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Saturday, September 21, 2013

My Referee Free Zone


I do a lot of things for my kids. I mean a lot. There aren't enough bullet points on every resume in the world to highlight all I do for my darlings. But I'm not looking for a pat on the back as I'm not the only one. Mothers everywhere know what it's like to carry the heavy burden of parenthood. 
 
Sometimes, we moms miraculously find pleasure in serving our family. Other days we have to dig deep just to make it through the day and even then we've been known to crack under pressure. But most of the time we set our personal feelings aside and do what needs to be done.
 
At least, that's why I do when I attend my son's sporting events. No one told me when I gave birth to my bouncy, baby boy fifteen years ago that I would have to lug lawn chairs all over western Illinois, wear school pride colors and eat cold hot dogs out of concession shacks. There's like, a gazillion other things I'd rather be doing but I do it because I'm a mom and I love him. 
 
In hindsight, perhaps I should have steered my little fella towards the arts or music. At least those venues have air conditioning and proper seating. 
But I digress.
 
I'm a cook, a taxi cab driver, a Laundromat and personal cheer leader but of all the things that I do for my kids there is one job I will not under any circumstance fulfill. I will not be a referee to their shenanigans. 


Every single day my children tell me their tales of woes and injustice and no matter how big and tempting the bait is, I don't bite. And here's why.
 
First, if I got involved in every sibling squabble I would literally have no time for anything else. Since I refuse to get sucked into their problems I have more time to do the other things I hate: like laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping and errand running.
 
Secondly, I want to teach my kids how to deal with their own relationship problems. Lots of good people, adults and children alike, spend more energy trying to avoid conflict or pretending that everything is okay when it's not. This is terribly unhealthy. Throughout the entirety of life, conflict will always arise and I want my children to learn how to deal with it. Practicing with their brothers and sisters seems like a good, safe place to start. 
 
Finally life isn't, nor will it ever, be fair. Why my children begin all their grievances with "It's not fair that..." is beyond me. I want my kids to understand that equality of cookies and time on the Xbox, for example, is not what makes for a good life. Life is good because you're privileged to have food you enjoy and video games. 
 
I don't want to give you the impression I am a cold hearted mother. I listen to my children when they come to me and provide comfort when they are hurting. I just don't jump to fix it for them. Instead I encourage them to find a way to peacefully resolve their conflicts. 
Sometimes that means I offer them suggestions on what to say but mostly I'm trying to instill in them a core value of mine; treat others how you would want to be treated. This usually means I spend a quite a bit of time reminding the offending child that if they choose not to share or be helpful that perhaps when the roles are reversed their siblings will remember how unmerciful they were. 
 
You'd be amazed how quickly my kids can backtrack if they believe that their harsh, selfish attitude will have future repercussions. 
 
In fact I am pretty sure the entire world would be at peace if each and every one of us would simply remember to treat others like we would want to be treated. 
 
I imagine in that kind of world there would be no need for referees; not at home or on any playing field anywhere! Sporting events would have to be cancelled all over the world and I'd never have to sit on another bleacher again. Or wash uniforms. Heck, parenting would be a snap if I could just cross those two things off my resume today! Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so that's why!

This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for The Review Atlas

Stephanie is a mother to five children and a parent educator for the Tiny Titan PreK program in the Monmouth-Roseville school district. She hosts parent-child activities and speaks publicly. She can be reached at ssikorski@mr238.org

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