Great Expectations

At some point my husband and I began likening our children to little animals. They play in the mud and they jump on the furniture and they fight over food. In the past week one has peed on the floor, one has (innocently) taken a bite of her daddy's finger, and one has broken the slat on a brand new bed. They are hardly house-trained and certainly not civilized. We started calling them so. Little animals. It became a term we used often to cope with the exhaustive forces of parenting three children.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps they (the older ones, not the sweet baby) were acting more beastly the more we pointed out this aspect of their personalities. Or maybe we were noticing it more? No matter, I decided we should accept our children's behavior for what it is. They are not miniature adults, they are wild and free and uninhibited. Perhaps I'm putting a damper on their childhood by admonishing them for having a scuffle in the museum or forbidding ice cream when they aren't listening. Clearly I myself am imperfect seeing that I offer food bribes.

When I find myself repeatedly disappointed by their animal behavior, I wonder if I'm the one with the problem, not them. Are my expectations too high? What happened to my patience? Was I too harsh? Am I a terrible mother?

But James reminded me that it might be good to have high expectations for our children. We give them something to work for. We show faith in their ability to change. We force them into cleanliness in hopes that it becomes a habit. We teach them manners and norms and how society expects them to act.

(The rebel on my shoulder responds: who cares how society wants us to act?)

What do you think? Do we let kids be kids, or do we demand they clean their room before dinner and stay seated while they eat? How do we strike the right balance? Tell me in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com with your thoughts on parenting. I love hearing from you!

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