When I was a kid in elementary school, I had a secret list going in my room of the kind of parent I wanted to be. You see, I was one of the (un)fortunate few who actually had good parents. We never had soda or junk in the house and my parents had this annoying habit of insisting on meeting all of my friends’ parents before I was allowed to spend the night at their house. While I am so incredibly grateful for their vigilance now, at the time, I thought I had the worst luck imaginable. I had friends who guzzled soda to their heart’s content and ate Oreos by the carton-full. They got to sit in front of the TV all day and could wander the neighborhood unhindered. I thought they were the luckiest kids in the world. All I got as a kid was homemade baklava, limited TV time, a well-balanced diet and an annual trip to Greece. I would moan and groan and think pitifully, “Woe is me.” Oh, the agony of my youth. I’m surprised no one smacked me upside the head.
While I don’t still have the secret list of parenting tips from my childhood, I do remember some of the things on there. It went something like this:
1. When you’re a mom, sometimes let your kid have dessert before dinner. It’s the right thing to do.
2. It would be great if you pretended to be taking your kid to school and you took them to Disney instead. Way cool.
3. Get McDonald’s ice cream cones more often. They’re the best.
4. Make sure you have a medium-sized whisk in the house. The big one is too large for small hands. (No, I am not making this up. I would get very angry at the lack of child-sized kitchen tools in our house. Yes, I have always been an odd duck.)
5. Let your kid stay up late sometimes.
I think you get the general gist of the kinds of things that gave me angst. Well, fast-forward 20 some years and I have a feeling that on some things, I’m going to make my parents look like total slackers. I’m sure Parker’s parenting list will include things like, “Don’t ever ask your kid’s friends’ parents for blood samples, hair samples and their full social security number so that you can run a complete background check and drug test them.”
Knowing that my paranoia is coming down the pipe, I’ve decided to incorporate some of my younger me’s parenting tips. For example, Friday is Parker and my’s fun day. He’s not in school and my classes end before lunch so he gets to pick what we do for the afternoon. Whether it’s headed to the playground or checking to see whether Walmart got any new Thomas trains (it’s the only place that carries them within a 60 mile radius), he’s the boss.
Also, if he wants to have dessert before dinner, I let it happen on a Friday. Take yesterday for example. We went to the park so he could play in snow and then we hit up Jack the Dipper, our local ice cream parlor, before heading to dinner for chicken strips at our local diner. Does this happen often? Nope. In fact, it happens just infrequently enough to be a cherished treat.
Now don’t get me wrong, my parents had some “cool parent” rituals, like when my mom would send my dad to McDonald’s to get us all breakfast on Saturday morning. While I now recognize that this was done so that everyone would let the poor woman sleep (my mother is definitely not a morning person), it still seemed like a pretty cool thing to me. So while I don’t send the Irishman to McDonald’s, I do make a point to serve up a “fun” breakfast on Saturdays that we all sit down to eat together as a family. It might be chocolate chip pancakes or cinnamon rolls (like today), but whatever it is, it’s something that Parker is sure to get excited over.
Hopefully, Parker will continue to cherish his Friday fun days and he won’t even notice what the other kids with the “cool” parents are getting to do.