I spent the last nine days worrying and praying for my 19-year-old niece who was hospitalized again for a problem stemming from her kidney disease. Her strength and stamina are inspiring, her tears are gut-wrenching and her journey is still an uphill climb. One realization for all of us this week is that she can never live by the same rules enjoyed by her peers. While most collegians survive on pizza and experiment with alcohol, my niece can get sick from too little sleep and too much stress. It doesn’t take much to upset the delicate balance of keeping her body healthy. She must adhere to very different rules and regulations.
I’ve based the last decade of my life around finding balance and order out of consistent routines, and modeling consistent behavior as a parent to three young children. I advise countless souls on the wonder of setting up a routine and sticking with it. I preach consistency to my husband in the way he reacts to misbehaving children and to always follow through with a promise (or threat). So what if you need special rules for special circumstances or separate rules for each child? My answer: so be it.
Parenting is not a religion; there are no mandates written in stone on whether or not you should put children to bed before 8 p.m. or after 8 p.m. The world is not black or white, and I literally have zero tolerance for any policy that involves zero tolerance. We are one tribe, but with vastly different life experiences. Our children may be from one family, but they have vastly different personalities and physical capabilities. While we set up our rules for the family about behavior, daily routines and expectations; we are careful about considering all the members of our family and adjusting our rules to fit.
MOM DARE: Well, first, give your children a huge hug and send up your thanks for their good health. You should never take that for granted. Next, relax one rule. That’s it. If you have only one child, watch to see how they react. For multiple children, see who benefits and who does not. And it can be any rule: move back bedtime, let them skip a veggie for dinner, allow them to eat in the family room or whatever works for you. Sometimes parenting (and childhood) can be a little more fun when you loosen a few of your strings.