9 Things I Never Want To Do To My Kids As A Parent
I've always had a lot of opinions about parenthood. I blame it partly on the fact that I'm simply an opinionated person, but most of it is because I've been through a lot of ups and downs with my own mom and dad. If you're ever lucky enough to get your hands on my middle school diaries, you'll see that I started making promises about my future parenting skills a long, long time ago.
I realize that this is awfully presumptuous of me. I'm not pregnant. The last time my partner and I talked about having kids, we got so distracted that we ordered a pizza. Who am I to make such bold claims about raising children? What do I know?
When I spoke to a friend of mine recently who is a new mom, I asked her if it was silly of me to make such pledges this early in the game. She assured me that every woman does the same thing before they have a kid, and that there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. She told me that even when you don't live up to every single commitment you make to yourself and your kids, having that list in the back of your mind is a useful tool in remembering what kind of mother you want to be. Her only strong piece of advice was: No matter what, don't be judgmental of other moms.
So, with her blessing, I pulled a few things from my 13-year-old journal and did some fresh brainstorming on my future. Here are nine things I never want to do as a mom.
1. Put Myself Down In Front Of Them
Nothing's wrong with a little self-deprecating humor every now and then, but I want to avoid getting to the point of self-loathing. If I have a daughter, this is especially important for her to see. Women aren't taught enough to fully believe in themselves, and we can end up being quite mean to ourselves. We fall into a cycle of negative self-talk. We only highlight the parts of ourselves we want to change.
It's bad enough we do this at all, but when we do this in front of someone much younger than us, like our own children, we inadvertently teach them that it's normal to live in a state of self-hate. I know I'm not always going to feel great about myself, and that's OK. Even if I don't, though, I don't want my kids to pick up such bad habits from me.
2. Talk About Dieting & Weight All The Time
Because I've struggled with binge eating disorder (BED) for such a long time, having a healthy relationship with food is of utmost importance to me. One of the reasons I've always wrestled with food addiction is because there were very few times in my childhood that adults talked about what it means to enjoy eating. Food was divvied up into right and wrong, and that was that.
But food shouldn't be seen as a means to control weight, and children can learn that early on. The less talk of dieting that's done around my kids, the quicker they will learn how to truly appreciate the art of eating.
3. Criticize Other Women In Their Presence
This one gets instilled in us from such an early age. We hear women run down other women on how they look, what they're wearing, or who they're dating. It's not that we're all intentionally cruel; it's just that we've been subconsciously programmed by a patriarchal society to rip each other up and view each other as competition. It would be so great to send the message to the upcoming generation that women need to support other women — and that when we live that out, the world becomes a better place.
4. Compare Them To Other Kids
Parents hardly ever do this on purpose, but it can easily slip out in indirect ways that end up being really hurtful. For example, a mom might talk about how one of her kids did better on their last school exam than the other. Or mention how the other soccer players ran faster than her daughter during the last match.
Unfortunately, comparison is the fastest way to kill self-confidence. I distinctly remember standing next to a girl from my science class for a class photo in the sixth grade, and some of my family members later pointed to it and remarked on how much shorter I was than her, and how much bigger my thighs were. I do not want my daughter to experience that kind of humiliation.
5. Talk Trash About Their Dad
Whether or not I'm still in a relationship with their father when my kids get to the conversational age, I really don't want to be the parent who bashes the other parent behind their back. He might not be perfect, and he may make me really, really angry sometimes, but he's still their dad, and I don't want them to form an image in their minds that is based entirely off of my issues with the guy.
6. Lie About What I Did In My Younger Years
Yeah, I've got some skeletons in my closet (what kind of interesting woman would I be if I didn't?), and as much as I would like for my children to go through their lives without hearing about any of them, I know that's not a possibility.
Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. They intuit things. They figure stuff out and uncover secrets. I mean, I was a master at all that by the time I was in elementary school, so I know how much it hurts to find out about my parents' secrets from somebody else. I want to be the one to tell my daughter the truth when she asks.
7. Hide My Emotions
If I feel like crying and my kids are around, I'm not going to hold it in. If I'm really excited about something and feel like celebrating, I'm not going to hold it in. Children need to see adults, especially women, go through the full range of emotions without getting shamed for it. This will help them understand that it's OK to have feelings, which will give them a better shot at handling emotion throughout their angsty teenage years (and probably even-angstier adulthood).
8. Use Loaded Gendered Phrases When I Speak To Them
Remember the Emmy award winning Always #LikeAGirl commercial? It was a fantastic reminder that these gendered phrases are tearing down the self-esteem of younger girls in today's world. Watching it inspired me to never subject my daughter to that kind of language. Telling a boy to "Man up" is just as bad; it's a subtle way of telling women everywhere that they're weak, and it raises men to believe that they are the dominant sex — and have to be tough and emotionless all the time.
Regardless of what gender my kids identify as, they deserve to live in an environment that treats them both equally, without placing one in superiority over the other.
9. Pressure Them To Follow The Beaten Path
I used to think the only way to be happy in the world was to land a solid job, make lots of money, and be a homeowner by the time I hit 30. I spent years chasing that dream when, deep down, I really didn't want to. Now I wish someone had grabbed me by the shoulders and given me permission to follow my dreams, no matter how weird or how hippie other people said they were.
I want to nurture my kids' imagination and teach them that they can do whatever they want in life — as long as it makes them happy.
Images: Fox; Giphy (9)