6:53a.m. “Maaaaama! John told me I smell.”
6:54a.m. “Maaaah! Nate said I’m adopted!”
7:01a.m. “Mama, Tommy hurt my feelings.”
7:02 a.m. “Mooooom, Teddy won’t stop looking at me.”
All this chatter and ridiculous tattling has occurred on an average morning in my home before the coffee has even been poured.
“Boys, I am not a referee, don’t come to me to figure out your problems,” I say while examining the latest wrinkle they’ve produced on my forehead. “Talk with your brother and work it out. This is life guys, no one is going to solve all your problems for you.”
Before I delve into my no-nonsense form of child
rearing, let me assure you that while I’m not the “let’s sit and explore our
emotions” Mom by trade, my boys know they’re extremely loved and are happy,
joyful little souls. What they also are is resilient, grit-developing and
confident, things they’ll desperately need in this changing world.
That may mean that sometimes altercations are resolved with a karate chop to the leg and then a full-fledged headlock and noogy instead of mindful mediation. But after the dust has settled, they hug it out, say, “I Love You” and are back to riding scooters together in the front yard.
The motto in our house of boys is “Snitches Get Stitches,” a term that may frighten some who lean toward the overly nurturing side of parenting. But for a house with four boys 9 and under, it’s a survival motto that is also teaching them valuable life skills.
First, they need to be able to problem solve. They are growing up in an era where a quick Google search gives them all they need information wise. It’s a wonderful time to be alive, but also crippling to their ability to be creative, strategic thinkers. For example, I chose to stop umpiring their constant fight of who is allowed in each other’s bedrooms. Therefore, they came up with their own rules of bartering their toys and giving lavish promises for entry. It means less running to me, and more negotiating, bargaining and real-world social skills built.
Second, they need to learn loyalty, even if that means harmlessly sneaking behind my back. No one likes a tattle tale, and my rule is unless someone is bleeding and needs to go to urgent care or could potentially get harmed, I don’t need to know about it. If they’ve managed to sneak a bag of mini marshmallows up to their room without me noticing, kudos to them for their stealth skills. But if one of them comes to tattle, the entire operation is busted.
Finally, they need to learn time and place and minding their own business in an appropriate manner, another skill set that will help them a ton in navigating adult relationships. When I was a kid, we didn’t dare interrupt our parents when they were speaking with other adults. These days, my kids want to hang during girls’ nights and will eavesdrop and attempt to chime in on adult discussions.
“Mom, Mrs. Smith’s girls’ trip on the coast sounded like sooooo much fun,” one kid, who was hiding in the stairwell on wine night, chirps with a smile. “Did they ever find their friend after the booze cruise?”
In a changing world of technology and social norms, the things we worry about as parents and prepare our kids for are constantly evolving. Like any other parent, I will inevitably screw up a million times over in attempting to raise good human beings. But let one thing be assured. They will be confident, loyal, MacGyver their way out of situations and hopefully get not too many stitches along the way.