Thursday, June 26, 2014

Just Because I Can Doesn't Mean I Should. Or Should I?

When we last spoke, I was frustrated about always being the Enemy of Fun. It seems to have struck a chord with many of you, and I appreciate all the advice you offered on the Facebook page.

In particular, I was annoyed that my daughter had been invited to attend an evening event at camp that would mean an extra one-hour round trip for me and a late bedtime for her. I took all of your contradictory advice. Between the time I posted and the time I went to bed, I changed my mind about granting her permission about a dozen times.

In the end, I was honest with her. I told her that I really didn't want her to go because I knew she'd be tired and cranky the next day. I even fessed up that the main reason I didn't want her to go was that I didn't want to drive another hour. Then I told her that, if it was important to her, she could go.

She wanted to go. Of course. But she added the proviso that, if she melted down or misbehaved for any reason after camp Tuesday, then the Wednesday evening campfire was off. She kept it together. She went to the campfire, which was "great" and "awesome." There was a real campfire with campfire songs, and they ate hot dogs they "cooked themselves on a dirty stick." I spent a quality evening with my son that included a pizza picnic on the beach, so it was a good outcome for all.

The most important lesson I learned from the whole thing: I'm a really crappy parent when I have a headache, which I did all day Monday.

During the headachy hemming and hawing, I was most bent out of shape because I could let her stay for the campfire, but I just didn't want to. The angel on one shoulder (which I still picture as the Great Gazoo--tell me you remember that Flintstones episode) said that I could do it, so I should do it. The devil on the other shoulder said that I do damn plenty for my kids, and occasionally I'm allowed to say "no" just because it creates more work for me that I don't want to do.

I hate those little guys on my shoulders. I like my decisions to be black and white, and as the angel and devil so often point out, there is no one right answer in parenting. It's mostly pretty gray.

They got me thinking about whether I should do things because I can, and I noticed a pattern in my parenting. When it comes to buying things, I rarely do it even if I can. We still have one home computer, no tablets, and no video game consoles. We are frequent library visitors. We don't need more stuff. Just because I could buy them stuff doesn't mean I do.

I don't apply the same rules to experiences. We vacation fairly regularly, and I pay quite a lot for lessons, camps, and sports teams. This summer, my kids will attend two weeks each at three different day camps. They will visit both sets of grandparents. They will go to the mountains for a few days and to the beach for a week. I can do it, so I do.

I think experiences matter. They are more formative and longer lasting than objects. That's how we should be spending our time and money--doing things, experiencing life, and creating memories.

That's why my daughter got to stay for the campfire. It was inconvenient to me, but she was offered a new and fun experience. In all my life, I've never sung a single campfire song. I've never eaten a hot dog off a dirty stick. But my kid has, and I was able to make that happen.

I could, and I did.


  1. Those outside experiences will remain with them for life. Be thankful you are able to provide them with such great experiences.

  2. Susie: Experiences make memories. Both last a lifetime!