I was recently prompted with a question: What does it mean to be a good parent?
In my opinion, and simply put, scraping peanut butter off of toast.
Every morning before work, I brew my coffee, get out my vitamins, and prepare my breakfast. I then wake up my youngest daughter and start getting her ready for the day. When we finally make it to the kitchen, we have a half-ass sort of breakfast together. Getting to that point, however… It usually is quite the struggle: Mackenzie is not a morning person! I will beg and plead and offer choices on everything from which outfit she would like to wear, to which hairstyle she would like to sport for the day, and finally what she would like for breakfast.
One morning last week I had made my breakfast, rye toast with peanut butter, scraping the very last bit out of the jar. I made a mental note to make some more that evening, and went downstairs to get Mackenzie ready for school. After getting her dressed, I carried her sleepy little body up to the kitchen, and sat her down on a barstool at the counter. I asked Mackenzie what she would like for breakfast, and after carefully considering her choices, she finally decided on oatmeal. I had just ripped the oatmeal package open when she blurted out, “I want peanut butter toast for breakfast instead!”
Did she see the empty peanut butter jar next to the sink and was fucking with me? “Oh honey, we are out of peanut butter,” I replied. She then exorcist-style twisted her head, looked over at my rye toast with peanut butter at the other end of the counter, and gave me a confused look.
“But you have peanut butter, Mama,” Mackenzie cooed. She was right… I did have peanut butter. And I would feel like the biggest, glutinous hog enjoying my peanut butter in front of her, now that she had voiced her want.
“Would you like my peanut butter toast, Mackenzie?” I asked.
“I don’t like those black things,” she replied, referring to the caraway seeds in my rye, and turned her nose up in the air. So what does any mom do? I sigh. Then, I began scraping the peanut butter off my toast, and applying it to her freshly toasted bread.
Some may say that my five-year old needs to understand the word ‘no’. I say, pick and choose your battles. Do I break down and purchase that new Hot Wheels every time she throws a fit in the store and needs it. Oh, hell no. But accepting my five-year old’s flip-flop decision of a nutritious breakfast, even at my expense, is miniscule in the grand scheme of things.
Now, I am not saying that you should give in to every single request that your child comes up with. They still need to hear ‘no’, when appropriate. There is no reason you should enroll them into every extra-curricular activity available. One or two sports at a time, is more than enough. Never sacrifice date nights or alone time spent with your spouse. Don’t let them interrupt. While your child needs to feel important, making him/her the center of the universe will only produce a little asshole, with an overwhelming sense of entitlement.
Whether you birthed, adopted, or married into the role, ensuring that your child feels loved, cherished, and worth sacrificing for is an extremely crucial benchmark in their lives. A child who feels important will develop a strong sense of self-worth and a positive self-image. Paired with a child who sees consideration from their parents, they will grow into a empathetic, compassionate adult with the ability to care about something bigger than themselves.
Scraping peanut butter off your toast, giving them the last piece of pie, or busting them out of school once a year to spend a fun-filled day just for them are little ways that can contribute in a big way.