I have been thinking about parenting styles a lot recently. It’s only in the past few months that I have felt like the chaos has subsided since adding Eve to our family. Parenthood for me has mostly been about survival. There hasn’t been a lot of time to stop and think about my parenting style, or contemplate the kind of life experiences I want my kids to have. Mostly the thoughts in my head tend towards the manic “laundry/bills/dishes/work/bedtime/someone is sick” in a never ending loop. Turns out, spending years of my life sleep deprived while working a full time job while parenting small children and moving multiple times doesn’t really help me have mental clarity to think about ideas, and worldviews, and how I want to be shaping my kids’ lives.
Mostly this doesn’t bother me too much. I think there is a tendency to over analyze parenting, and obsess about kids. I think back to our childhood, and I remember that Mom and Dad didn’t seem to worry too much about us (or maybe they did, and I didn’t know about it?). They simply provided lots of love and a good healthy environment for us to grow up in, and we flourished.
As my little family has been settling into our new home, we have taken a few steps towards the Buckwalter style of raising kids. I bet they are familiar ideas to all of you.
- Don’t have a TV. I mean, have something you can watch movies/shows on, but don’t make it the centerpiece of your living room. It’s interesting to me how many houses have their living rooms centered around a giant flat screen TV. As kids, we were always the strange family without a TV. Turns out, you become more creative when you don’t have a source of constant entertainment. A TV makes you just turn off your brain. Granted, there’s times when that is needed. I definitely enjoy watching a little Netflix after the kids are in bed, but I don’t want them to be constantly staring at a screen. Here’s what we fill our living room with: books. A few creative toys, like a set of blocks. A piano. We recently got a piano and I’m so glad to have a musical instrument in the house that the kids can play. Create your own entertainment!
2. Make your kids work. We all remember the chores we had to do growing up. I resented them somewhat, but then I got used to them, and the time always passed quickly when we cleaned together. I think the lesson really got drilled into me to work before having fun. We just started a chore chart with Miriam and it is hard work, making kids get used to the idea of working. It takes much longer to teach her to do a task than to just do it myself. My time is so precious–I get a few hours a day at home with my kids, and it’s hard to spend a half hour of that time nagging Miriam to finish her chores. But I know it’s important. We keep reminding her that everyone in the house has to help with the work. It takes so much work to keep a household going! She’s starting to grasp the idea of contributing.
3. Teach your kids about money. Mom and Dad weren’t the kind of parents who just gave us whatever we wanted. We learned from a young age that money doesn’t grow on trees! I do remember getting an allowance and learning the value of money. When we started the chore chart with Miriam, we also started giving her an allowance. But we are not paying her to do chores. We have told her that she has to do chores to contribute to the work that needs done everyday. After all, no one pays me to do the dishes or laundry! We are trying to convey to her that as she grows, she gains responsibility and is expected to help out more. Along with growing up, we are giving her a small amount of money weekly so she can start to learn how much things cost, and budget, and spend the money on things she wants. So far she has been really excited to buy books and a few small toys. We are going to start a savings jar and a giving jar too. So far I think it’s going well. Last week she wanted to buy a brand new book for $22 and only had $18. So we talked about what she would need to do to save up for it.
4. Spend a lot of time outside. We were lucky to have grown up at the Buckwalter homestead with so much room to roam! I remember spending so much time in the creek, in the treehouse, wandering in the woods, playing in the gravel pit “castle” up the road. Free time outside is so essential to childhood. I’ve started taking my kids outside when I get home from work now that the weather is nice. We play in the yard, kick a soccer ball around, maybe go for a walk in the nearby cemetery. When we have more time, we head out for a long walk on the nearby trails in the state forest.
5. Prioritize family dinners. We always ate a good home-cooked meal for dinner every night growing up, and it’s something I try pretty hard to continue for our kids now. Spending that time together is important. Right now, I spend a lot of family dinner time running around wiping up spills, getting napkins, watching Eve throw food on the floor and telling the kids that yes, they have to eat their vegetables, but I know that family meal time will get a bit less hectic as the kids get older.
6. Spend time with extended family. I also remember so many trips as a kid to see family and lots time spent with family. I’m so glad to be connected to extended family. I want my kids to know their grandparents and cousins! We try to make this happen as much as we can, but the distances involved make things hard. This is why you all need to move to upstate NY, ahem!
This is just a start to what could be a long list! What have I missed? Maybe I’ll get more brain space soon (will I ever get enough sleep? Will life ever slow down?) and I can think of more.
Sending love to you all and looking forward to some sister time soon with Martha! Next week! We’ll be hitting a lot of things on this list together.