One of my co-workers had to visit the doctor because of his poor health. Apparently, his constant diet of grilled cheese sandwiches—the only food his two kids were willing to eat—wasn’t doing his body any good.
Thankfully, my three-year-old will eat more than a grilled cheese sandwich—and more than the typical children’s diet of chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and french fries. He’ll eat almost anything, from salad to sushi to succotash. From the start, I presented a variety of food and made family dinners a priority.
We also don’t frequent restaurants specifically catered to kids and instead eat at those my husband and I would have chosen even if we didn’t have children. This isn’t to say I take them to fancy restaurants, and we’ve eaten at loud diners with crayons and a kids menu, but for the most part, I want my kids to participate in a multi-generational restaurant atmosphere.
The biggest change in our eating habits between our pre-kids life to now has more to do with time and convenience. For instance, we’ll only cook meals that can be prepared in less than an hour. No more home-made gnocchi!
Does children music dominate your air waves?
For several months, all we played were children’s music. And while I loved having appropriate music for my son, listening to them day in and day out drove me crazy to the point where I was singing them even with no kids around. Now, it’s a mix of playing their music, switching it up with ours, or playing jazz or classical stations.
Are your outings geared towards kiddie events?
I don’t remember the last weekend when my husband and I just stayed home the entire day. We seem to be this need to take our kids out and about. I can’t imagine leaving the kid indoors for fear that he’ll have cabin fever and bounce off the walls.
At least the times when we plan our outings seem balanced between adult and kid entertainment. For instance, in addition to children’s museums, we’ll visit the regular ones too because these are places that I would have gone to whether I had kids or not.
That said, I still take my kid to child-focused events. The last outdoor play we watched was geared towards children. And my husband recently took him to an indoor playground—a place neither of us would ever consider going to had we not had kids.
Is your child’s play supervised or free-range?
I grew up with a childhood that was more or less free-range: I romped around with my older siblings and cousins next door as we pretended we were characters on the A-Team, or molded play dough, or played with dolls, completely unsupervised. I rode my bike with not an adult in sight, played in the dirt and collected ants. I don’t remember ever feeling bored.
There are downsides to free-range play time however, downsides that I now consider as a parent and which drives me to keep a watchful eye despite my early years. My childhood wasn’t free of accidents, and many could have been prevented had an adult been there (such as the time I thought it would be a great idea to shave my legs the way I’d seen my older sister shave hers; and yes, the result was as gruesome as you’re imagining).
I try to strike a balance with my own kids. For one thing, I set up my home so that its spaces are conducive for free play, and dangerous items (razors!) are out of reach.
I also pick up on my kids’ personalities and temperaments; my three-year-old doesn’t seem inclined to get into trouble, so I’m okay leaving him to play on his own. Yet I know several other kids who wouldn’t resist climbing a bookshelf or placing marbles in their mouths.
And lastly, I promote tons of independent play while also spending plenty of time with him. This way, he’s able to stretch his wings and imagination as well as having a watchful eye keeping him within his boundaries.
I wouldn’t want to revert back to the days my mom grew up in, where children were meant to be seen and not heard, and parents hardly saw their children.
Parents who devote too much of their lives towards their own and not enough on their kids ought also to be asked the question of why they even had kids to begin with. If children are meant to accommodate their parents’ lives—being dragged to every late night party at the detriment of losing sleep, for instance—then it seems selfish for those parents not to consider what’s best for their children. They’re not just accessories.
Yet parents also need to relax and not have to shadow their children’s every move, or devote every minute to the betterment of their kids. Among parents, there seems to be this desire that their child will be unique above all else; that he or she is the next genius if they continue to do X, Y and Z.
Instead, parents should savor their kids simply for the beings they are. There needn’t be too much stress about entertaining or nurturing kids to the detriment of our own lives and energy. Kids will grow up to be amazing, many times despite all the latest gadgets or the time their parents doted on them.
Toss the grilled cheese sandwiches and nuggets; make yourselves a delicious family meal instead. Something that you—and your kids—can enjoy.
How does your childhood compare to that of your own kids? How do you balance your children’s needs with those of your own? Has your life become too kid-centric, adult-centric, or a balance of both?