Okay, we do have some parenting standards around here. Or maybe “preferences” is a better way to put it. We prefer books over movies, toast over cereal, safe over hurt. Stuff like that. We are not fanatics, though, and We Will Not Judge You if you feed your kids Pop-Tarts for lunch. Really, we won’t. So you don’t have to go into the long frenzied explanation about how you’re re-thinking buying those pastries even though they are in fact organic, and you get such a great deal on them at Costco. It does not matter to me. My son eats Slim Jims like they were candy, and sometimes washes them down with actual candy. And soda. My Coke Zero, in fact. So relax, because if there was an awesome parent contest right now, you would win before I would.

I do buy organic when it makes sense, financially. There are veggies on the table every night. Fruit is served regularly, and I cook most of the stuff we eat. But my kids love the sugariest breakfast cereal available by law, so I buy it. You know why? If they have the choice of  me making them peanut butter toast (whole wheat bread) or getting themselves a bowl of Rice Crispies, the sugar wins every time, which means less work for me. If you are prone to competitive parenting, think of it as promoting independence.

Other parenting sins committed around here:

  1. Our kids have to go outside to play every day, even if it’s cold. That’s why I bought warm coats, snow pants, gloves and hats. In the summer, we let them go barefoot. Even though they could step on a bee, or get a sliver.
  2. We do not use any “screen time” restrictions. If there is nothing else that needs to be done, they can watch a movie.
  3. They use real tools. They use the chemistry set for fun, without reading the directions. They climb trees, and use ropes to hoist each other up those same trees. They eat wild grapes and herbs from the yard. They catch snakes. They build teepees with duct tape and trees branches.

This is all pretty tame by the standards of many, and certainly when compared to my own childhood. But there seems to be a suburban parenting trend that advocates a strict regimen of music lessons, education, soccer/lacrosse/hockey. Just play? These parents don’t know what that is, and neither do their kids. Unstructured play time is becoming a thing of the past. Instead of going outside to play tag, kids are playing Wii Fit. We took one of my daughter’s teenage friends bowling with us and she commented, “Real bowling is a lot harder than Wii bowling!”

Enthralled by the Kinect commercials (I love to dance!) I came this close to buying an xbox for Christmas. After much thought, and because I have limited money, we settled on more Lego’s and an American Girl Doll instead. Real toys that require human imagination to be brought to life. Maybe next year we’ll go the video game route. In the meantime, we’re letting the kids run wild, just playing. Sometimes this freedom gives them wild ideas. Oscar keeps looking at the thermostat on the fireplace and telling me, “It’s the right temperature to melt crayons.” I think not, son. We prefer an unadorned fireplace.

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