I am still working on my next big therapeutic parenting post. However, I think I'm going to have a lot of little tidbits to share as I go along, so I'm going to share what I feel is valuable as I go along, and keep working on the longer posts. I'll eventually get around to putting links to all the therapeutic parenting posts on their own separate page, but for now I'm just going to type them out as I have time. Right now, Elvie is napping and Zinashi is lunching, and I want to share this little bit from our morning with you.
For a lot of kids, having a routine for everything is vital, especially in the very beginning. But for some of our kids, a balance between routine and unstructured time is even more necessary. All of this feeds into trying to give our kids control over their own choices in a way that is healthy. They need parents, and they need to know they have parents, so we've got to be firm on some things. There are many things they are simply not prepared to make decisions about. However, there are a lot of things that we can give a little wiggle room on. There are things for all of us (probably - I'm pretty sure this isn't just me) that we think are terribly important that really aren't. And we need to let go of those things and allow our kids to just be, to do their thing, not ours. It happened for us this morning.
Our mornings are pretty relaxed these days. Next week we'll start in on some of our homeschool books (more on that later) and will do some school during breakfast, but for now it really doesn't matter what order we do things in the morning. Breakfast often finds me finishing first and starting in on chores while the girls are still eating. Sometimes one will wake before the other, so we stagger breakfast times. We almost always sit down together for dinner as a family, and everyone sits together and chats until we are all mostly done (there's always one who lingers), but there's a bit more flexibility for breakfast and lunch.
This morning we discussed our breakfast and decided that we'd keep it easy with scrambled eggs and banana for everyone. Zinashi wanted to help by cracking the eggs, so I said yes (even though I hate saying yes to this; it is an enormous mess sometimes and so much slower), and after a time, breakfast was ready and on the table. It was then that Zinashi decided she wanted to get dressed before she ate. "Come to the table," I cajoled, "Your eggs will get cold, and they're not as tasty that way." But she asserted, over and over, that she wanted to get dressed first. She didn't say it in a way that was whiny or rude. She just stated that that was what she wanted.
So I took a deep breath, and I said okay.
Because I knew it didn't matter. I needed to let go and allow her to make this choice.
I knew in that moment that I really wanted her to do what I said simply because I said to do it, but frankly, that's not the point of parenting. Yes, sometimes kids need to do what we say to do because we say to do it. We talk about this constantly, that especially when safety is involved, I will not be offering an explanation; she needs to just trust me. But this wasn't a situation that called for blind trust. This was my preference versus her preference. This was me imagining her eating the eggs cold and cringing. We have set no precedent that everyone sits together at breakfast, that we dress first or eat first or do a chore first (uh, we never do a chore first, that would go over like a lead balloon). I made sure Zinashi understood that she'd be eating cold scrambled eggs (shudder) if she decided to get dressed first. And then she got dressed first and ate cold eggs (gross!). No one was harmed, and she felt good about her choice. There was peace in our house, not because I gave into demands, but because I considered her preference and felt it was an instance in which it was appropriate for her to be able to choose what she would do.
Thus, we avoided an unnecessary power struggle. We kept the peace. She may not have done what I thought was best, but the truth is that what I thought was best was just an opinion. I know that some feel that a child should simply do as they are told, but that doesn't play out well in the long term, especially for our traumatized kids. I want to teach Zinashi the value of asking for something reasonable and getting to make her own choice. I want to teach her that there are times to just do as she is asked to do and times that she can ask for something different. The more I am able to let go of things that don't truly matter, the more practice she gets understanding the difference between the two types of situations. That's a win on all fronts. That's a girl who will grow up to both respect authority and be confident in her own choices, or at least I hope so. We will keep working on it. We will keep trying. I will keep letting go, even when it's hard*.
*COLD SCRAMBLED EGGS. You guys! Does anything sound more wretched? I need to stop thinking about this before I lose my appetite entirely.