This summer has been a summer of firsts for my husband and me. Although we have been together for 22 years, and married for almost 17 of those, this is the first time in 12 years (note: our oldest daughter is 12) where we have finally managed to make us a priority again.
Now don’t misunderstand….Despite the fact that we have three children, we still do try, as best we can, to spend time together, go on ‘date-nights’, grab lunch during the week, or just plain hang out. But time is always limited or restricted and we always feel that we are on the clock with a babysitter.
But this summer has been different.
For the last month, two of my three children have been at sleepaway camp. This leaves us with one child to bathe, put to bed, and clean up after. Easy, easy, easy. There is no fighting or arguing and our role as mediators has been put on hold, at least temporarily.
All of a sudden, we have found time to talk to each other. By 8:30 each evening, our responsibilities, for the most part, have been completed.
On two occasions in the last month, first for an old friend’s wedding, and then for a good friend’s birthday party, we have really been able to let loose. We could relax and enjoy ourselves without worrying about getting up early the next morning to take someone to dance or another to play rehearsal. And we have been enjoying ourselves, immensely, sometimes doing a whole lot of nothing. And we do not feel guilty about it, not one bit.
What have we learned with our kids at sleepaway camp?
#1 – Life does get easier.
Our biggest lesson learned this summer is that life does get easier as our children get older and start doing their own thing. Yes, small kids small problems, big kids, bigger problems…yada yada yada…we know all that. However, the mere logistics of caring for our children has changed immensely. These little people are now able to do so much for themselves. A time we thought would never come! There is no more being woken up to a tiny voice calling from the bathroom to be wiped, or for shoes to be tied or for hair to be brushed. All these details, which in themselves are not difficult or taxing, are no longer our responsibility.
#2 – We actually still like each other.
Given the amount of time we have been together, it is easy to take for granted the fact that we really can finish the other’s sentences, we know for the most part what the other is thinking, and we can appreciate each other’s wit and sense of humour. We have discovered that when we do go out, we still have what to talk about. And believe it or not, it is not always about our children (only some of the time).
#3 – We still know how to have fun.
We have not (yet) turned into those people who do not know how to let their hair down or who frown upon everything. We have discovered that given the opportunity, we know how to enjoy ourselves, each other and our friends. Perhaps when we first had children, for a while anyway, we lost sight of ourselves and our relationship with each other.
We are all busy, and life gets in the way sometimes. It’s very easy to lose sight of what’s important when we feel we are too busy to nurture it. But I am happy to say that for us, anyway, our children being away this summer was a good reminder that we need to be more attentive to one another, spend more time with those we love, and not take for granted what we have. And that, given the right time and opportunity, we too, have been able to get our groove back.
I was reading an article that a friend sent to me about a mother who felt so guilty for disciplining her daughter’s friend when she was over for a play date. She was tormenting herself for losing her patience, and giving this child a time-out for being rude and disruptive.
As I kept reading, I kept thinking to myself… “So what’s the problem? What’s the big deal here? Am I missing something?” I could not relate whatsoever to this mother who was being so hard on herself for parenting a child who was in her care, even for a short time.
When it comes to child rearing, there are two basic points of view:
#1- It takes a village to raise our children. Let’s face it, in today’s society, it is extremely difficult to raise children completely on your own. Not impossible, but more difficult. Besides, it feels good to help others who need it, and feels just as good to be helped when we feel we are at our breaking point.
#2 – The second perspective, clearly my least favourite of the two, is the theory that it is no one’s business how we choose to raise a child. While I understand that everyone is entitled to their own standards, value systems, ethics and points of view, when a child’s behaviour begins to affect other people, especially people we care about, it most certainly does become other people’s business.
Most people are able to recognize both the pros and cons to each perspective, and find a happy medium in terms of how they treat, discipline and nurture other people’s children for whom they are in charge.
Keeping both these theories in mind, and in an attempt to find some common ground between them, when faced with the need to parent someone else’s child, I try to remind myself of the following:
Things to Keep in Mind when Discipling other People’s Children:
#1 – No matter what our perspective, we as parents have the right to make the rules in our own home. If our child’s friend tells us that certain behaviours are permitted in their home, we are allowed to tell them that that is their parents’ choice, but in our home we do things differently. We need to remain consistent in our choices, explain the rules clearly, and not feel the need to justify the rules to them. In other words, essentially treat them in the same manner as we would our own children.
#2 – Little children on their own, without proper guidance, may sincerely not be able to find alternatives to their off-putting behaviour. It is our jobs as parents to not only discourage what is not allowed, but also to provide alternative, more appropriate behaviours that are more acceptable in our home.
#3 – Speak to the parents of the little houseguest and inform them how the play date went. We must be honest with the parents, as we would expect in return, as we can be sure that the child will say something to them once they are alone. And we would most certainly want these parents to have our perspective. We are more likely to be supported by their parents if we are transparent from the get-go.
#4 – Pick and choose our battles….And be able to let things just roll off….We might be more open to the children eating with their mouths open, but less tolerant of rude noises at the table or their lack of manners. Even in these instances, in order to avoid any unnecessary embarrassment, we can keep reminders to be polite directed toward everyone sitting at the table and not necessarily to one child in particular.
As far as my husband and I are concerned, when we have our children’s friends in our home, they are, essentially on loan to us temporarily. This means it is our job to keep them safe, ensure they are happy, help them if they are sick or hurt, and similarly discipline them if they are acting out.
Others are entrusting them to us, and we should treat them as we would our own.
After all, is that not what we would want if the shoe was on the other foot?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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