My two big kids are of the age now where my alternative ways can sometimes be embarrassing. Where they moan at the things I don’t let them have, the things I make them do, the ways we live vs the ways they think other people live.
They’d happily go to the lolly shop each week and buy all the white sugar, fake coloured things. Really they know that’s not the way we live, and they get it (on a level) that’s it not good, and why it’s not good and all that. BUT they just wanna have the things their friends are having, and they just don’t wanna have their mum saying ‘can’t have this, can’t have that’. It can be a battlefield at the supermarket somedays, me saying no, them moaning why no. Even though they know.
Ok – to be fair to them, they really aren’t terrible at all. And they do get it! We stand at the cereal aisle and Ari looks longingly at all the things he’s tasted at his friends or grandmas house. But then he knows how my stance on it, and he agrees – he looks at the sugar content of each packet and we rationalise and talk about it. And sometimes we settle on a special treat, mostly we go without, or negotiate a middle group. Mostly we get plain bran flakes or rice pops from the health food shop (bulk, no packaging = bonus!).
And then they ask me for a new shirt or something else, for school camp or to go out. A ‘made in China’, mass-produced article of clothing. They will love it, and wear it until the end……..BUT – it’s not the way we aim to live. It’s not the way I am to live. And therein lies the difference. They understand, they get it, they know about child-labour, pesticides, ethical fashion, sustainable eating. But they still want the things they want.
As a parent my role is to guide my children, educate them, show them, give them options, raise them with ideals and an understanding of the world. My role is not to indoctrinate them, or force, bully or cajole them. I can give them everything, and plead, hope, wish…….but ultimately I have to let go and allow them to make their own choices. If we force our children to follow our ideals, blindly dragging them along, they won’t stay the course. We need to encourage them, enlighten them. Otherwise they’ll grow up and leave home and run as fast as they can to the nearest fast food chain, fast fashion, cheap living. By giving my children a solid understanding and a connection to their world I’m guiding them and allowing them to discover how to live themselves.
This means at times I’ll be strict and say no to the sugar, no to the fast fashion, no to the bright lights, but then at other times I’ll give a little more. I’ll question their choices, allow them to have an educated reason (rather than a throw-away “I want it” reason). I’ll give them the facts, and try to sway them, but not guilt them – and then let them make up their own minds. Being my mother’s daughter I’ll probably try to convince them a little more…. often met with eye rolling and “but mum!”.
I’m proof that living this way, and guiding your children in a gentle, simple, ‘this is just regular life’ way works. My mum was saying no to plastic bags at the supermarket when we were young, as a child we knew we were different, but we lived it, and still live it now. Some things are instilled in me, in my way of being…. and I hope this will the way for my children. That they’ll find their way back home by having it deeply nurtured in their souls, not forced onto their wellbeing.
I’d love to hear how you work through this – do your kids agree with everything or do you have challenges? Where do you draw the line & where do you sway and bend? Each day, at the moment, feels like we have new issues to work with and my ideals don’t always fit neatly nicely into what my children want….