By: Meika Rouda
I spent Labor Day weekend with my family and some friends in Lake Tahoe. It was loud and boisterous and fun with lots of swimming in the lake, nature walks, and digging in the sand. My mother always tries to be helpful with our kids, offering to help put them to bed or feed them or just detach them so we can have a break. It is great to have her around and we can always use the extra set of hands. But she also tends to offer her advice on parenting without me asking. My son can be difficult; he is 3 and very spirited and we are working with him to help him follow through on tasks and staying focused. Simple things like having him sit for a meal can be excruciating for him. He asked me one day to make him mac and cheese for lunch and then as soon as it was ready, he changed his mind. He no longer wanted mac and cheese, but rather to go out and swim. I tried talking to him, reminding him he was hungry. He protested, he wanted to swim instead. I was insistent that he eat first. We went back and forth several times. And then my mom came into the room and said, “Meika, he changed his mind. Leave him alone and stop drilling him.” I let him go and swim without eating and was annoyed with her. And while I realize my mom meant the best, it was frustrating to me to be judged and then to feel demeaned by my own parent especially when his eating is a sensitive spot for me. This was not the first time she had run interference with my parenting.
The night before my son was in the bath with his friend and they were having fun splashing, pouring water on each other’s heads, regular bath fun. I reminded them to keep the water in the tub while playing. As soon as I left the bathroom to grab towels I turn around and they are pouring buckets of water on the bathroom floor and laughing hysterically. I was upset and took both of them out of the tub immediately and said, “The water stays in the tub.” My mom watched the commotion and then told me I was being too uptight. “They are just having fun,” she said as I mopped up the floor with towels. “You should relax more Meika.” Maybe I should relax more. It isn’t the end of the world that there is water on the floor. But the point is I asked them not to do it and they did. They knew it was wrong. So am I supposed to just laugh and say it is OK? That doesn’t feel right either. I don’t expect my kids to be perfect and act like angels all the time. I actually love that my son is energetic and spirited and sort of wild. He is fun and creative and enjoys life which helps me enjoy life. But at some point there needs to be boundaries and I want him to know what is right and wrong. It is important for him to make good decisions and pouring the water on the floor was a bad decision. So after a few hours of being really bitchy and annoyed with my mom, I finally had a conversation with her, asking her to please talk to me in private about her parenting thoughts and not in front of my son. While I appreciate her advice I also need to parent my own way. Having her run interference isn’t always as helpful as she may think. She told me that she just wants to be sure that I don’t “crush his spirit”. I never thought about it like that. I am just trying to reign in his mischievous side. Of course I don’t want to crush his spirit, he is an amazing child, loving, sweet, compassionate, and also a bit of a rascal. But it did make me wonder if I am too uptight in some ways. I don’t think teaching him right from wrong is going to crush his spirit but it was a good reminder to let kids be kids in some ways. Maybe if I didn’t get upset with him for being naughty he will delight less in being naughty. But in the end you just follow your instinct and do what feels right. One day I might just laugh at him pouring buckets of water on the bathroom floor, and then again maybe I won’t.