On Sunday, I dropped Punk #3 off at a birthday party. She walked into the yard, saw her friends and took off running. I confirmed times with the birthday girl’s mother and left. I went home and had Punk #2 help me with repairs to Coffin #1. It is Halloween season, after all.
When I came back two hours later, they had just finished eating cake and were about to open up presents, so I got to hang around for a while.
I noticed some amazing things:
- Fully 75% of this family’s living room was devoted to play space for the kid. As you walk in the front door, you get to see a giant pile of toys and kid-craft crap. Most of what is traditionally a gathering area was taken over by kid.
- Of the dozen or so children who came to the party, close to half of the parents stayed. Really, is your precious little snowflake so endangered by her friends that you can’t come up with something better to do that watch her play with her friends and ignore you for two hours while under the supervision of the resident parent?
- Clowns. Ok, it wasn’t technically a clown, but a guy named Mr. Fun who hands out whoopie cushions and entertains kids while wearing odd clothes counts as a clown, to me. I get it, you want your special little snowflake to have a memorable birthday, but if every party is big and over-the-top, which one will she remember? Maybe she’ll only remember a sense of entitlement.
I very firmly believe that children should not be raised to feel like they are the center of the universe. Not even to Mom & Dad. They need to know that we have lives and interests that aren’t them.
Mothers and fathers NEED to have lives and interests that are entirely separate from their children. If your entire focus for 20+years is on the lives of your little brats, what is going to happen to you when they move out? Are you prepared to abandon two decades of self-training and suddenly become your own person again?
Husbands and wives need to have time to themselves that excludes the children. When the monsters finally leave, you need to be able to have a relationship that doesn’t revolve around who spilled what where and who’s turn is it to clean it up.
Children are not–and should not be–the focal point of a household. Leave them at a birthday party. Let them find a way to entertain themselves for a few hours. Go on a date.
I promise you, letting your kids see their parents happily doing things together–even if it’s gleefully leaving them with a sitter–will do more for their long-term well-being than knowing you’re standing in the corner at a birthday party watching her fake a fart with a 25 cent toy.
Let her be independent. Let her know that other priorities do exist for other people. Let her fall down and scrape her knees. Let her figure out how things work for herself.
That is life, after all. Let her live it and don’t forget to live it for yourself.