Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Art of Spoilsport Parenting

We've had a summer of plenty here on the homestead -- abundant rain, abundant sunshine on the garden (abundant weeds...), good friends and food, swimming and camping. It has been a golden summer for my kids.

I feel grateful and blessed... but also a little bit worried.

I worry because I know that every summer won't be like this. Or maybe I let my mind get into fast-forward to a time when the kids will have summer jobs and dates and lives full of adult responsibility. Or, maybe I find it hard to parent about balance when we're having fun all the time.

Maybe I'm just a spoilsport parent. Debbie Downer. Whatever.

That must be why I purposely plan dinner without dessert and have to explain my reasons to my sons. Last night I found myself saying, "Sure we could have dessert... but it's healthier to set aside a couple of nights a week as dessert nights, so it's something special."

My nine-year-old and seven-year-old scoffed. They have monster metabolisms right now and scarf down food left and right to keep their engines running. "When I'm the parent, we're going to have dessert every day," they said.

Maybe so.

Maybe my spoilsport balance-parenting is the reason why now, in the height of summer, I chose to read the kids Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter -- a story of Laura's family's struggle to survive seven months of blizzard on the plains of South Dakota. I even invoked the book during last night's dessert discussion.

The reality is this:

There's a part of this Mom that wants to enjoy the present so much, and that's why I work to make summer a fun time for my children. But there is also a part that wants to teach them to appreciate their blessings and be grateful for what they have. It's hard to teach that second part when we're eating cupcakes and going to the swimming pool every day.

So, I'm teaching balance by holding back a little. We have chore days and camp instead of going to Disney. We place limits on screen time and play board games or go for bike rides instead. We occasionally go without dessert. (God forbid!)

Does that make me a spoilsport parent? Maybe. But maybe sometime soon, my kids will look back on this summer and not remember the holding-back. I hope they'll remember the good times we've had and be thankful.

That's what spoilsport parenting is all about, right? ... throwing a wrench in the works and expecting the kids to be grateful for it, or at least understand...

Then again, maybe I just need to relax a little and make a pan of brownies today.

I'll flip a coin. Heads - my house smells like chocolate for the afternoon, Tails - we go without.

(Now, where did I put that two-headed coin?)

- Midwest Mom


  1. Parenting's always a balancing act, isn't it? No matter how you work it out, I commend you for thinking of the dilemma and trying to figure out how best to work it out for your family. I think that the key to good parenting is simply to be thinking about these kinds of things--however you decide to work them out.

    Good luck with the two-headed coin. ;)

  2. Flipping a coin is sometimes a great solution!

  3. I do that, too. Sometimes I say no for no reason other than to not let them have 100% of everything they want. Obviously I don't pick the BIG things that matter most, but "Can I have popcorn?" That's a "no" occasionally just because.

  4. I really enjoyed this post and appreciate your ideas on conscious parenting. Whats a sunny day if you’ve never experienced a rainy one. Well, there’s much fun to be had in the rain too!! ;)


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