreed that open trust parenting was good and one person who shall remain nameless, told me I was promoting dating to my ten year old.
To be clear, I’m not telling my daughter that she should be interested in boys. I’m just listening to what she has to say about what is happening in her life and instead of trying to control the situation myself, I’m letting her explore how SHE feels about it. Instead of giving her answers on what she should think and do, I’m ASKING her what she thinks she should do and how she feels. I want her to control her own life. I don’t want her to ever rely on anyone else to tell her what she should think, say or do. I’d be doing her a major disservice to let her think that someone else is going to know what is right for her. Only she knows that and teaching her from birth to be confident in her decisions is what I have and always will do. Sure, she’s young and doesn’t actually know very much about life, but she won’t learn unless she is trained to examine how she feels and thinks about things. I give my opinions. I tell her that she’s too young for certain things and I’m quick to say no to her when I know that she needs that. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, I feel like it’s the best thing to do, and here’s why.
I grew up in a family in which my parents controlled everything we did. That’s not to say this is the beginning of my rant about how horrible my childhood was. It wasn’t bad. It was just different. My father is extremely old-school and as such, I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys. I wasn’t allowed to go on sleepovers. I wasn’t allowed to colour my hair, or wear make-up. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t do all of those things. I did. I just learned how to lie about them all. My father believed that if I liked boys, I would end up pregnant and my life would be over instantly. If I went to parties, I’d end up dead in a ditch. He was fearful of everything bad that could happen to me, and in his head, all of those things would happen because that’s just how it went. But that’s not true. I lied and did all of those things and I didn’t die. I didn’t get pregnant as a teenager or end up in jail. I was raised to be fearful of everything and to be aware that there is only one way to find success in life. Just go to school, get good grades, work hard, get married, have kids. The end. Except, I don’t think that’s the only way to do things. In fact, I know it isn’t. This way of thinking, of being fearful of life didn’t actually help me at all. It only made me do what I was supposed to do, only to find myself questioning whether it was what I deemed as success and happiness or not way later. Yes, I’m glad my parents cared about where I was and what I was doing. Parents should do that. I just think they don’t need to use such an iron fist in the process. A little bit of trust (until it’s broken, of course) and a lot of openness goes a long way in raising kids to be more aware of themselves and what they want out of their lives.
Up until Christmas I was adamantly against Natalie having a phone. I said she’d never have social media of any kind until she was 18. The thing is, she needs a phone. We don’t have a land-line in our house, and if she’s going to be staying at home alone, she needs one in case of emergency. A couple of weeks ago she broke me down on the social media thing. I’ve been thinking about it since I hesitantly agreed to let her have Instagram. I thought I had everything under control because she has an account that is for her cat. She’s not allowed to post any pictures of herself. She’s not to be posting pictures of anything but her cat. That is it. The thing is, I didn’t realize that even if I watch everything she posts, and I know who she follows and who follows her, I still don’t have any control over the other things she’s looking at. She can search anything and find pictures. I can tell her over and over that she’s not to do that, but come on, she’ll do it anyway. So, instead I had a conversation with her about social media. If my main concern was that she would be looking at pictures of other people and then she’d feel bad about herself and her life, then I’d just explain that to her. I sat her down and we played with filters. I made her bring the camera up and look at our reflection. I pointed out all of the things that a camera picks up without a filter. Then we played with the filters and I asked her which one looked better. Obviously she said the one where our eyes were big and our skin clear and beautiful made us look WAY better. So I explained to her, that all of social media is basically filtered. Everything is. Not just the images. All the faces and bodies are filtered yes, but also the subject matter as well. I brought up a picture on my Facebook from awhile back. I told her to look at the picture and tell me what she thought people would think about it. She said that people would think we are happy and that we are. I told her that after that picture was taken her father and I got into a huge fight and we were not happy at all. I explained how people would never know that because I didn’t post a picture of THAT. So, we had a conversation about what people post, and why and she rolled her eyes a lot and in the end she said she understood. I hope she did. I’ll probably remind her a few dozen more times over the next little while anyway, but I have to trust that she is at least a little bit more aware now.
I actually have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to parenting my kids. I’m basically just winging it and hoping that I’m doing something right. I just know that the most important thing to me is that my kids are confident in themselves. I know that doesn’t come naturally either. It comes from having parents who trust us and teach us to trust ourselves in the process. It comes from parents who teach us to explore the way we think and feel about the things in our lives. I don’t want to tell them that if they don’t follow a certain plan, they will end up miserable. I want them to choose what is best for them and know that they will make mistakes along the way, and that’s OK. That’s life.
I’m afraid of all the awkward conversations I’ll have to have with my kids. They come up everyday. Just yesterday Jack explained to me how in the Sims he is in a “budding romance.” When I asked him what the hell he was talking about, he told me all about how the boy sim invites the girl sim over and then he showers and gets himself smelling good (he acted it out btw which was ridiculously cute). Then he makes her espressos and they are romantic. When I asked Jack what romantic meant he said, “You know…you make them espresso and then you hug and kiss them. Then you get down on one knee… You know….romance.” I was dying laughing until he told me that eventually you go to the bed and it goes blurry for the “woo-hoo.” When I asked what that meant he said, “It’s so you can have baby sims, but don’t worry because a crib is like $2000 and I’m not spending that kinda money on a baby!”
So when I get tired, I guess I can just take a break and let the Sims teach my kids about life. Right?