Thursday, June 16, 2011

Parenting Compromises...

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I'm an idealist (not as idealistic as I used to be, admittedly, but still fairly idealistic). I'm opinionated (who isn't, honestly, I know there are people - not at all like me - who are pretty much able to keep their opinions to themselves, but I have an opinion about them, too...).

When it comes to parenting my idealism and opinions go into overdrive. I'm learning to be a bit more relaxed - a bit - but mostly it just feels like I'm compromising.

Here are some of the things I've compromised on, and why...

Homeschooling - I planned, from the very beginning, to home school. Erik was only a few months old when this decision was firmly set in my mind (and I convinced the Grumpy Old Man as well). It was hard for us, I will admit that. We didn't have a car, and that meant getting to homeschooling groups (which for some reason are always held on the outer reaches of Melbourne) was always a trek. By the time we had three children, and it was taking us all day to get to the group, spend a couple of hours there and then travel home, it was feeling like very hard work for very little gain, if I'm brutally honest.

The boys weren't able to establish lasting friendships because everyone in the group was spread hither and yon on Melbourne's outskirts where public transport is always dodgy... Due to this isolation, Erik eventually begged us (yes, literally, imagine a 7.5 year old child - who is not particularly articulate at the best of times - approaching us seriously and saying he's thought about it, because he knows we'd prefer him not to go school, and he wants to give school a try because he wants to make friends and he feels he needs to see kids more often than once a week to be able to make friends with them) to let him go to school.

Letting Erik - and Luey (because he does everything Erik does, don't you know) go to school felt like a massive compromise. It was a compromise because the Grumpy Old Man and I do not have faith in the education system or those people overseeing it - not public, not private, not even independent - but because we do have faith in our child to tell us what he needs, or at least what is not working for him in the moment. In that sense - listening to our child's expressed needs - we did maintain one ideal.

I've been lucky, in that I haven't had to compromise on too much else regarding parenting ideals, until recently, that is...

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Pocket Money - the Grumpy Old Man and I have not been in the habit of paying pocket money. Many of my friends pay their children pocket money, and that works for them. I have been more inclined to buy my children what they need when they need and not give them money to just fritter away. This is partially because we have to make every dollar count in this house, and partly because I would feel like an ATM doling out money every other week "just because". Many of my friend exchange pocket money for chores. I've been completely opposed to this policy in our household because I want our home to be view by our children as a co-operative community, not a place where "the boss outsources work for money".

Just recently however, we've had a situation where Erik wanted to buy a $84 Lego person I feel is overpriced, and if I paid for it, he might undervalue it, lose it, barter it, or cannibalise it for parts. He really wants it though. I really want him to value it - because even though it's material worth is incredibly small, it's retail worth is disproportionately high, but he won't feel that if I simply give it to him. So, I've compromised on the "chores for pocket money" issue and agreed that if he does the dishes every night, he will get a dollar. The catch is that if he doesn't willingly do the dishes, I can obligate him to do the dishes and NOT pay him (this is to get around the whole, "Well, I don't want that toy anymore so I don't have to contribute because you're not paying me")... Because Erik has a job, so does Luey. They can only have one job at a time though, and still need to contribute to other housework they'd normally do without demanding remuneration

Games Consoles - We've never had a games console in this house in 12 years of having children. We were never going to have one. All our friends have them for their kids - that works for them. My kids have occasionally played computer games on my PC - this has usually led to days and days on end of whining about getting back on the computer. While on the computer, they often squabble about who has had the most time to play and so on. Basically, nothing about how our children interact with computer games has ever encouraged us to want to invest in any kind of games console for our children.
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Soon I'm intending on buying each of the bigger boys (Erik, Luey and Buddha) an iPod touch. I'm getting these so the boys will have something to occupy them when they are in the family car and the Grumpy Old Man is driving. I'm desperately hoping having one each of these thingy-majigs will subdue them into silent awe (either listening to music, listening to stories, watching movies or playing games), so the Grumpy Old Man doesn't get distracted while driving.

I can't tell you how much I worry that I'll regret this latest compromise. Yes, the older two will be 12 and 10 when they get consoles, but Buddha will only be almost 6. He'll grow up taking games consoles for granted. I'm uncomfortable with that idea - just as I was uncomfortable with Erik going to school. However, I'm more uncomfortable with the idea of the boys mucking around in the back of the car, or squabbling, and the Grumpy Old Man becoming distracted and us all ending up dead...

So, the compromise wins.

What parenting compromises have you made, and have any made you squirm?

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