Friday, January 6, 2017

The Battle of the Wants

In our media driven society, being the right kind of mom is impossible.  Feed your kids the healthiest food, but don’t go overboard and be that mom who always asks about ingredients.  Don’t let your kids dictate your life, but make sure you listen every time they have something to say! It is such a struggle to find the right balance in these kinds of things, especially when you hear the debate on a loop over the loudspeaker in your head.  One of the biggest ones I go back and forth about is the wants.

“But I don’t want that!”  “Can I go – I WANT to go!”  “You never give me what I want!”

On the one hand, as parents we want our kids to be happy and associate their childhood (and us, of course) with mostly positive things.  I’m a piano teacher and I’m all too familiar with the stereotype of forced piano lessons for years that promises to build resentment and malaise for both the piano and the parents.  None of us want that kind of relationship for/with our children.  Yet, on the other hand, we simply do not always get what we want in life.  Success on any level takes work.  As kids, as adults, even as Americans, try as we might there are many realities far out of our control and always will be.  Expecting different sets us up for all kinds of failures and can often cause us to miss out on some truly magical times of growth and learning.

So, this is me. All. The. Time.  I honestly recognize there must be a balance and see the foolishness of letting the pendulum swing too far in either direction, but it can be really hard knowing when to disregard the “I don’t want to” and when to intentionally facilitate those desires.  It can be especially hard around the holidays because – whether you can financially accommodate it or not – one or both parents probably have a deep desire to see their family happy and excited, whether about gifts or outings of some kind.  How often do we stretch that budget farther than it should go for some excitement factor only to regret it when the bills come in January?

When we get stuck on the wanting fence, we must first set our boundaries and life values.  Of course, let the moral values preside, but after those are clear, look at budgets, time, and relationships.  A want shouldn’t outweigh some of these things without a greater reason than just because I want to. Sometimes no is inevitable once we’ve considered how much it costs or requires of us.  When the moral or truly limiting issues are ruled out, a person’s individual needs or goals need to be considered.  When a child is saving money for a larger toy or could help out a friend, but is suddenly drowning in the temptation of the now, it’s the perfect opportunity for a hard life lesson.  Choosing not to facilitate both options for them equips them for the choices adults have to make daily. 

Just like the media’s perfect parent is something of a Bigfoot, making the ‘right’ choice may not exist most days.  The good news is that in wrestling with these choices we end up fulfilling the wants that matter more anyway.

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