If I had to describe my parenting goals, I would say they would be like Goldilocks. I’m not a Tiger Mom or a Helicopter Mom, and while I have a pretty lax attitude about many things, I wouldn’t call myself a Free-Range Parent either.
I’m right in the middle.
Or at least I try to be.
But truth be told, sometimes I can be kind of a pushover. I let my kids jump on the couch and throw balls in the house. I don’t forbid swearing (as long as it isn’t mean), and I’m not a stickler for screen time. Given my penchant for chocolate and carbs, there is a never-ending supply of junk food in our pantry.
And our house is a pretty fun place to be…until, well, it isn’t.
Inevitably, my ordinarily sweet kids will turn into demon children who whine about not getting ice cream after dinner and how 5 hours of Xbox isn’t nearly enough. They turn snippy and edgy and are generally not pleasant to be around. My husband and I will look at each other with an exasperated and ragey look that says, who the fuck are these monsters?
And then I’ll know that I’ve let it go too far. I’ve become a full-fledged Pushover Parent.
Regular bedtimes morph into flexible bedtimes until they become no bedtimes at all. An occasional, modest treat after dinner will turn into a sugary snacks free-for-all. And my laissez faire attitude about things like swearing and screen time will eventually turn my kids into potty-mouthed zombies.
Now, despite what you might be thinking, this isn’t because I’m lazy. I might be a lot of things, but lazy is not one of them. Pushover Parent isn’t due to a lack of involvement, love, or attention for my kids; it’s just a matter of circumstance. I might be busy with work obligations and before I know it, a few hours in front of the television have passed. Or my husband and I might have good intentions to do something fun with the kids – dinners out at restaurants, movies, outings to Chuck E Cheese “just because.” Or I might be stress-eating Kit-Kat bars for days and don’t want to be a hypocrite about banning them for my kids.
Whatever the cause that Pushover Parent emerges – whether it’s good intentions gone awry or general life obligations getting in the way – the results are never good. For anyone. Because it doesn’t take long for my kids to transform from kind-hearted (albeit rambunctious) kids into whining, screaming, downright feral, spoiled brats.
I don’t want to be the bad guy, but I’m well-prepared to be Mean Mom when necessary. It just so happens that Mean Mom doesn’t usually emerge until Pushover Parent has lost all control and my kids are gorging on Kit-Kat’s and Doritos while watching King Kong at midnight on a Thursday night. Just kidding. Kind of.
Reining in Pushover Parent is never fun for anyone, and we all go through a period of withdrawal to our decadent lifestyle for a while. Bedtimes are reinforced. The Xbox is turned off. And the junk food stays hidden.
And eventually, we all get back to normal again. The kids slowly become the well-rested, less whiny, and better-behaved. I become less of a pushover, and more comfortable being the “mean mom” now and then. And we settle into our healthier – albeit a bit less fun – regular routine.
If you’ve let things go a little lately, fear not. Pushover Parent isn’t a “bad” parent or a lazy parent, just a loving and flexible parent who sometimes lets things slip a little because – let’s be honest – is so much more fun. You aren’t causing permanent damage, or letting your kids turn into entitled brats, and you can rein it back it (even if it does require some whining, complaining, and a hefty case of sugar withdrawal.
You’ll find your parenting groove again, and all will be right with the world.