My kids love to eat! And, they’ll eat just about everything. Seafood, tacos, any kind of meat, smoked, barbecued, roasted, brussel sprouts and every other veggie, everything. But, offer to get them a pizza and without fail their first choice is always cheese.
Because I know how much they actually enjoy toppings, I rarely allow cheese pizza. They always end up raving about whatever pizza they end up with and we rarely have any leftovers to keep.
Thinking about cheese pizza has caused me to consider my parenting.
Stay with me.
Life offers so many activities, experiences, and lessons. So many, in fact, they can become a double-edged sword. So many things can eat up their time and attention that as parents, we can forget to make the time or take the time to make sure it’s not all “cheese pizza.” Valuable lessons are left on the table when we stick to one thing, never exploring.
Cheese pizza is delicious, but it’s not all that’s out there.
Why do we allow cheese pizza?
It’s easy. There is less resistance. We have our own likes or dislikes. There are things we wish we could have done as kids. We want to let kids choose whatever they want. We don’t want to force something they may not enjoy. So we allow the cheese pizza.
So how far do we push? How and what do we want to choose for them? Can they pick out what they don’t like?
Cheese pizza is allowing kids to pigeon-hole themselves into their limited perspective and experiences, making choices based only on what they’ve seen so far.
There’s another kind of cheese pizza.
Believing that we shouldn’t “make” our kids try new things or follow through on things they think they don’t like is also pigeon-holing them. If we don’t purposely choose to teach our kids important lessons in life, offering opportunities and experiences they wouldn’t choose themselves, they’ll learn the opposite of what parents are going for. I “make” my kids go to school for the same reason I “make” them try pizza with lots of toppings.
Whatever I don’t choose to teach my family the world will, and we’ve seen how that just doesn’t cut it.
Where do you want your children to learn about selflessness, tolerance, right and wrong, compassion, work ethics, faith, and love?
A few months ago my mom wrote this letter to her children:
“As a parent I have my moments of feeling guilty or sad that I have not always been the perfect parent I wish I was. I am not looking for sympathy and I think it is a common feeling for most parents.
I wonder, should I have pushed them harder in school? Did I push too hard in church activity? Did I say no too often without giving their requests more thought? Did I let my own fears and desires cloud my decisions?
I don’t know the answers. But mostly I had my reasons. I love my children more than life; I want to protect them in every way. And for the most part, I would do the same again given the chance, only better of course.
I tried to feed you healthy, some of you had no idea people put sugar on cereal. I tried to hide my hatred of vegetables and the dentist. I taught you not to run in the street, to avoid strangers, not to play with matches. Why did you all like fire so much? I sent you to school, and I took you to church with me. I wanted you to have the blessings and joy I have and more. So, is keeping a child out of the street and away from sharp knives taking away their choices or chance to decide for themselves? Is sending them to school or taking them to church “forcing” them?
I would say no. It is my responsibility as a parent to teach and give opportunities to my children to experience the good things of life, the things that will help them and keep them safe. That’s why we have parents, isn’t it? Children are not yet ready to make all those decisions for themselves. And when they become ready, as hard as it may be to let go, you must.
Now many of my own children are the parents. It’s hard and it is wonderful. Now you must decide what is best for your children. And you must prepare for the day when they will make their own decisions.
You have grown up to be great people, people with good ethics, people who show compassion for others, people who make me happy and proud. I am especially happy that my grandchildren have such good parents. And I am happy that each of you, like me, have a great spouse that you can share the responsibility with.
Just one more thing. Your father and I still love you more than life. We still feel a responsibility to help you along the way. So when we share with you our thoughts and ideas on things, do not think we are judging, bossing, or trying to tell you what to do. Remember we are only giving you the perspective of our experience, and now, you must decide for yourselves.”
Parenting isn’t always a treat. It’s tough. Holy cow, it’s tough. But the good news is that you don’t just get to try again tomorrow, I bet you’ll get to try again in a few minutes. You’re in it for the long-haul. You don’t get to see the rewards of parenting very often but when you do, man, they are sweet rewards.
Keep up the good fight and tell us how you “parent with a purpose!” We all want and need to hear from you!