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So, I had to put my money where my mouth was this week.
You may remember I was pretty vocal about why My Kids are NOT #1 in my life.
Lovely, lovely Android forced an update for my phone this week. It moved all my apps around, screwed with my memory and battery life, wiped a bunch of photos (despite assurances it wouldn’t!) and generally provided me with a generally irritated mood for a few days.
One of the resets was wiping the photo background and lock screen – a delightful picture of the kids I’d had on there for about a year. (I guess if it’s that old, it’s probably time to rebook family pictures!)
So, I scrolled through the past few months of photos and found a delightful photo my sister-in-law snapped at a wedding a few weeks ago. We had a rare child-free weekend trip to Seattle to celebrate, and photo truly captured a glimpse well-rested people who were basking in the remembrance of why we fell in love 14 years ago. Plus it has Ry in a tux, which is always a great shot!
Fast forward to last night, Nola was playing on my phone when she suddenly looked at me and with accusation in her tone said: “You love Daddy more than me. You took our picture off and put his on!” I won’t lie, I almost burst out laughing, but self-control won out. “Who’s the most important?” she demanded.
I hugged her hard and explained that, after God, Ryan is most important to me, followed by her and her brothers. And I won’t lie, it broke my heart a little to see her working out the reality that she wasn’t priority #1. She knows she is loved, she knows she is important, and she now knows she is not the most important. And I truly think she’ll be a better human for it in the long run.
A Culture of Entitlement
I realized after our conversation that culture has pushed parents to become more than just the people responsible for raising and guiding these precious kids. Social Media – the culture in general – seems to remind us that we aren’t being good parents if we aren’t some sort of Martyr. Sacrificing anything and everything for these tiny humans. I’m talking beyond the expected and unavoidable things; of course, having people who are entirely dependent on you comes with sacrificing time, money, sleep, and a quiet house. But that’s just the beginning. It seems that we’re expected to martyr ourselves – in the name of being good parents – and nothing is off limits: from friendships to marriage relationships to self-care and preservation. It should come 100% after the kids.
But at some point in this martyrdom, the kids pick up that they’re IT. They’re the priority. The world of these taller humans revolves around them – and they’re going to relish that. That in itself isn’t a terrible thing, except that the reality still exists that when they grow up and move to college or get their first job that they will be thrust into a situation where they aren’t #1. And I’m not sure how equipped they will be to navigate that situation because it has never happened in 20 years of life! I truly believe it is my responsibility to model a healthy, adjusted boundary of priorities for my children. And that involves putting my money where my mouth is and answering honestly when the questions are asked.
Hear me: I’m not saying don’t do things for your kids. I’m not saying that my kids aren’t important. I’m not even saying we shouldn’t tell kids they are important. I’m not saying that, yes, sometimes life happens and you’re coming in last place after you’ve taken care of everyone else.
I am saying that it is OK to say “no” to a kids activity or something that will burn you out.
I am saying that it is OK to inconvenience your kids’ schedule to accommodate a Date Night with your spouse.
I am saying it is healthy to say YES to something that is just for you – without guilt!