Friday, July 8, 2011

I Invited My Children To This Party

I am not the boss of my family. I didn't hire my kids as employees, to follow my orders and make me look good. I don't have a job description in mind for them, a list of responsibilities and tasks they are expected to perform, in return for compensation. The food, shelter, and other things my husband and I provide are not part of a salary. The love we give is not the benefits package.

It's more like I'm the hostess of a party. I sent invitations to my kids to join me in my life as honored guests. And they each had no choice but to accept my invitation. Now my goal is for all of us to have a good time. I suggest and plan fun things for us to do. I invite other interesting people to join us.

I aim to treat my children like I would treat guests at a party.

I say Make yourself at home. I know it means my guests will feel free to play hard, and it will get messy.

That's Jell-o.
I ask What can I get for you? I know it means I will be serving my guests.

This is how I serve them most of the time.

I don't say things like Do it yourself. If I am busy when a guest makes a request for food or a drink or something else, I can give her the choice of trying it herself or waiting for me. If she does try it herself, I cannot expect it be done exactly the way I would do it. Things may spill. Things may break. I don't punish or shame my guests when something goes wrong.

I give freely to my children. I do not use gifts to manipulate. I do not give gifts and then ask for payment in return. I do not take away gifts to punish.

There is a lot of work involved in throwing a good party. It's the same kind of work I do as a parent. The setup, the serving, the cleanup.

Louise and I set up this dinner party together.
And just as a hostess wouldn't force her guests to help with all that work, I don't force my kids. Instead, I try to make it look easy. I try not to complain about the work. After all, it was my choice to have the party in the first place. I enjoy serving my kids. Maybe as the kids get older, they will see how much fun I am having, and want to join in to help (they already do help me with some things).

Of course, I get tired and cranky sometimes, just like everyone else. There are times I want a break from being the hostess. But I try to remember that my kids didn't ask to be born. They aren't crashing my party. I invited them. I want them here.

Mothering is not my job. It's my choice. And it's up to me to decide how to do it. I choose to be fun. I choose not to listen to people who call me too controlling, or not controlling enough. I choose to honor my kids. I choose to accept and enjoy my kids for who they are right now, instead of trying to train them to be someone different or better.

The best part about looking at parenting this way is that I get to have fun too. We laugh and play and learn together. My kids are my friends (not like this). I can only hope that they will keep choosing to party with me once they do have a choice.


Preemptive Comment Response: Partying does not mean acting out of control and doing whatever we want, without regard for other people. I do prevent my kids from hurting people and damaging things that don't belong to us. I do respect our downstairs neighbors by encouraging quieter partying late at night. I do help my kids to understand these things. I also don't literally mean we are partying all the time. We have a balance of active time and rest time.