Welcome to our “Lord of the Flies” brand of parenting.
My wife and I decided long ago that making our boys follow all the rules we’d like them to follow didn’t make sense. Yes, we’d prefer to leave the house with Eli sporting just a single hat and Ben wearing his winter jacket as the manufacturer suggested. Is it worth a battle royale to make it so, or can we work around the issue and let them embrace their inner rebel?
We choose B more times than not. That might sound like a series of surrenders, but there’s a method to our mad approach. We fight less with the boys and they, in turn, snap to it when we really, really need them to follow orders.
Here’s another example of being flexible with rules. For New Year’s Eve Eli wore his Power Rangers costume under a sophisticated sports jacket. He was the hit of the party, a conversation starter who helped us chat up new friends and old. Did I mention Eli had an Iron Man temporary tattoo on his face, too?
We do get the occasional funny look for abandoning our own rules. For starters, our methods fly in the face of our parents’ tactics.
Last summer we took the boys to an outdoor park complete with a train ride attraction. Eli was wearing his Batman costume when Mommylibrium took him to the park’s bathroom. She overheard a much older woman mutter her disapproval at Eli’s sartorial selection.
The woman wasn’t critiquing our son, just his parents.
Our rules optional method may not work for every parent. It’s also possible we’ll experience an unexpected fallout from our parenting in the years to come. I doubt it. Letting our sons dictate some of their choices gives them a sense of power and responsibility. For example, if Eli got overheated at lunch he’d have to consider how his choices led to his temperature spike.
We learned a variation of this method when our boys were much younger. We’d pick out two or three shirts and have them select the one they wanted to wear. It made getting them dressed less stressful and more fun.
Our rules-bending approach is suspended as the need demands. Eli never wears his more colorful clothing matchups to school, and if we’re going to a special event the boys are dressed accordingly. Period.
The rest of the time our sons may not look quite like the other kids, and we’re perfectly fine with that.