Growing up, I've heard my Mother tell her parenting analogy of "6 Bullets" several times. Being a mother myself now, I feel it is pretty sound advice. She argues that as a parent, you have 6 bullets - as in a colt 45. And you save these bullets for the big things. Issues you are not willing to negotiate on, things worth the argument. Everything else, you have to ask yourself...."Is it really that important?"
Taking my mother's advice to heart...I am quite carefree in my parenting. I do have rules and we follow routines, but I would venture to say, my Mother thinks I could use my bullets a little more. While I prefer to see myself as open minded, trying to raise free spirited little girls who love to create and follow their hearts...am I really just spoiling them??
A few examples: Our Messy House.
It's all for the kids. There is not a room they can't play in. They jump on the beds, pull the pillows off the couch, and eat in the living room. At the end of the day, there is rarely a square inch that I'm not stepping over dollies, strollers, purses and pretend food. If it's clean around here - it's because it's the third time today I've picked everything up off the floors!
Driving both my mother and husband crazy...My Purse and Cell Phone.
I regularly let the girls play with both. They dump out the contents - including all the cards, coins and bills in my wallet, put on my lipstick and call Daddy by pressing "#1 then the green button."
Megan's Blue Dress.
Why do I let Megan parade around in the same dress-up dress, day in and out? Well...why not? Who does she hurt in her "hot blue" dress? Whether at home or out on the town, she's happy and confident and full of self esteem.
Molly's do-it-myself Dressing.
Do I change Molly's shoes when she puts them on the wrong feet? Not usually - she's so proud, exclaiming "Look! Self, Mommy!" as she comes out of her room, I just let her go about town tripping. (The shoes are usually off in 5 minutes anyhow. My Molly doesn't keep ANYTHING on for long!)
My kids get entirely too much of it and I know it. I let them share my Coke in the morning, taking long swigs right out of the can. If I have a piece of gum, they get one too. Since Molly's been potty training - Megan has negotiated that every time Molly uses the toilet, she gets a treat too if she helps Molly wipe and flush. Molly exclaims, "Pee Pee MeMe!" and off they both run to the bathroom. (MeMe is her name for Megan.)
They eat off our plates and sit in our laps.
I know this one makes my mom crazy! At mealtime - they get their own plates of food. But by the time Matt and I have made our plates and sit down, they've decided that whatever we are eating looks much more appetizing - even when it's exactly the same thing! While sometimes we make them tough it out, we often just let them climb in our laps and share bites off our plates rather than put up a fight. In my mind - we still all win! They eat more, I eat less...and we all get some fun, family, snuggle time in.
They sleep in our bed.
They fall asleep in their own beds just fine. But by 2 or 3AM one or the other has awaken and made their way to our room. It used to be more Megan. Recently it has been more Molly. Sometimes I walk them back to their room and tuck them back in. But other times we wake up with 4 people in our bed come morning. I don't sleep as well, but I don't really care. Rolling over and looking at their peaceful sleeping faces or hearing their calm sweet little breaths is the best. I know it will all be over too fast. Before I know it, they wont even want to sleep at home...let alone in their own beds!
SO - At this point, I sometimes wonder - Do I even know what my 6 Bullets are? Let me try...
1) Naps - my girls take them everyday, around the same time, in their beds, in our home. Not negotiable. Megan is almost 4 years old and last Monday was her first time ever she went the whole day without a nap! I don't force it on them. They want it and need it. Molly asks to go to bed if we are not already there by 1PM, and once asleep, Megan always goes a good 2 hours. I enjoy the break and they are happy and healthier little loves the rest of the day.
2) Manners - they know to say please and thank you, (and are reminded should they forget) and are both great at saying "Excuse Me" if they need attention when you are speaking (albeit usually accompanied by persistent patting my side and ever increasing volume should I not immediately stop!) We try to eat together at the table each night and have them ask to get down when they are done.
3) Using Curse Words or God's name in Vain - They both know about "bad words." More than once I've had the conversation consisting of "That is a bad word. We don't use that word in our family. You may have heard Mommy or Daddy say it before, but we try hard not to say it anymore. Nice boys and girls do not talk like that, okay?!" Which inevitably leads to Megan chastising me a day later when an exasperated "CRAP!" slips out of my mouth - "Um, nice Mommies don't talk like that!" And Megan is constantly asking if a word is really "bad" or is it just "not nice?" For example: Dammit is bad. Stupid is not nice. Crap is bad. Shut Up is not nice. Megan has reclassified "Ugly" as a bad word, however. She came home from school one day telling me, "No one is ugly, Mom - God gave everyone something beautiful inside them. So Ugly is a not nice word AND a bad word!" I love her. If only we all could keep this 3 year old perspective the rest of our lives.
And recently, I have heard a few "Ohmigods!" coming out of Megan's mouth. I asked her where she learned this expression and she told me "At school." "Really?!" I replied, "From the kids, or from your teachers?" I went on to ask. "From my teachers." To which my answer was "Yeah Right! That nice private Christian preschool we send you to....I don't think so!" So we've had the talk about how God asks us in the Bible not to say his or Jesus' name in a way that isn't nice. It makes God sad. We've also talked about the difference between telling the truth, telling stories, and telling lies.
4) Respect - for themselves, each other and those around them. I am constantly coaching them to "use their words," work it out amongst themselves, and treat others as they would want to be treated. We talk about remembering to think how your words and actions might make the other person feel. I love that when one of them gets hurt - the other is the first to offer hugs and comfort. And it makes my heart swell to hear Megan's teacher tell me how a little girl was alone on the playground and Megan was the one who asked her to play.
I guess at this stage in life, my bullets are broad and all encompassing. I imagine as the girls grow, the bullets will get more specific (i.e. no drinking and driving, no breaking curfew, no dropping below a 3.0 if you want a car to drive, the boy has to come to door and say hello before you can leave on a date!)
But right now my main focus is ensuring that these little beings can do and say, ask and be, anything they want without feeling silly, inappropriate or dumb. That they embrace qualities that will enhance their well being and social relationships. That they know their feelings always matter, and they are strong, confident and beautiful. And that they be thankful God has given them a good life. If I can balance all that with a little too much sugar, a chaotic messy house, a discombobulated purse, and a few sleepless nights, I think it's a pretty great see saw of a life!