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Pick Your Battles

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As a mother of four, I have seen my fair share of meltdowns. Trust me when I say that I have seen kids flip out over things that I didn't even realize were flip-out-able.

"I can't eat that because my spoon doesn't match my plate!"

"I can't wear that shirt because it doesn't have Elsa on it."

"I want to wear flip-flops (in the snow.)"

"I can't go to sleep because my favorite toy (that I haven't even used in over a month) is missing!"

"It's MY turn to open the mailbox."

"It's MY turn to clean the toilet!"

Yes, that last one actually DID happen. Crazy, huh?! Who knew that anyone would EVER want to fight over cleaning, let alone over cleaning the toilet. (I solved that one by announcing we had TWO toilets, so there were plenty to clean for everyone!)

Sometimes there is just no rhyme or reason to the things that set kids off. But the one thing that I have learned throughout my sixteen years of parenting is: Pick your battles. Sometimes the things that kids carry on about are so absurd that they don't really even merit attention, like the time the kids fought over cleaning the toilet. Sometimes things are non-negotiable, like when my daughter wanted to wear flip-flops in the dead of winter. Not. Gonna. Happen. But sometimes, especially when we are trying to get out the door in a hurry, the battles are just not worth fighting.

When my oldest son was a toddler/preschooler, he was obsessed with characters. Every morning when he woke up, he would dive into his giant bin of costumes and pull out the person he was going to be that day. He took his costumes seriously. He absolutely REFUSED to answer unless you called him by the name of his character.

Some days he was Woody (from Toy Story), some days he was a knight, some days he was a police officer, some days he was a "fixer man" (a construction worker), and some days he was even a dog. I never knew what he was going to be, but I always knew he was going to be someone other than himself.

Around that same time in his life, he was diagnosed with cancer. We spent days, sometimes even weeks, in the pediatric oncology chemo clinic, and wearing those costumes became a way to cope with the craziness that was our lives. The nurses anticipated who he would be the next day and got such a kick out . And I am pretty sure that living his life through someone else's eyes helped him get through the toughest of times.

One time, during one of the rare instances that I could take him to the grocery store with me (because we had to avoid public places while his white blood cell counts were low), an elderly lady stopped us in the store. "What a great mom you are for letting him wear that costume out of the house!," she said. Of course, I said "thank you" and moved on, but those words stuck with me.

A great mom for LETTING him wear his costume.

It's true, I could have said "No" because wearing that stuff was silly or even embarrassing. I could have put my foot down and fought the battle. But would it have been worth it? Sometimes it takes going through an extraordinary circumstance, like childhood cancer, to realize that we can't sweat the small stuff. Sometimes, there really is no harm in giving in to what your kids want.

Does this mean that I give in to a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store checkout over a piece of candy? Heck no! But sometimes the whole thing can be avoided in the first place by being a parent that says "yes".


*Stock photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici via

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