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There aren’t very many rules to parenting, and there are probably as many way to do it right as there are to screw it up. Who’s to say where one person plants a flag and draws a line is better than another’s (very different) spot. The mommy-wars and human nature do more than enough to stir up anxiety, but the truth is, unless we are truly depraved, we all want the best for our kids.

I don’t have many rules when it comes to how I parent, and I guess that’s good because I don’t think it’s possible to have three more different children than mine (100% of friends and teachers laughingly agree). One of my few hard and fast rules is to not impose my own preferences on them. I’ve tried very, very hard to give my children a lot of room at the margins in which to figure out who they are, and what ignites their passions. Sometimes this is harder than it would seem to be, but it’s also one of those things that gets easier the more I practice.

I protect my children’s free time with a vengeance- to the point where I will communicate to a teacher that the homework load infringes on family time, and it must be kept under 30 minutes, or my kids will not be completing it. They get my kids for more than 6 hours every day, and I will not spend every evening wrangling unhappily over busywork.

There are certain creative pathways that cannot develop if every spare moment is scripted, scheduled or filled with academics or lessons. I keep after-school activities to one per week, and while the kids have many of the electronics and gadgets their friends have, they also have screen-free time where they must entertain themselves. That’s where they figure out who they wish to be, and what they are capable of.

I like to let them solve their own problems whenever I can- if they are not in danger, I’ll hang back, let them roam a bit, find themselves in a pickle, and try to solve it without turning immediately to me or another adult to do their solving for them. Their victories belong to them, because their courage belongs to them.

I find when I want to jump in, to start to control things, it’s always (always always always) about my own issues, my own perceptions of what others might think of me, and never about what is truly right for my kids.  It’s hard biting that back sometimes, and it’s surprising how much I started out caring what other mothers thought of my parenting, and how little I care now. My kids are shockingly confident and happy. They are happier than I ever had any right to expect them to be, and despite what they have experienced.

I take no credit for this- other than for providing them with the best stage I knew how. They know that no matter what they do, how they look, what they accomplish, or how big the fail, that they are competent, that they can solve problems, that they are loved, and that they are of tremendous value. This is why they are happy. This is why it matters.

What that means is Bean sometimes goes to school looking like this:img_1042

It means Jeffrey can find a cookbook, choose a recipe, and follow the directions with absolutely zero help from me, and he succeeds:IMG_0213

It means letting him plate, ice and serve the cake to his delighted sister— yes, that’s the cake my eleven year old son made:IMG_0232

It means letting them roll the windows down on a cold January day just because they want to know what it feels like:IMG_0223

It means letting them lay around and do nothing sometimes:IMG_0168

It means making a Dalek costume even when we’d never made one, and most people didn’t know what it was:181801_10151136285030963_375699388_n

It means not caring about perfect Christmas cookies and caring more about letting the kids figure it out and enjoy the process:IMG_0029

It means letting her play with food color and glasses and straws in order for her to understand visible spectrum light, rather than just read about it:IMG_0165

It means letting them stand on the subway (even when I want to tell them to sit down) because they like holding the bar and the feel of the train under their feet.IMG_0158

It means making this kind of quiet time as important as any appointment:IMG_0210

But mostly, honestly, it means biting my tongue when my automatic response is “no”, and pausing for just a moment, and allowing “yes” to be a possibility.

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