I'm rediscovering the joys of butting out.
If people ask, I only ever recommend one parenting book. It's Duct Tape Parenting by Vicki Hoefle, and it changed my life when I first read it about five years ago. I'm re-reading it now, because this parenting thing is getting real.
My Google searches over the past month include, “how do I make my daughter feel good about being tall when I am a short person,” and “is it too early for a chat about heroin.” Also, “how long can a beta fish go without food,” but that was a different problem.
It’s 14 days, by the way. He’s fine.
The duct tape isn’t for the kids. It’s for you to keep your mouth shut, quit micromanaging every move they make, and start focusing on the health of the relationship you share with them.
Keeping my mouth shut is really hard. I'm a little obsessed with my kids, and I bet you are, too. I don't know what standard we're trying to uphold here, but I'm sure it's making us crazy.
I realized lately how far I fell off the Duct Tape bandwagon. I'd nestled right back into all the girls’ business, all the time; nagging them about chores, bribing them into doing them, leaning into their fights, setting the walls on fire over screen time. This is a huge waste of the valuable, fleeting time I have with them.
The other day, I caught myself grilling them on their morning routines. Did you brush your teeth. Did you eat breakfast. Where's your backpack. Put your shoes on.
That last one was
the kicker. Put your shoes on? They're nine and eleven, and
they absolutely do not need me to say this.
what?" I said. "You know what to do. I'll wait in the car."
One half-rolled her eyes as if to say, ugh, not this thing again.
"And I'm leaving for school in five minutes with or without you."
The other looked at me like I'd
just told her I was leaving the country.
But I went. I took
all of my stuff, which is the only thing I should worry about in the mornings. In the car, I watched the clock tick closer to the deadline. I hadn’t considered what to do if they didn’t come
out. Drive away? Honk the horn til the neighbors call the police?
Then, at about the fourth and a half minute, they came trudging out of the house, dragging their
backpacks and snow stuff, jackets slung over their shoulders instead of zipped.
But they were out. And smiling.
It was a small victory. But I'm going to keep at it, because they don't need me to be their maid or their personal groomer any more. They need me for more important (scarier, more confusing, possibly hormone-induced) challenges, and I intend to be as ready as I can be.
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