And that price is MESS, ladies and gentlemen.
As a work-at-home, homeschooling mom, I often find myself making sacrifices.
I sacrifice showers, quality time with bad television programs, and peer interaction in order to fulfill my dream of writing for money, and educating my kids at home. (I also give myself less time to wonder why I didn’t come up with a more lucrative dream, which saves on existential angst.)
Sometimes, if we’re being honest, I also sacrifice good parenting.
Or, rather…I feel like I do.
Case in point; video games.
I hate them. I loathe them–I believe the world would be a better place without them.
But my children are totally in love with them, as they are with anything that involves a screen and technology. (If I hadn’t had several of them with midwives, and no other newborns around, I would wonder if there had been some sort of hospital switch up.)
It’s one of my life goals to open my children’s eyes to the wonder of the world beyond Dark Souls, and Halo, and whatever other violent crap finds its way into their hearts and minds.
Rather than simply limiting and forbidding, I try to inspire, educate, and above all else, emulate what I believe to be good and true and beautiful on this earth.
But this work of mine requires a good deal of introspection (and Skype meetings), and in desperate times, this means that I surrender to the Power of the Screen to keep my darlings calm.
I’m also reminded, when I finally come out of my Work Daze and gird my loins to do some Actual Parenting, that encouraging creativity, prompting children to follow meaningful pursuits, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah…is, well…hard.
And it almost always involves some kind of mess. (Which is not something I’m excited to deal with, when I come out of the Work Daze.)
Every once in a while, however, I get a good, solid reminder that the pursuit of something real and honest, creating something–no matter how messy the process–can be rewarding.
Recently The Baby (as I still refer to my 10yo son, which is probably telling) had to be prompted with strong verbiage and a raised tone of voice to leave his natural habitat and seek out something Constructive to Do.
I had no idea what he was going to do, I just knew that he needed to put down the controller before it became part of his hand.
And what did he do, when forced to abandon his digital world?
He got his sister to help him find a recipe for vanilla cupcakes online (:::sigh:::…yes, of course they had to use a computer) and then he adapted it…
…to make some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted. I’m not just blowing smoke–I’m usually not even a fan of cake, cup or regular, but these were fabulous, and I told him so.
The next day, he dug up an old cupcake cookbook (Sarah E. Thompson’s wonderful CUPCAKES: Make, Bake & Decorate, which has a fold out stand on the back of the book–easy for young bakers to handle and read), and modified the chocolate recipe, again, with astounding results.
So, now, in addition to holding a high body count in Kill Zone…he’s also a cupcake savant.
And that’s okay. I’m not trying to change him, just bring a little balance.
My point (and there is one here, believe it or not) is that we have a responsibility to teach our children what we believe to be right and best, but we also do well, I think, when we respect their intrinsic desires and bents.
I invite them into my world and encourage them to appreciate it, but I also try to make myself welcome in theirs, and see what they enjoy through their eyes.
I also try to remember not to have a vision of what I think they should be, ultimately…just a hope for how I can influence one part of that final person. It’s up to them what they become, in the final sense.
Anne Frank (quoting her father) said, “…all children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
I believe we have a responsibility to our kids, but part of that involves letting them become who they’re meant to be. Your relationship with them is ultimately more important than the limits you put on them, or the amount of information you put into their heads, because it’s the relationship that will dictate the degree to which they listen to what you’re saying, and emulate what you do. (They may also choose not to follow in your footsteps if they disagree with some of your beliefs. That’s one of the problems with raising kids to think for themselves.)
If you’re patient and respectful, I believe kids can surprise you. (Yes, I realize my story above involved getting exasperated, which can also be a useful tool in getting kids off their butts when respect and patience fail.)
The other obvious parallel (if I can just hit you over the head with it, briefly) is that sometimes those of us who lose the “oomph” it takes to constantly encourage kids in pursuits that don’t involve screens have to be reminded every now and then that the fruits of that labor can be sweet.
Charlie’s Vanilla/Brown Sugar Cupcakes
1/2 c. softened butter
3/4 c. brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 c. cold milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and eggs together (adding eggs one at a time and beating well after each addition). Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together, and then add to butter mixture, alternating with milk. Fill cupcake tin lined with liners half full, and bake for 18-24 minutes, checking for doneness a few minutes before end time. (Don’t overbake). Yields 12 cupcakes.