It’s 9 a.m. on a Saturday and I can hear my six-year-old daughter rummaging through the pantry. I just provided her a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs with toast and sausage and a hash brown ten minutes ago. Half of this breakfast remains on her abandoned plate sitting at the kitchen counter. I know exactly what she is about to ask me, and I am pre-loaded with my answer.
“Mom, can I have some candy?” she asks.
“No, but you may finish the rest of your breakfast,” I answer, as I do, every day after a meal.
“I’m only hungry for candy,” she claims. This conversation occurs verbatim, every weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, as there (fortunately) isn’t enough time to discuss post-breakfast dessert during school days. I say no, every time. Candy first or second thing in the morning? Of course not. (Let’s ignore the fact that sometimes breakfast is syrup-laden chocolate chip pancakes.)
But here’s the thing: I am so sick and tired of saying no!
What if I just said yes, and gave her the d*mn candy? I’d become her best friend and I’d save myself a headache. I’m probably not saving her much in the way of nutrition.
Obviously, I want to set an example of structure and discipline, because my kids look to me to set boundaries. If I don’t, they would be on their iPads all day and eating sugar for every meal. But man, I’m tired.
I’ve never been a free-spirited person, and that has carried through to my parenting style. Even when I was a kid, I wanted to follow the rules and stressed about failing. My teenage rebellion stage was tame and limited to unsuccessful attempts to dye my jet-black hair a myriad of colors and wearing crazy clothes. I actually didn’t break any rules because I was never the type. Even when I did ask to push the boundaries in the slightest, my requests more often than not were met with no.
I am proud to say I am working towards shedding a lot of that rigidity. I draw the line at candy for breakfast, though… or at least, I have until now.
But after a decade of raising kids and providing structure for my children I am burnt out. I find myself wishing to be more carefree but finding it hard to let go of the steadfast rules I set for myself and my children early on.
And yet, my children are constantly comparing me to other adults who (seemingly) let their children do whatever they please for the most part, and I am left feeling inadequate. I constantly hear some version of: “Well, their mom lets them do everything — why can’t you?” A mom from school, relatives, fictional parents from TV. It hurts. Even though I know that parenting is subjective, and we can only do what is within our own powers, it still stings when I know they wish I were different. Then again, didn’t I wish my parents were different too?
Is it even possible for me at this stage in the parenting game to become a “yes” mom? What would become of my children if I did? Candy at any hour? Screens whenever they want? Getting a toy every time we go into the store? No bedtime? Even just thinking about saying yes to all of that, all of the time, raises my heart rate. I’d say my children already have a 50/50 chance at what they want. Those seem like great odds to me! But my children aren’t satisfied with the reasoning that they have so much more leniency than I ever did as a child.
I hope someday my children will understand why I didn’t always give into their every whim. May they value the specialness of the times when “yes” was uttered, and understand the why behind the “no.” Until then I will continue the battle of post-breakfast candy requests and thwarting the never ending “Can I have this” through every single aisle at Target, because if it’s one thing I’ve learned about children, mine in particular, is they don’t take no for an answer easily.
CJ Kelsey is a wife and mother of two and she had her family live in the metro Detroit area. She works as a physical therapist and in her spare time enjoys reading, baking and writing in her blog mommingonfumes.com.