Seven things I’ve learned in seven years of parenting

… Let them be disappointed. And sad. And frustrated. And outright furious. It’s natural to want to shield our kids from painful feelings, but it’s cruel to actually do it.

They need to lose at board games. They need to see other people be the best at something. Life isn’t fair, so they need to experience cancelled plans and hurt feelings and the odd bad grade — or else they’re in for a rude awakening when they grow up.

Independence is good for everybody.

Our kids know how to make their own food, clean up after themselves, make their beds, clean their rooms, operate the TV, care for our family dog, get themselves ready for school, fold and put away laundry, take out the compost, wash the car and even (more recently) cross the street without an adult.

They use knives and sharp scissors and have their own hot-glue gun. They have their own bank accounts with debit cards. I can send the oldest into a store alone to buy something, and the youngest delights in ordering for herself in a restaurant or asking a salesperson a question.

It’s not that I don’t want to do those things for them — although it certainly is nice when I wake up to find they’re already brushed, dressed and downstairs eating breakfast. But I do want them to be self-sufficient adults someday, and part of that is teaching them responsibility from the beginning.

Don’t always put your kids first.

Sometimes parents are quick to describe their children as the centre of their universe, and many of them actually follow through. I don’t subscribe to the notion of letting my kids run the show, however.

Sure, I do things I know they’d like and consider their feelings when making a decision, but it’s not always all about them. Sometimes it’s all about my husband. Sometimes we all do something just for the dog. Sometimes it’s all about me, and I drag them along to my Zumba class.

Compromise is what being in a family is all about. I’d be doing our children a disservice if I sacrificed my marriage — or my own happiness — to always put them first …

To read my full list of the 7 Things I’ve Learned About Parenting (in 7 Years of Parenthood), please check out my weekly parenting column, The Mom Scene …

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