by Shannon Serpette
Nothing is perfect in my house, or when it comes to my parenting skills. According to the experts, I just might be an abysmal failure at parenting.
Here’s my dirty parenting secret – I feed my kids junk food sometimes and I don’t do a great job at limiting their screen time on the computer and television.
I’m not worried that my kids will watch too many episodes of Doc McStuffins or that their bodies will be irreparably damaged if they eat an Egg McMuffin.
I’ve always been a bit suspicious of sweeping generalizations.
When I was a kid, I was told too much television was bad for my eyes. I always wondered how much was too much. I kept watching and watching anyway.
I was just waiting for the day when I would wake up unable to see clearly – the day when all the adults would finally score a giant victory against a sassy kid who insisted she would watch television despite the warnings from people with superior intellect. I’m still waiting for that day to happen. I’m now in my 40s and despite decades of heavy television usage, I still have perfect vision.
People give generalized rules like this all the time. And I always feel a compulsion to test the limits. The television warning for me ranked right up there with, “If you swallow your gum, it will stay in your belly for seven years,” and “Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis.”
Well, I swallowed a lot of gum in my day. There were times food shouldn’t have fit in my stomach if all the gum I had swallowed in the past seven years still remained in my system. As for knuckle cracking, I’ve cracked my knuckles almost daily for decades and I don’t have even a bit of arthritis.
Still, when it comes to my children’s health, I pay attention to headlines and trends because my kids matter to me. Obviously, I want to keep them healthy, happy and thriving. So I try to err on the side of caution with most things that are no-brainers to me. I make sure:
- They wear helmets when they ride bikes, even though they see their friends whizzing around the neighborhood on their bikes without a helmet in sight.
- They get all their mandatory vaccinations, even the ones I don’t view as quite as important, like the chicken pox vaccine. Yes, the possibility of side effects from vaccines always worries me, but it would worry me more if my kids actually got any of the diseases they are receiving vaccinations against.
- I stay on top of their grades at school, checking them through the online site several times a week.
- They participate in sports, even if it means I spend all my hours away from work in a gym or on a ball diamond. The kids and I go on runs together and occasionally compete in 5ks as a family. They aren’t the fastest kids out there, but we’re running for exercise and fitness, not accolades.
I try to follow all the big rules for parenting. But there are times I fail in the experts’ eyes. Here are some of the things I do that I know has others casting judgement on me.
- My kids watch quite a bit of television. But we don’t do binge watching, and we try to get up occasionally to move around a little. As for the theory that television will rot their brains, I really don’t believe it. They actually learn things from television sometimes, even if it is just useless trivia. When we watch something where someone acts questionably or recklessly, we talk about that behavior and what else that character could have done in her situation.
They find good role models like Doc McStuffins. She’s a problem-solving go-getter who fixes broken toys, which means she is way smarter than I am judging by the extensive toy graveyard that’s located in my basement.
- I should seriously buy some McDonald’s stock. Those little Happy Meals have saved us from starvation more than once during shopping trips, staycations, vacations and ball games. When we’re traveling for my daughter’s volleyball team or for my son’s basketball games, sometimes we have the time and the forethought to pack a cooler full of healthy snacks and sandwiches for us to eat. But sometimes we don’t. Our busy schedules get in our way, and when that happens, it’s Ronald McDonald to the rescue.
- Fruits and vegetables sometimes are the forgotten food group. If I haven’t been grocery shopping in a couple weeks or if I’m so busy with work that I’m not paying the closest attention to my children’s food choices, fruit and vegetables may be skipped here or there.
We do a decent job of incorporating several servings a day. But once in a while, it will be bedtime before I realize they haven’t eaten many or even any during the course of the day. So the next day, I have them eat extra to make up for it. I’m not sure it’s supposed to work like that, but I’m just trying to do nutritional damage control at that point.
- It’s a struggle to get an hour of exercise in some days. Between school, homework and relaxation time, my kids and I don’t always make working out a priority. But they are in sports, so some days they might get two or three hours of exercise. Other days, we have lazy days that might involve a lot of sitting and one or two quick 15-minute sessions of activity.
I know I can’t be alone in my struggle to live up to what the experts consider good parenting moves. The way I figure it, life is a balancing act. If I keep balance most days and my children are happy, socially well-adjusted, learning and healthy, then at the end of the day, I think I’ve been a successful parent – even with a few chicken nuggets and episodes of “Gravity Falls” thrown into the mix.