Family life

5 good parenting messages (that totally backfired on me)

Tracy Chappell tried to teach her kids some valuable lessons, but her girls gave them brand new meanings instead.

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Avery and Anna twist pretty much all of Tracy’s well-intentioned teachings. Photo: Tracy Chappell

Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005.

As parents, we have the responsibility of equipping our kids with solid lessons they can use to navigate their lives. But they’re crafty, aren’t they? Mine have found a way to twist pretty much all of my well-intentioned teachings to their advantage.

Listen to your body
My kids love to pull this one out at the dinner table. Avery, especially, loads up her plate up with food (sometimes, she’ll even refuse to eat anything if she doesn’t have huge servings). I know she won’t get anywhere close to cleaning her plate, but I’m supposed to respect her ability to know her mind, right? Inevitably, after say, four bites, she sits back in her chair, puts an overwhelmed grimace on her face, and starts rubbing her stomach as if she’s just eaten a whale. “I’m so full,” she’ll moan. “My tummy is telling me it’s had enough.”Argh. How do I tell her to keep going when her tummy has made its fickle wishes known? I don’t, and she knows it.

Treat others as you’d like to be treated
Here’s something fascinating I learned about my daughter, Anna, last summer: She likes — no, loves — to have water splashed in her face. Who else likes this? No one. But it explains a lot. She adores being in the pool or the sprinkler or throwing buckets of water around — especially in people’s faces. We were at a public pool one day, and she was playing with a group of kids when, in giddy joy, she started splashing. They all high-tailed it away from her, leaving her sad and alone. I went over to her. “Anna,” I said, “Why did you start doing that? People don’t like it when you splash water in their faces.” She looked confused. “Who doesn’t?” she asked. “No one does,” I responded. “I do!” she said. It was quite a revelation, and a good reminder that we sometimes have no idea what’s really going on inside those little minds.

Many hands make light work
Except when they don’t. Sometimes, many hands just mean it will take you three times as long to get the job done. I know, I know: How will they ever learn to do things if we don’t give them a chance? How can you resist your little one looking up wide-eyed and saying “Mommy, can I help?” This is almost always Avery, who is my little shadow lately, and keenly wants to assist in whatever I may be doing. It’s great that she’s learning to fold laundry by pulling my already-folded clothes back into a big pile so she can crumple them up into balls herself; that she’s learning how to treat burns by pulling up a stool to the stove to stir the hot pots when my back is turned; that she can now identify perishable and non-perishable goods after I discovered she put the yogurt away in the cereal cupboard; that she now understands what “discontinued” means after dropping yet another piece of my set of dishes on the floor. I love her. And often, I love her help. Just not always.

All I can ask is that you try your best
Pfftt! How quickly my kids learned to lie to my face. “This is my best, Mommy!” they’ll implore, after I survey Avery’s (hardly) cleaned room or Anna’s scribbled homework, and tell them I know they can do much, much better. They swear, this is as good as it gets. And how do you argue with that?

I’m always here for you
Does that still have to mean in the middle of the night? Because I think that’s what my kids believe. Avery, especially, knows that if she says, “I had a bad dream,” I’ll let her sleep with me (how can I turn her away after a visit from the boogie man?). They both call me from the bathroom to help, even though they can do it themselves. Anna starts every sentence with “Mama?” to make sure I’m never not listening. On my sleep-in days, they come and rouse me repeatedly to ask me things like “How long are you going to sleep in?” I need to create a Do Not Disturb sign to wear around my neck, just so I’m not being pulled every which way by their needs every waking moment. But then again, Avery would want to help me make it. Then colour it. Then put glitter glue on it.

All jokes aside, my kids are awesome, and these are just minor issues. Sometimes, you just have to laugh. (And I mean that.)

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