When we think about this word: flexibility, maybe you are like me and you think of bending. Flexible people bend, they don’t break. Often when we use this word we may be having a conversation about gymnastics or you are talking about your schedule…bending it to fit your many commitments.
However, when we don’t fully understand what it means to be flexible, we can be forced into a position that doesn’t fit us. Where we are “bent out of shape” so to speak. Or we become the opposite of flexible: rigid. Sometimes that rigidity is good. Like when your child asks for something and you say no. Then is a time when you want to be firm and rigid. Make your no a no and yes a yes. But, what does it mean to be flexible as a mom or homeschooler?
*Changing your mind about how you parent. You were never going to spank. You would never do a time out. You were, of course, going to spank. No groundings…ever. Way before kids and during the years when we think we know better and form HUGE judgements on other parents, we decide exactly how we are going to parent. Then we have kids and we realize we know nothing. It is ok to reevaluate how we parent. How we discipline. Before our first child was born I was, of course, going to go back to work. I did just spend a huge chunk of my time and accumulated massive amounts of debt to be a chiropractor. No way was I going to not use my education. We even checked out a daycare. Then about 4 days in to parenthood and my world view shifted and I realized I was never going to be able to do it. Now almost 10 years later I stay home full-time, and I homeschool, which to be honest was first my husbands idea. How we parent needs to evolve. Sometimes daily, weekly, yearly and even as we add to our families.
*Parenting one of your children differently, taking into consideration their needs and what is effective for them. Cookie cutter parenting is difficult to do. I can’t first of all, discipline my 10-year-old the same as my almost 2-year-old. Plus, I would never tell my triplets that if they didn’t change their attitude then they would be unable to read for 24 hours (nor did I ever think I would say this, but then I had a book loving older child). What worked for you as a kid doesn’t always work for your kids and what works for one may backfire completely when used on another child.
*Stopping an after school activity, even mid-program, if it detrimental towards your family or throwing away (selling) the homeschool program you bought thinking that it was a sure fit for your family/child and 3 months in you all hate it. I will admit that it was really, really difficult when I threw away a math program that I spent good money on, one of which wasn’t even out of its cellophane wrapping. However, it just wasn’t working for my daughter. Day after day of battles and tears just isn’t worth it. Our relationship, especially, wasn’t worth the money. So I found myself researching new math programs in the middle of the school year. It was inconvenient but a new (and thankfully used) program later and I am so glad I wasn’t rigid in demanding we finish the other program.
*Thinking less about financial cost and more about time cost or, and this is a BIG one for me, the mental cost. I want my children to be able to enjoy art, especially doing art. I have, as a homeschool mom, bought several programs for teaching my kids. However, I am NOT that mom. I hate art mess. I am not artistic in that way. I don’t enjoy it. I avoid it like the plague so to speak. Yet, my kids are thriving. They get great art at co-op, they have a grandma and an auntie who are artistic, and sometimes I become flexible to the mess and we ALL enjoy art together.
*Taking a day off for your own mental health. I have anxiety. I don’t like it and I pray that it would be healed, but for now it’s my reality. Unlike some anxiety, which is situational, my anxiety has no rhyme or reason and some days my mind rebels against me. What can this mean? For me it means less patience and irritability. My frustration comes out as anger and I can be harsh with my words and tones. Sometimes, it is far better for me and my precious children for me to “call it a day” and put on a good, funny movie and cuddle up with my kids or because (thankfully) I have an older and responsible child, put her in charge of the toddler for a bit and go read a book. Whatever your reason for needing a mental day, take it. NOTHING is worth the damage you could do if you are not mentally at your best.
*Saying no to something that you always insisted you would always say yes to. Next year we plan to skip Wednesday night church. If you had asked me about it a year ago, 3 years ago, or 10 years ago I would have been adamant that we would NEVER miss Wednesday kid’s church. Yet, as we look towards scheduling our next year we’ve come to realize that it doesn’t fit our family right now. With diligent homeschooling which is centered around our faith and always includes Bible memorization, plus a Christ centered scouting program (AHG and Trail Life), as well as a small group we have come to realize that our children don’t need to go to church to learn about God and to grow in their faith journey. Our children’s pastor reminds us that even in the Bible, family came first THEN the church. Don’t be afraid to say no to activities that don’t fit for you or your family. Maybe that would be piano, because your budget just can’t fit it or you’d have to rush from one place to another stressing everyone out to get to karate. I give you my promise now that saying no will NOT harm your children. But saying yes…when it just isn’t wise, can.
*Saying yes to something you always say no to. Are you rigid in how the bathroom is cleaned? Does the thought of having your children fold their clothes wrong give you shudders? Or lets go in a different direction, do you hate board games? Popcorn for dinner freak you out? Most of the time, you can say no but if you have a houseful of guests coming or just can’t keep up with the laundry…now is the time to say yes. This may mean, yes you can load the dishwasher…even if you don’t do it “right” and make a bit of a water mess and waste water. Yes, you can fold your own laundry even though it isn’t “perfect.” Yes, I will play UNO and discover the joy and laughter of a game I always dread.
When you need to be rigid:
Rigidity, especially in the current age we live, can have a bad reputation. Flexibility is the standard. However, there is a need in parenting to be rigid.
*Safety. My kids are allowed to ride their bikes around the block. However, helmets and the “slow children at play” sign as well as the recent cones I bought warning cars that my children are outside, are a non-negotiable. If I find them out playing on their bikes without either of these things then they either obey or come in.
*Child appropriate entertainment. I’m sorry if your friends and all the other people you know can watch XYZ, in our house you don’t. That’s the rule. My husband and I discuss things and if we decide that it is not appropriate for my kids to watch or listen to, it’s not. I grew up on Disney, my favorite kid’s movie of all time is still The Little Mermaid. However, I find most of their sitcoms inappropriate for my kids. My kids are sponges, I’m trying all the time not to pass MY bad habits onto them. I do not want to undo something they are seeing on television all the time. This is especially true with parental disrespect, lying, and disobedience which seems to cause great laughter but is a theme I don’t agree with.
*Modesty. Short shorts or “Daisy Dukes” seem to be the only available shorts available for kids right now. However, not for mine. They could be the cutest shorts on this planet but they won’t be on my kids.
*Golden rule. How we treat others is something we are rigid on. We don’t use our hands in anger, we don’t say things that we wouldn’t want said to us. We are pretty firm on loving others, and “be kind and compassionate to one another” is one of the first Bible verses my kids are taught.
*Respect. I could write a whole post on this and maybe I will, but respect is something my husband and I value and thus we show it to our kids and expect them to show respect as well.
*Lying. Lying is one of the worst things to do in our house. I will not tolerate lies, period. I frequently remind them that “I don’t lie to you, don’t lie to me.” This doesn’t mean I tell them everything but if they ask and it’s an age appropriate conversation, I will have it. If it isn’t we discuss that somethings are too heavy (burdensome) for them to carry right now and as such we as their parents will carry it for them. When it’s appropriate, then we will definitely discuss it. This is the case for things like human trafficking or rape. It’s important for them to know about these things and maybe somehow they’ve “heard” about it but we will discuss it when it won’t be harmful to them mentally or spiritually. They know this and trust us in this.
Please comment to add to my list, I find other moms have a lot to share with one another and I have a lot to learn!