Battles (Not) Worth Fighting

One of the first things you learn as a parent is that some battles are worth fighting, and others simply aren’t. For a happy home and above-average children, follow these simple rules:

1) Determine which battles are worth fighting and which aren’t. It’s nice to give the Hubs some input here, always remembering who usually mops up the tears and blood.

2) Plot strategies for the battles worth fighting.

3) Resist all temptation to fight those battles not worth fighting.

Your lists may differ (I don’t see how), but here are our:

Battles (Not) Worth Fighting

1. School Attendance — Not Worth It. I know, you’re probably thinking that’s easy for me to say when my kids are so intelligent and well-socialized, but I’d let them skip school now and then even if they weren’t prodigies. Remember Mrs. Lynde’s sage advice:

That is I wouldn’t say school to her again until she said it herself. Depend upon it, Marilla, she’ll cool off in a week or so and be ready enough to go back of her own accord, that’s what, while, if you were to make her go back right off, dear knows what freak or tantrum she’d take next and make more trouble than ever. The less fuss made the better, in my opinion. She won’t miss much by not going to school, as far as that goes. (Anne of Green Gables)

2. Church Attendance — Worth the Fight. Normally I think it’s a good idea to have low expectations (saves on disappointment), but church attendance is one of those things that you should just expect, and keep on expecting. Church wasn’t optional when I was growing up, and if I still have to go now, you can bet your cute patoote my kids do too!

3. Homework — Not Worth It. I know, again with the advanced mental abilities making it easy to shrug off homework, but really. If Sally, age 7, goes to school for 6 hours everyday and then wants to play with her sisters or run around outside or read Danny Dunn and the Swamp Monster, I’m not going to make her sit and fill out some stupid worksheet on the pattern ABABAB. So there!

4. Naps — Worth the Fight. At some point (say 13 or 14 years of age), your kids will grow out of napping. This is a sad, sad day that deserves black balloons and dead roses. Until then, revel in the nap-time. After that, do whatever it takes (locks, threats, bribes) to protect “quiet” time.

5. Piercings — Not Worth It. I’m all for restraint in the puncturing of random appendages, but the one good thing about piercings is that they are so easy to remove! I got a second hole in my left ear when I was seventeen (oh the delicious rebellion!), never guessing that when I was thirty-one I would turn down a pair of earrings from my sister because I haven’t worn anything in either ear for about six years.

6. Tattoos — Worth the Fight. Have you seen all the advertising for tattoo removal? Maybe when my kids are twenty-seven they can make a decision like this for themselves, but no way are they doing it when they’re too young to realize that someday that’s going to hurt like a mother AND cost lots of money to remove.

7. Hair — Worth the Fight Not Worth It (ultimately). After watching home videos of toddler-Sally, Dick made me promise not to cut Spot’s hair in the same Monkees cut (Sally’s the pianist). I am in complete agreement, but Spot is always taking out her ponytails, so often she has hair in her eyes, which bothers me, but not as much as it bothers Grandma, who I will probably have to supervise all her visits with Spot to protect her from scissors. Oh well. Susan keeps cutting her own hair, and I shaved my head when I was nineteen. Almost did it again the other day, but have gained approximately fifty pounds since then, so would not look like Demi Moore in GI Jane now as I did back then.

8. Modesty — Worth the Fight. I was sometimes the least-modest person in the entire city of Cairo (except the tourists), and usually the most modest on the beach in Florida. I don’t want my girls to get a complex, and I don’t see myself ever forcing them to wear a bra. Hmmm, come to think of it, I can’t even see myself taking them shopping for a bra. Maybe Dick . . . no, that’s probably weird, although he did take me bra shopping that one time. Whether clothes match or not is a different story, and definitely Not Worth It (as is backwards panties. Do not point out things like this).

9. Language — Not Worth It. This one might seem a tad self-rationalizing, because I have a bit of a problem with my favorite words (beginning with “f” and “s” and “d”), but I really can’t get too worked up about what they say. We don’t take the name of the Lord in vain, but I think it’s best not to overreact to obvious ploys for attention like “Mommy poops in her diaper.” (If you can’t imagine the appeal of the f-word, read Paddy Clarke HaHaHa. Go ahead. I read it for an English class at BYU, so it won’t hurt you.)

10. Eating (What) — Worth the Fight. Eating (When) — Not Worth It. I saw a mother holding her child in the straight-jacket hold at a picnic last week. Lots of screaming ensued. It wasn’t pleasant. Look. Family dinner time is important. It’s important that we sit around and discuss our day, but don’t make your kid eat when she’s not hungry. As long as the food on offer later is the same nutritious stuff as was at the table, let them eat when and how they want. Please. And if it makes them happy (and keeps them quiet), LET THEM EAT CAKE!

11. TV Viewing — Not Worth It. When I say “TV” what I really mean is watching movies in the back of a moving minivan. This is something that should be encouraged at all stages of development. Mindless TV watching at home should probably be rationed, and while The Simpsons is fine for any age, The Family Guy is not.

12. Seatbelts, Swimming Lessons, and Shots — Worth the Fight. A few months ago I got off the freeway to spank Susan for taking off her seatbelt. She did it a couple more times that week. It was some rough boundary-testing week, and I’m pleased to say that she now starts to hyperventilate if somehow we start rolling with her seatbelt unfastened. I want to be safe! she wails. Thank you. My job is done.

13. Manners — Worth the Fight. When Sally was eighteen months old, she started curling her hand into her chest with her elbow out at a 90-degree angle whenever I prompted her to say “please.” I couldn’t tell if this was some strange sign language she’d picked up or what. Then I realized that when I prompted her to say please I was usually holding something in my hand that she wanted, and I was holding it back away from her, against my chest, until she said the magic word. It was sign language, all right. But not very pretty.

So. What do you think? What are your battles worth fighting and not?

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This is my first attempt at a Thursday Thirteen, and it’s also what Works-for-Me.