Raise your hand if you love a good Buzzfeed quiz. I mean, who DOESN’T want to know what kind of avocado toast they are?! And since I’m so clearly an organic chili flakes on vegan gluten-free sort of gal, it might surprise you to learn I’m also a pretty laid back parent.
Not to be confused with lazy, dismissive, or disinterested, I just tend to have a very laissez-faire attitude when it comes to parenting. Let it happen – and even when it’s not ideal, I trust we’ll all be OK.
Perhaps it’s because of my own upbringing – a childhood that involved limited scheduled activities, endlessly playing outside, and hardworking but dependable parents. We spent a ton of time together as a family – just hanging out. Cleaning the house. Working in the yard. Playing games. But they also weren’t opposed to saying, “Go get a book or find something else to do.”
Or, maybe it’s because my professional life involves so much stress, by the time I get home, I have no desire to control every. little. thing. Or control anything really.
Likely, it’s a combination of both. Throw in a little, “Meh, she’ll be fine.” “Kids get hurt.” “That can be washed.” “Go run around.” “Boredom is healthy.” “She’ll let me know if she needs something,” and you’ve got the recipe for a laid back parent.
When she was little, I didn’t worry about my daughter’s eating or sleeping habits. She ate when she was hungry and she slept when she was sleepy. And she wasn’t shy about informing us when we weren’t meeting her needs. Most kids, it turns out, come pre-programmed with that setting.
Even now, I’m not interested in maintaining a strict schedule. Or issuing some hard and fast rules to govern behavior. I feel no obligation to keep my kid entertained 24/7. Nor do I become overly worried when things aren’t going our way.
I know some folks might balk at finding out my 3.5 year old doesn’t have a set bedtime or morning routine. Nor does she have her own bed or bedroom. She bathes like once a week. We don’t own many toys, and we don’t monitor her screen time.
Luckily, this system works for us. In fact, not having a strict schedule or unrealistic set of expectations alleviates a lot of pressure in our lives.
But before you start wondering what sort of out-of-control anarchist monster I’m raising, hear me out. She never stays up past 8 – when she’s tired, or we’re out of patience, we start getting ready for bed. Sometimes that’s 6:30, sometimes it’s 7:45.
We keep her clean – however, with eczema too much bathing makes her miserable, so we play bath time by ear each week.
With few toys, she’s a crayon and imaginative-play master. We read no fewer than 70 books a week (shout out to the Johnson County Library!) and if she watches more TV one week than another, what can I say? It happens.
I value the opportunity to show my kid that life isn’t always dictated by a clock, and it’s important to me that she doesn’t expect to be entertained all the time. After all, without boredom, there’d be no creativity and what kind of life is worth living without creativity?!
So far, it seems to be working out. The kid goes with the flow pretty well, she’s adept at solving many of her own problems, and she’s as comfortable with boredom as a preschooler can be.
It’s also not as if we don’t enforce boundaries. We have no philosophical aversion to saying, “no” or enforcing rules. Healthy structure is awesome and kids crave dependability. Our child is not spoiled or neglected. We spend hours each week exploring the world – the ups and downs, the adventurous and mundane – together as a family.
But, my husband and I have three values that guide our parenting decisions, and we strive first and foremost to live by those values. We’ve committed to ensuring our daughter has protection, affection, and validation. Beyond that, we keep our lives pretty slow, respond to problems as they occur, and we try not to let too many obligations or external expectations interrupt our daughter’s one and only childhood.
That being said, we’re also not opposed to saying, “Go get a book or find something else to do.”