A few months ago we were at a party and I was telling a story about my kids and their lack of being on a strict schedule. I explained how the flexibility of that has worked for my family and my children (most of the time). Then one of the moms I was talking to asked if we were “free-range parents.”
I immediately got internally defensive because I am non-confrontational and I really like this mom who made the comment. Free-range parenting to me is letting your kids do what they want when they want, and that is not how we run our home. We have rules and expectations that are followed, but I am also reasonable and allow some deviation from the schedule and routine if necessary. I have coined this “survivalist parenting.”
My husband works a lot. Most weeks he puts in eighty hours; this includes late nights and weekends. Usually he is home to help with bedtime one to two nights a week at most. This puts a lot on me–along with managing a house, working a full-time career in education, and all the other duties that go along with parenting two small children. I am tired. So sometimes, I am a little lax on things because I am literally trying to survive my day-to-day–hence, “survivalist parenting.”
Here’s what survivalist parenting looks like for us:
I too was disillusioned by the thought of making my own baby food and making my children “eat the rainbow.” That worked out fine until they developed taste buds and opinions on what they liked and didn’t like. We always expose our children to a variety of different cuisine and food. We encourage them to try things a la Daniel Tiger’s “No Thank-you bite.” But unfortunately, as time has gone on, they have developed their own palates and they like what they like.
We have a variety of fruits and vegetables in our home and they are offered at most meals, but sometimes we swing through a drive-thru because I just cannot handle making multiple meals for different kiddos. And sometimes, a diet coke from McDonald’s is too good to pass up.
No one looks forward to bedtime more than this mama. Those two hours when the kids are both sleeping and I can watch a show or read my book without interruptions save my sanity. But sometimes we deviate from the schedule a bit. If we are out on the weekends and my kids are having a blast, I am not going to cut their night short. Staying up a little later is not going to hurt anyone. And maybe if I am lucky, they will sleep in a little bit.
When they were younger, I was also flexible on naps. When my kids reached a certain age, the fight to get them to take a nap wasn’t worth the few minutes of peace and quiet I got, so I gave up. And then they started going to bed earlier without a fight. Win-win.
My kids, like any other kid, love their tablets. But like any other toy, they tire of them. I have never had to limit their screen time because they use them sporadically and it’s never been an issue. I know that for some kids, this may not work. Some kids (and adults) are addicted to their screens.
One thing I have stopped doing is leaving the TV on all day. This is mainly for my sanity. There are only so many times you can hear Cocomelon or “Baby Shark.” My house is loud enough; I don’t need any extra background noise. Unless it’s Bluey. I will totally sit down for a Bluey marathon with my kids.
Our Big Three
While we don’t have a lot of “rules” at my house, there are some things I will not waiver on. There is no wiggle room when it comes to some of the expectations I have for my children.
- Treat people with kindness. At home, at school, and those in our family. With having two girls close in age, I feel like this is a constant battle at home. Most of the time, their squabbles are typical sibling tiffs, but sometimes they can be mean spirited with one another.
- Try your best. If you try your best, that is all we can ask of you. I can’t expect my child who isn’t a star athlete to score a goal every week at soccer, but I do expect her to try. And I have found that usually once they try something, they usually like it and want to do better at it.
- Be grateful. I work diligently to practice gratitude and appreciate everything we have. We are truly blessed and I want my children to understand that. This means taking care of our things, showing appreciation to our family members, working hard, and understanding that not everyone is as fortunate as us. This can be difficult with small children. They are always wanting something new or wanting to go somewhere. I do my best to explain to them that things cost money and we earn money by working. Sometimes it registers and sometimes it doesn’t. I do my best to keep trying and model this behavior in myself and hope it sticks with them.
Every family dynamic is different; so is every child. My two girls have very different dispositions which means I have to parent them differently. My biggest takeaway is being flexible.
Kids (like adults) are not well-oiled machines. Sometimes they have bad days, and hopefully way more amazing ones. Survivalist parenting embodies flexibility and the ability to adapt and change to the situation. It also allows me to focus on what is most important to me as a mother. To me, I am way more concerned about their character than their sugar intake or sleep schedule.