I parent with a wooden spoon. I’m Italian, that’s what we do. Unfortunately, often times I lean to the side of inflexible, but I figure some day my Noodges will thank me. Much like I thank my inflexible mother now. What can I say? The apple barely let go of the branch.
Having said that, I realize there are times when we must allow our Noodges to make their own choices. Small ones at first. Though, I witnessed a mom in the grocery store allow her 2 year-old to pull out a yogurt drink from the cardboard container and not put it back. The remaining three drinks stayed in the case and the 2 year-old walked away with her drink fisted in her chubby hand. I don’t think that was a good choice. Just saying.
But there are times when Noodges have to make their own choices. As much as I hate to admit it, clothing is one of them. Let’s remember I’m inflexible, so all clothing choices have rules in my house. Nothing too low or too short or vulgar, etc. But I have to let them express themselves. That means biting my tongue when something doesn’t match, unless I’m asked, or it’s not the way I would put it together. They will find their style in their own time. Not my time and maybe not my fashion. That’s just a pill I have to swallow.
Noodge 1 has long hair. At first, I thought, how can I let my boy grow his hair long? Then I thought, if I put up a fight about this I might miss the opportunity to fight about something good. So, the hair grew. And it’s almost to his shoulders. I stopped caring as long as it’s clean. See how flexible I am? Honestly, I like the long hair. I’m a child of the ’80’s: the big hair era. Plus, have you seen mine? There goes that apple again.
What about shoe choices? And makeup? And backpacks? I know that no parent wants their child to be judged by their peers for the way they look. We all want our children to fit in and have friends. But should we stop them from being themselves just because it isn’t how we would dress or accessorize?
Have you ever seen that show Modern Family? Funny show. Check it out. There’s an episode where Manny wants to wear a poncho that reflects his nationality to school and his step-dad Jay talks him out of it because he doesn’t want Manny to be made fun of. Gloria, Manny’s mom, gets mad when she finds the poncho in the trunk of the car and says, “We’re taking this poncho to school so he knows we support him.” Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing as parents? Support and guide. Not dictate. If your kid wants to go to school wearing a poncho don’t you have to let him? Aren’t the consequences worse if we squash who they are? Or is protecting your child from getting shoved into a locker, and excluded from the in-crowd more important in those formative years than teaching them to be proud of who they are, to be independent, to march to their own beat and let what other people think be damned? Is it our need to be popular that taints the way we think our children are being seen?
It’s hard to let go. I struggle with that every day. But when I’m having a moment of clarity, I know deep down, my Noodges are good kids with their head on their shoulders. Sometimes they are going to make choices and fall and other times they are going to soar. Even though, they aren’t me, I can look at them and say, “Hey, those are my kids. Unique. Independent. And I think they’re super just the way they are.”