When I first started parenting nine years ago, I worried a lot about little things like how my son looked in public, how he ate, and how he acted. I worried a lot about how I looked as a parent. I think part of this was a result of judging other parents before I had children. I often said to myself, “When I’m a dad, there’s no way I’m going to allow my child to act like that.”
Obviously, I was a much better parent before I had children.
But now, several years in, I’ve started to realize what matters and what doesn’t. The fact is, being a parent is downright stressful, and there is a lot to be said for picking your battles. And honestly, I’m tired of fighting with my kids about shit that doesn’t really matter. I’ve started saying, “I don’t give a shit” a lot more about those stupid little things, and it feels wonderful.
1. I don’t give a shit about feeding my children healthy organic food all the time.
Getting my children to eat anything that isn’t mac and cheese or sugary cereal is a battle that I am tired of fighting. At one point, I recall buying organic mac and cheese and trying to convince myself that I was doing the right thing for my children.
But then I made the mistake of looking at the nutritional information on the box and realized that I was lying to myself. That shit was remarkably unhealthy. This isn’t to say that it’s a free-for-all at the dinner table. I offer my children healthy options and insist that they try it. But I’m tired of every meal being a battle, so I just don’t worry about it as much.
I make sure the kids are fed. Done deal.
2. I don’t give a shit about keeping their faces clean.
I used to obsess over my kids’ faces until I realized that the valves are bad on children’s noses and there is no stopping the boogers. I don’t follow my kids around with a wet wipe anymore. I just let the boogers flow. Most of them get eaten, but it’s cool — they are organic.
3. I don’t give a shit about fits in stores.
I used to get really worked up about public fits until I realized that children throwing fits means good parenting. Teaching children how to act in public is actually a million lessons on decency and respect that take place in a million different locations.
Whenever my kids throw a fit in a store, it means that I set down a boundary and they didn’t like it. I don’t really care if it’s irritating. I’m not going to quarantine my child, or give them whatever they want in a store to keep them quiet. That’s not parenting and that’s not how you teach a child to behave in public.
4. I don’t give a shit about kid shoes.
The first time I took my child to the store without shoes I felt like a total failure. Now it’s like, “Screw that noise. We need milk.” I wrestle them into shoes, and they kick them off. They lose them at church and on aisle 12. It’s almost impossible to keep a child in shoes without taping them to their feet, so I’ve stopped caring. I’m just going to let nature handle this one.
5. I don’t give a shit about having a spotless house.
I used to get really worked up about all the toys on the floor and crap on the counters. I used to really worry about dishes in the sink. But then I started to realize that having a spotless house is great and all, but spending time with my children is a lot better. So we clean, but it’s not the number one priority anymore. Spending quality time with our children is at the top of the list.
6. I don’t give a shit about getting my children involved in every single extracurricular activity.
So much of parenting is about extracurricular activities. And while they are great and all, I’m just not all that worried about spending every weekend forcing my children to play soccer or go to a dance lesson. We sign them up for what they are interested in. They get one extra curricular a year, and then we spend the rest of the time playing in the yard. It’s magical.
7. I don’t give a shit about micromanaging screen time.
Trying to manage apps, YouTube, and the internet in general is the reality of parenting in 2016. My kids don’t watch Saturday morning cartoons. They watch assclowns in basements playing Minecraft or YouTube videos of kids opening magic eggs and binging on candy. None of it makes sense to me, and all of it is far from educational.
And while we do set limits on how much screen time my children get, there is something to be said about tossing a child an iPad after a long day at work. Every once in a while, I need some peace and quiet. When all three kids have screens, there is a stillness in our house that for me as a parent is flat-out glorious and worth breaking our screen rules.
8. I don’t give a shit about volunteering for every stupid little thing.
Whenever the sign-up sheet was passed around to help out at the school, or for the church, I used to always sign up. But with work, I realized that I wasn’t getting nearly as much quality time with my kids because I was trying to help out at this or that. Now, I sign up when I can, but I always put time with my children first.
This is not a comprehensive list. There are other things I don’t give a shit about as a parent. And naturally, the list is growing. But these are some of the top ones. Mostly this is about getting my priorities in line, and keeping my sanity. The fact is, parenting is stressful and exhausting in the most rewarding way possible, and learning how to manage priorities and time as a parent really is the only way to keep your sanity.