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Are You a Good Parent?

I have a confession! I have never taught any of my three kids how to tie their shoelaces. Nope. Never have I ventured into the world of bunny ears and crisscrossing a tree. I recall knowing how to tie my own laces as a kid, and it did me absolutely no good. They were always untied. My friends, the neighborhood kids, and the kids in school always ran, sprinted, and skipped with long snakelike laces trailing in the wind. Fast forward, now with kids of my own, as THEIR parent, I decided I wasn't going to spend the time teaching a seemingly needless task. Velcro, slip-on's and tieless laces were my saving grace.

I have many other scenarios like this one, but they don't always end with what I WON'T do for them. As it happens, it may be what I DO for them that may make other parents look at me somewhat sideways.

Case in point, teeth brushing! I brush my kids' teeth until I feel they have the proper hand-eye coordination to thoroughly clean every nook and cranny crevice independently. Sure, I no longer brush my adult son's teeth, but for the other two, the cutoff is 11, and only because my now 12-year-old refused to let me have a go at it. Once you hit eleven years old, I unenthusiastically give in to the notion that they may be in a better place to take care of their pearly whites (however, still having to coerce them into the actual bathroom to do so). I have come across many parents praising their five-year-olds for brushing their own teeth, and the idea of a piece of broccoli stuck in the dark recesses of their molars for more than 24 hours makes me want to dig deep into a jarful of anxiety medication. "Give me that toothbrush and open wide; I'm going in."

Two of my little parenting secrets are now out in the universe.

Let the judgments begin. "Ladies and Gentleman of the Jury! Will my actions above stop my kids from being fully functioning, independent citizens? I present to you my oldest son. Now 23, he graduated from MSU, with honors and already bagged a job in his career choice. Not to mention, he set and met the goal of leaving school without debt (without parental contributions) and growing an enviable credit score. He may still not be able to tie his laces (may he forgive my declaration of that in public), but he can definitely secure a mortgage loan on his own." (Mic drop)

Some of my mommy friends carry the same burden of concern on their already heavily occupied shoulders.

  • Mommy A is worried if still bathing her kids will inhibit their independence. I reassured her that her kids are some of the kindest and most well-spoken kids I know. Not to mention their ability to interact respectfully with adults.

  • Mommy B expressed her concern that she may not be giving her son enough chores to help him understand responsibility. I told her that her amazing kid never has to be reminded to do his homework or study, so he seems to understand it just fine.

  • Mommy C beats herself up because she doesn't sit and read to her daughter in the same way other mommies on social media seem to do. I ease her mind by stating that her daughter will instead remember how much time they spend in the kitchen creating fun meals together.

You and I are fully aware there is no one-size-fits-all guide book, and there is no guaranteed formula to creating a fully functioning independent individual. Case in point: My mother never allowed me to cook or wash dishes growing up. Her motto was "allow kids to be kids because one day, bam! they will be adults forever. She will have to cook and do dishes for the rest of her life. She doesn't need to do it in her childhood." My Tia was mortified and believed her sister was making a huge mistake, claiming that I would never learn how to be truly independent. "She will never know how to fend for herself in the real world." she'd argue. Upon turning 17, all I wanted was to become independent, and I did so successfully. My Mom may not have taught me how to cook, wash dishes, or run the washing machine, and she read me a bedtime story only once in my life. (I'm still a little bitter about that latter one). But she did teach me how to drive, how to spackle a crack in the wall, and how to cut my own hair. She was an example of kindness, compassion, and forgiveness. And each of these things, one time or another, has helped me along in my adulthood. I'd like to add I know how to cook, I run my own washing machine, and I love to read and write.

Here's the thing. As parents, we're all sailing the same rough, unpredictable parenting seas! We all get to decide how to captain our ships, and as long as we get everyone through the storms safely, and back on solid ground, then we have all done our jobs correctly.

To all the Moms and Dads out there.... YOU DECIDE! Do it your way! Your kids will be fine. Just show them love, kindness, respect, compassion....and fun. Keep them well educated, safe, clean, and healthy. Yup, that's it. That's my advice. Oh, and please stop worrying about how other parents parent, especially on social media! There are plenty of folks out there who know how to cook and clean, and yes, they even know how to tie their laces since they were crawling around on all fours, but sadly, despite having reached adulthood, they haven't truly, or fully mastered independence. Keep on sailing, and ahoy to Velcro sneakers!!!

Your friend and fellow Mommy,

Elke Lopez

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