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Four Battles I Will Not Fight

I have been a mother for thirteen years.  To say that it has not turned out as I expected would be the grossest understatement of all time.  Not that it’s a bad thing.  There’s just no reality in the daydreams and plans you make when you’re eagerly anticipating your firstborn.  You have no idea what you’re getting into, no matter how much advice you get, experience you have with other people’s children or how many “What to Expect” books you read.  Your kids are going to come out with their own idiosyncrasies, personalities and unique skills for pushing your buttons.  I could write my own “What to Expect” book right here and now.  Expect everything you’re planning to go sideways on a regular basis.  Expect nothing to go as planned, ever.

Hubs and I had a perfectly choreographed parenting plan, designed to handle the most thorny situations our kids could throw at us.  Oh, how cute of us.  What our parenting plan actually became is a more reactive, shoot from the hip, make it up as we go along conglomeration of what we’re pretty sure is the best thing for our family.  I might feel a little bad about this, if I weren’t absolutely convinced that every other parent who ever lived is doing it the same way.  Kids have a way of instinctively sensing parental intentions and morphing into Stewie Griffin and you find yourself back at square one.

via whatevo.com

via whatevo.com

So, the most important skill I’ve gained as a mother is the ability to pick my battles carefully.  In my weaker moments I wonder if I’m just being lazy, but for the most part, I’m pretty sure that I’m teaching my kids valuable lessons.  Or something.

  • Winter outerwear.  I spoke of this at length in my last post, so I’ll not belabor the point.  I make sure my children have winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves available to them.  If they choose to be cold instead, that’s on them.  I barely have time in the mornings to put on my own coat, let alone wage a great battle with my kids about what they’re wearing.  Any kid who’s reached double-digits is old enough to know they should wear a coat in January, and also old enough to live with the consequences.
  • Haircuts.  I have a ridiculous amount of trouble scheduling haircuts.  I work Tuesday through Saturday.  My hairdresser is closed on Sundays and Mondays.  So you see the issue here.  I have quickly found that we girls can get away with infrequent haircuts.  The boys cannot.  My solution was the triumphant purchase of clippers.  I can tend to their hair at my own convenience, and since they favor buzz cuts, there’s no real skill required.  However, as soon as the chill of autumn hits the air, my son decides that he will need no further haircuts until spring.  This is difficult.  I am tempted to clipper his shaggy little head whilst he sleeps.  He has thick hair with a weird cowlick and just enough curl to guarantee some funky alfalfa sprouts.  However, he feels really, really strongly about it and it’s so not worth the fighting.  It’s his head.  He’s not hurting anything.  So, whatever.  In May, my son will have neat and clean hair and until then I will bite my tongue.
  • Medicine.  I am not, of course, referring to medicine needed to combat any kind of serious illness.  But a stuffy nose, a headache, a minor cough?  I will not fight them about taking medicine.  I did enough of that when they were toddlers.  My daughter, in her babyhood, routinely required a two-man team to hold her down and dump amoxicillin down her gob.  I’m over it now.  If your head hurts, I will give you some medicine.  If you choose not to take it, of your own free will, then you are free to carry on with your headache.  And woe betide you if you dare utter one complaint to me about it.
  • Sibling fights.  My children are two years apart in age.  We planned that out pretty carefully and it seemed like a perfect age difference.  Well, I don’t know if there is a good age difference to reduce arguments, but I definitively know that it’s not a two-year difference.  Oh, how they fight.  I gave up on this a long time ago.  I figure they need to learn how to resolve conflicts on their own, and I can always use practice at tuning out shrieking.  I don’t get involved in this nonsense anymore, unless one child dares to lay a hand on the other one.  Then they get a face full of angry mom, and nobody wants that.

It’s hard to strike a good balance as a mom, especially as your children get older and don’t really need you anymore.  It hasn’t been easy for me to let go of tiny bits of control and let them make their own choices about things, but I do think it’s necessary.  If not for their development into functioning members of society, then certainly for my own sanity.  I miss the days when I could pick out the clothes that I wanted them to wear and when I could choose any cutie little hairstyle I wanted for my daughter, but I have to admit, it sure is a lot easier now.  I’m sure there are any number of people wondering why I won’t cut my son’s hair, but we don’t care about them.  Yes, I’d like him to have a nice and neat haircut, but, in the big picture, it’s a lot more important for him to learn to do what’s right for him.  As long as what’s right for him isn’t punching his sister in the head.

  1. January 21, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Brilliant strategy. I learned my strategies way too late. “Face full of angry mom” ….you need to copy right that!

    • January 21, 2013 at 10:47 am

      Thanks…my children are the type that required me to have a sanity-saver strategy early on.

  2. January 21, 2013 at 10:57 am

    Fortunately, ours – both boys – cooperate on medicine. Winter coats? That’s another story. It’s 25 degrees Fahrenheit this morning and my 9-year walks out of the house in a t-shirt. I remark to him that he’s lost his mind, but he just smiles, knowing that I now leave the decision up to him. Haircuts? We get a break on this one. Both boys like buzz cuts and never like their hair to be too long, so they let us know when they’re ready for their next trip to the barber. Sibling fights? That’s a battle I still fight and win without fail. My current record is 2,264 wins with no losses. When their bickering intrudes on my peace, they hear about it. Big picture? Their mom and I consider ourselves blessed. We’re proud to have them as our children.

    Love your columns about motherhood, too!

    • January 21, 2013 at 11:02 am

      Thanks for the comment! You have my undying respect for having the energy to continually win the sibling argument battles. I just don’t have it in me. It’s my hope that they will one day get tired of hearing themselves…or at least they will have something to laugh about when they’re grown and finally appreciate each other. 😉 I fuss about these kids a lot, but we are also truly blessed to have them. 99% of the things they do that drive me crazy, they inherited from *gulp* their mother.

  3. Mom/Nana
    January 21, 2013 at 11:03 am

    Excuse me I remember two little girls fighting all the time and sitting them in opposite chairs and then making them hug and say sorry like you mean it. You brought this out so correctly as a parent not just a mom. I am so proud of both my little girls that grew up saying sorry I did that back when to you and daddy. You are still learning and teaching your kids. Love you

    • January 21, 2013 at 11:07 am

      I have told these kids many, many stories of how my sis and I used to fight as children and they never believe me. The circle of life…and, yes, we are sorry now for what we did then, because karma has visited us in the form of our children. 🙂

  4. January 21, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    Great post. My 3 boys (11, 9 and 7 years old) are the same two year difference. They fight all the time. Over every single thing. They don’t care about clothes or about haircut, but they cannot agree on a film to watch or a book to read. It drains so much energy from me and my husband. But we try our best 🙂

    • January 21, 2013 at 2:12 pm

      Keep fighting the good fight! Kids can be a constant energy drain. They’re lucky we love them so much. 😉 Thanks for your comment!

  5. January 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    No truer words have ever been spoken! I’m in my early 20’s now, and my Mom loves to tell me that my sins as a child will come back to me in the form of my offspring. She cackled when she told me how useless it is to prepare yourself. She said that kids have a mind of their own and there is absolutely no way to make a perfect angel. *sigh* As much as I’d love to act like a teenager and deny anything my Mom says, I’ve now realized that she is always right. 😉

    • January 21, 2013 at 4:19 pm

      How true…the sins of my childhood have been visited upon me twofold. However, the nice thing about being the mom is that you get to always be right. At least in your own mind… 😉

  6. February 11, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Awesome post and so very true! Our parenting style has evolved into shoot from the hip as well. I figure as long as we are doing our best and we’re not endangering our children then it’s all good.

    • February 16, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      I could not agree more!

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