Naïve Parenting works like this: Before each and every stage of your child’s development, you incorrectly predict that things will be fairly easy and set unrealistic expectations about the decisions you will make. You believe you have all the answers and that you will kick ass at every turn. Then, when reality hits you in the face, you quickly abandon every notion you had and simply wing it. Denial, revision and open-mindedness are key to successful Naïve Parenting.
When my kids were younger, I implemented Naïve Parenting when I assumed my kids would be great sleepers, never have tantrums and be impeccably dressed 365 days a year. Now that my kids are older, I’ve taken it to a whole new level and am considering starting a movement, writing a book or at least scheduling an interview with Oprah. Here are a few examples of naïve things I said I would never allow with my older kids, and um…how I’ve managed to botch and revise most of my grand plans:
1. I Would Not Overschedule Them
Before having kids, I used to hear about parents who would pick up their kids from a sport and rush them off to another activity while they wolfed down a hotdog in the car. I smugly swore I would never do this, but now I realize it’s a tough trap to avoid. One minute you think you are signing up for a sweet little pee wee team and the next thing you know you are committed to “Soccer!” or “Baseball!” meaning a lifelong journey of winter training, spring league and summer skills camps. Wait…your child also wants to try another activity because he’s 8? That’s going to be tricky, but if you are good at Sudoku, you might be able to pull it off. Will you still have time for family dinners? Of course. That’s what Thanksgiving is for.
2. I Would Not Lose My Patience
I’m not going to lie, I imagined myself parenting like Mr. Rogers, only in a much more fashionable cardigan. I assumed that any missteps would be handled with a quiet conversation near a fish tank and toy trolley, followed by home-baked cookies and a hug. Most of the time, I accomplish this, except the conversation is often a little louder than predicted…and our fish died years ago…and I can’t find my cardigan…and I’m the one anxiously eating the cookies (near the dog bowl). I always remember the hugs, however.
3. Our Middle-Schooler Would Not Own A Cell Phone
Seriously, what child needs a phone at age 12? Apparently mine, as well as virtually every other middle-schooler in our neighborhood. After careful consideration, my husband and I finally decided that our son should have a cell phone for “emergencies.” So far it has been incredibly useful at critical times—like when he urgently needed to text me to ask if he could sleep at Alex’s house, and that other really terrifying time when he wanted to know if he could have ice cream.
4. I Would Never Be the ‘Embarrassing Mom’
My husband and I like to make our kids and their friends laugh. This was pretty easy when they were younger, but I’m beginning to realize that with tweens there is a fine line between being perceived as the “funny mom” and the “awkward lady who won’t stop talking.” I’m getting much better at reading their body language though. Like when they get up and walk out of the room, apparently that means I should stop with the goofy jokes.
5. Screen Time Would Not Exceed One Hour Per Day
Moving right along.
6. Our Eating Habits Would Rarely Stray From The Food Pyramid
Now that our children are older, I envision us enjoying leisurely dinners consisting of steamed salmon with a side of spinach. Unfortunately, between homework and too many activities (see No. 1), most days we are just in Survivor mode. No, not “survival mode,” I mean Survivor, as in the reality TV show. This means I’m pretty happy if a full day’s nutritional intake consists of a bowl of rice and a chicken leg eaten without utensils.
7. Animal Prints? How ‘Bout Rhino?
Who knew the animal print frenzy was here to stay? I have a daughter who likes athletic clothes, so I thought this was a trend we could successfully dodge. However, once Under Armor and Nike jumped on the zebra-striped bandwagon, I knew we would inevitably be going on a clothing safari. (Cue the opening chant from The Lion King: “NAAAAAAAAANTS INGONYAMAAAAA….”) I’m finally willing to admit that it’s kind of cute when my 10-year-old occasionally dresses like a cougar.
8. PG-13 Movies Would Be Prohibited Until, Well, Age 13
Somewhere around age 11, the movie selection for kids gets a little dicey. “So you can either watch Despicable Me for the 85th time, or this inappropriate adult movie with lots of cleavage and F-bombs. Which one will it be?” Sadly, it’s not easy finding a compelling movie for tweens that isn’t riddled with violence, sex, profanity or a giant mess of all three, so reluctantly our son has seen a few inappropriate movies (but we diligently mute the volume and cover his eyes during every bad word or scene, without fail. Natch).
9. Our Children Would Never Quit An Activity
I remember being adamant about this when our kids were younger, and I still fully believe kids should follow through with a commitment when possible. Unless that commitment involves a very loud brass instrument (cough, French horn, cough), or a sport that is potentially dangerous if your child lacks the skills to make it less dangerous. Like football. Or gymnastics. Or golf.
My kids are almost teens, and I shudder thinking about the naïve expectations I have now, and how wrong I might be when I look back in 10 years. Is it really possible that they won’t be home at 9 p.m. every Saturday after spending three hours at the library? I’ll let you (and Oprah) know.