The Simple Reason I Approach Parenting Like A Bucket List

by Susie b Cross
Hand of Mother Teaching Her Kids Life Lessons
Getty / Scary Mommy

We all know that our kids are tricksters who will try just about anything to shake us off and do life on their own terms. If they had their way, we would be their indentured servants and cater to their whims. They may “know it all,” but as their mom, I am convinced that I know best. And that is why I have approached parenting with a unique five-pronged, wide-berthed bucket list–which has everything to do with preparing my kids to do more than just tread water throughout their lives.

Without further ado, here’s my ultimate parenting bucket list.

1. Force Them To Do Some Of The Stuff My Parents Forced Me To Do

That’s right. I had to fill 10 bags of leaves before I took off on my banana-seat for the day; my kids are going to fill 10 bags before they take off for whatever it is they do. My parents dragged me on vacation in the northwoods of Wisconsin, where we had no access to TV and our only phone was a party-line (shared with four other households). Therefore my kids are going to be dragged to some spartan locale where they also have to cede their connection to the outside world and learn to “make do,” too.

2. Mandate That They Use Their Hands

One day I was fixing my 4-year-old’s handlebars, and I asked my husband to run in and grab me a pair of pliers. He came back with a wrench and a Phillips head screwdriver–and that was the day I knew my kids were in trouble. Now, under my supervision but without my hands-on help, they’re building their own Boy Scout derby cars, assembling Ikea purchases, and installing shelving. Under duress, of course.

3. Don’t Let Them Be A Blob

Whether I have to use a stick or a fireplace poker, I prod those kids off the couch at regular intervals. A little downtime is a good thing, but being draped sloppily and eternally over the furniture is less a revitalizer and more a soul-sapper. I really don’t care what they do, as long as they do.

4. But, Don’t Be Their Tour Guide Either

I have never liked jamming my kids’ days full with activities. In fact, creating a daily agenda for them is a sure way to hobble them, if you ask me. What happens when it rains and tennis camp is canceled? Well, then I have an entourage crowding me (after I’ve peeled their limp carcasses off the couch) and whining that “there’s nothing to do.” That’s when I retreat and leave them to their own devices, and without a doubt, they find 1,000 diversions.

5. Make Them Try Everything

When my oldest was just a beansprout, he wouldn’t even jump off a parking block. We worked on it, hopping over sticks or cracks in the sidewalk, until a 6-inch leap was no longer insurmountable. It’s all about taking (reasonable) risks, whether that’s trying escargot or learning how to scale a fish. Everything they try, in my mind, is an opportunity to push their boundaries, since the last thing I want them to do is stagnate.

Most bucket lists are one-and-dones, like “See a Broadway play” or “Bury a time capsule.” I function more along the lines of “Let’s throw a couple shovels in the car and drive til we find a good place to dig.” I’m too willy-nilly to check activities off a spreadsheet (I’d lose the list in four minutes flat). Maybe it’s by default or maybe I’ve just always looked at the bigger picture, but my bucket list is essentially about molding two self-reliant and motivated adventurers. And, if my sons jump into life that way, I’ve nailed it as a mom.