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How Much Would you Change your Parenting to Fit In?

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changingparentingSo here’s the thing about your first parenting friends. They are going through everything with you, because they are learning too. You have babies, they have babies. And in the beginning, everyone struggles with the same things. Sleep, eating, not sleeping, cotton or cloth, etc. And you have all these discussions with your first group of mom friends. You make your own decisions, but you allow yourself to be influenced. How can you not? And then, the kids get bigger. You start to have discussions about toilet training, time out and car seats. And by the time the kids have reached pre-school age, you are confident in your style. You’ve picked something, and you’re pretty confident it’s the right thing.

But here’s what I just found out.

Your friends, the ones who’ve “grown up” with you as parents, support you because they’ve seen the journey. So they don’t necessarily mind your eccentricities, because they know you, and they know why you think the way you do. Personally, I’m thinking of my need to get my kids to bed early every night. It could be perceived as annoying, but my kids are early risers, (think before 6 am, even if they go to bed late), so I’m pretty inflexible about our nighttime routine.

But when you move, mid childhood and mid parenthood, everything changes.

Now I’m meeting more experienced parents. We all have two, three, four or (five!) kids, so we are relatively confident in our decisions, and the way we do things. But the flip side of that is that before now, in my first group of mom friends, I surrounded myself with like minded parents, and so there weren’t major philosophical disagreements. We were all degrees of the same ideas and beliefs, with some more strict in those beliefs than others.

But now, I’m in an interesting place. We’re making some new friends, and having some new play dates. And I’m finding that with my son, who is almost four, it is a little difficult. Many of the boys we’re meeting play differently than my son. They have more…boyish toys, I guess. Things that I figured I’d introduce to him, but not yet, right? But then, we met all these four year olds who play with superheroes and transformers and have that whole bad guy/good guy concept down. And my son quickly assimilated into that play, loving all of it.

At first, my husband and I fought the whole thing. No “good guys/bad guys,” we kept saying to each other, late at night, when we finally had a chance to discuss these things. “No guns.” “Keep him young…let’s just keep telling him that’s not how we play.”

But then, a funny thing happened. He took the toys he has, which are things like Little People, and of course the infamous Octonauts, and turned them into all the characters his friends have. And today, he asked to watch “Rescue Bots” on TV… and I said yes.

This is the kid who last week, was watching Bob the Builder.

I’m happy that I’m making friends here. But I’m finding that I definitely have to alter some of my previous ideas in order to “fit in.” These kids seem…older. I’m not sure I’m ready for my son to enter this world of older boy play; I didn’t think we were there yet. My son is having a blast with his new friends, but how far am I willing to go? Where will I draw the line? We don’t love the gun thing, and have told our son not to play guns at all…but then I have my aunt telling me she went to sleep with her cap gun and her doll each night of her childhood…and she turned out fine.

So we’re back to that again.

I definitely don’t want my new friends to think I’m some kind of controlling mom that has all these unrealistic expectations of my three year old, but how far am I willing to change? Some change is inevitable, but how much is too much?

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9 comments… add one
  • ME May 28, 2014, 9:53 pm

    Stay your course and follow your instincts… You know how you want your children to be – maybe other parents are falling to societal pressures?

  • Deni May 29, 2014, 1:43 pm

    SarahLynne – Huge props for meeting new folks so quickly. That in itself is a really great thing to show your children. I think my own son is a little behind the “friend and play group” curve because we spent a lot of time just the two of us in his first years.

    I understand where you’re coming from because I also have strong feelings about what I think is appropriate for my children on a routine basis. Yet, I think if I were in your position, I might just see how things go.

    I think it’s pretty cool that your son is adapting to new children and new ways to play so readily. (I’m pretty sure my own children would be way more hesitant about things.) I tend to think (generally) a fresh perspective or new ideas are great for people of any age.

    Ultimately you’re the parent and you know your children better than anyone. If your instincts say some of the play activities aren’t appropriate for your son’s age, it might be difficult, but don’t bend. If you’re just a little hesitant, maybe give it a chance, you are a remarkable parent and have a ton of child development knowledge. I’ll just bet you can find an age appropriate way to incorporate a Transformer or two into Bob the Builder for your son. :)

    As for guns? I still have no idea where I stand on that issue. I stared at the small water guns in the Target for a good 7 minutes the other day. . .Do I? Don’t I? I figure at this point, I”m going to give Mac the lead. He has no idea about any of that yet. (He doesn’t even know what an Octonaut is! He doesn’t much care for TV.) When he asks about those sorts of toys, my Husband and I will figure it out.

    Thanks as always for some really thought provoking posts.

    • Sarahlynne Sarahlynne May 30, 2014, 7:28 pm

      Thanks for the response, Deni. This move has given me lots of fresh perspective on things, which I’ve really enjoyed. It’s one of the things I love about moving; it always give me a chance to start over and possibly change certain ideas.

  • Staci May 29, 2014, 1:53 pm

    Hang in there! I find myself in the same predicament with neighborhood friends vs. preschool and school age friends. There are times I’m shocked at how “old” my daughter seems, and then I see/listen to some of the other girls her age and I’m relieved that she’s not THAT old. I think that as long as you stick with the things that are most important to you, you’ll do okay. I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “so and so has her own parents to help her make choices, my job is to help you…” So far that has helped us ease past things we’re not exactly ready to tackle in our family :)

    • Sarahlynne Sarahlynne May 29, 2014, 8:40 pm

      Thanks, Staci. As usual, I really like your language, “has her own parents to help make her choices and my job is to..” That’s great and I’ll definitely be using it. Love the nurturing sentiment there, but also the authoritative tone. Excellent suggestion.

  • JB May 29, 2014, 2:35 pm

    I bet your first group of mom friends were all first time moms the same time as you. So your oldest was the same age as their oldest. Once you start mingling your family with families at different stages you do notice this. Maybe their son is the same age as yours, but has older siblings. That is where they get introduced to things younger than is probably appropriate. I noticed the kids at my son’s preschool that had older siblings were into the superheroes and videogames really young. Good luck navigating the new world with an almost 4yo. I think at 4 they really start to get influenced by the other kids.

    • Sarahlynne Sarahlynne May 29, 2014, 8:37 pm

      Yes, you are right, JB! They did all have kids of almost exactly the same age, and now my new friends have older children as well, so the toys, shows and influences are much different. And I am already seeing that at 4 there are peer influences that weren’t really there a year ago. I think we’re getting into a whole new stage of childhood and parenting. I think the tough stuff is just beginning.

  • Ali May 30, 2014, 8:46 am

    I agree with JB. I think you are at one of those critical ages where outside pressure and influence really sets in. I was very protective of my first (teetering on overprotective if I am honest with myself), and then he went to preschool/preK and was coming home asking about star wars, ninjas, transformers, superheroes, etc. This past year we have been more liberal with him and these said interests introduced by friends (many whom have older siblings). We started with books, and then allowed for figurines to come into the mix. We don’t do a lot of TV and I am still holding firm on not having video games in our house for as long as possible. As noted above, we are the parents and can control what comes in and out of the house, but the conversations at school are not completely controlled (nor do I think they should always be), and neither is the free play that occurs on the playground. And I have to believe that acting out “ninja” games and “star wars”, etc, is part of the processing “big ideas/concepts”. I try not to limit my children’s free play…and I challenge any mother (particularly of a boy) to prevent their 4-6 year old from turning anything into a sword/gun/blaster/etc. So when my kids do this, which is often, we use it as an opportunity to talk about weapons in general. I don’t like it, and as a girl who turned her brothers’ GI Joes into “families”, I don’t “get” it. (Nor do I get the WWE events that go on between brothers, but according to my husband, that’s par for the course with many boys.) I try to remind myself that while I have some “non-negotiables” in regards to toys and exposures, that as a rule, just because I don’t “get it” doesn’t mean they can’t do it. (Much like I don’t “get” or “like” the fact my 1-year-old could bathe in mud and dirt when outside, but I try to let him explore wherever he wants as long as he is safe.)

    Volunteering in my oldest’s classroom this year, I heard all the boys talking about things like “ninjago” with each other and I’ll admit that a part of me kept thinking that I wanted to equip my son with some familiarity so that he can engage with his peers. (He already struggles with social anxiety). But I also don’t want him heavily immersed in violence, consumerism, etc. It’s hard and I’m not sure what the answer is. But from the age of 5-6, we entered what appears to be such a new stage of interests, questions, and preferences. And as a result, my 4-year-old is getting exposure to many of these things earlier. While I cringe every time they fly around the house wielding “gunners” and “blasters” playing some iteration of good guy/bad guy, I know that there is something more involved going on with their exploration of what it means to be a villain, hero, etc. While I step IN if physical violence ever becomes part of the script, I’m trying more and more to step BACK and let them play. Judge if you will, but this is how we our house operates at the moment.

    In regards to the acquisition of coveted toys. We have some pretty strict rules. They can go to Goodwill and buy their own toys from time to time, and I have stopped putting such extreme limits on what toys grandparents can get (hence, my 6 year-old got a bunch of Lego Ninjas and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles last month), but outside of that, in response to “so and so has that toy”, we say, perhaps you can have a play date with him at his house and enjoy playing with that there. Isn’t that the nice thing about play dates? Having access to new toys?

    Peer influence as children age is incredibly powerful. As parents we are all tested with figuring out how best to navigate the waters and find a healthy balance among exploration, inquiry, expression, and protection. I certainly don’t have the answer, so continuing the discussion–a discussion I don’t ever see going away–is important.

    As with all things parenting, it’s the eternal struggle with “balance.” And sometimes, your calves seize up, you fall and realize that too much weight was being put in some area–because with parenting, the ratios and weights are ever changing as our children grow up in a world that is also ever changing. But the wonderful thing about parenting is there is room for redirection, correction, and getting back up and exploring what new ways to achieve harmony and equilibrium.

    • Sarahlynne Sarahlynne May 30, 2014, 8:01 pm

      Hi Alison,
      Thanks for such a detailed comment. I agree with a lot of what you say here. I do think as well, that when our kids act out things like “good guy/bad guy,” they are understanding and acting through larger concepts. Just as they pretend to be doctors, animals, or grown-ups, they also act out these other roles. And I have no idea why I’m so sensitive about him playing these particular types of games; I allow him to pretend to be whoever he wants in his play. It could be the connotation, but even that is only in my mind, not in his. He’s just playing; nothing more.

      And I really do think there’s something to the gender issue; I think kids are hard wired to play certain things, (I saw it when my son starting playing with cars and trucks at one and my daughter is already putting her baby to “sleep,” something my son didn’t do often).

      I actually love to watch my kids play and create little worlds, especially when they are “acting out” things that have happened but putting their own spin on it. It’s really eye opening. Playing is a child’s job…and I agree with you when you say that too much interfering is not helpful to their development.

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