One of the least amusing challenges in parenting is when your children figure out that they can make up their own minds. I mean, really--how dare they? We've been doing a perfectly fine job of handling that for them. (with the exception of the time we thought we'd save money by cutting their hair ourselves, what was that?)
It starts with the day they find out that if they want to, they can refuse to wear the clothes you'd like them to. Then, its pretty much war--unless your mommy fantasies included your sweet toddler girl wearing a flowered skirt with an entirely different type of flowered blouse and bright green (a green which does not exist in nature, let alone on her skirt or blouse) snow boots. Or unless, deep in your heart, you really truly hoped that your little man's outfit of choice would be cowboy boots...and a smile.
Then it moves into a lot of other arenas having to do with what they like and don't like; who they choose to be friends with; and what they are going to do with their time.
I had some ideas. They weren't big ideas, but they were my ideas about what my kids would like, and do, and be. In a cruel streak of divine humor, my kids have exactly NO desire to even HEAR my ideas--let alone embrace them. Dang it.
"You should really think about cutting your hair, like in a bob, it'd be so cute if..."
"I don't see why you don't try out for the debate club, I mean really--all that good arguing skill just being wasted on your parents..."
"Honey, please, could you just wear this outfit, there are going to be pictures taken and people there I want to think well of me..."
"Why don't you spend more time with the little Jones boy? He seems so sweet and polite..."
"You know, when I was [insert age] I would have LOVED to have the chance to..."
But, no. The little buggers seem to be determined to to find their own way, make their own mistakes, and decide for themselves what things are of value to them. And really, when you get down to it, that is really what we should want for them. To find their own way. To discover where their hearts are, to learn what they are passionate about and what makes them happy. There are a million different ways--all fine and all legal--for a child to live their life. But I think sometimes as parents we are so afraid that their choices may bring regret that we push a little too hard for them to be what we want. And really, what we want for them is what we want for ourselves. Maybe, instead, we should become who we want to be and let our children do the same.
As we raise our children we do the best we can to instill in them the things we hold most precious. We can teach them and train them and hope it sticks. But in the end, it should be as a wise prophet once said, "we teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves."