Life with kids is full of ... really, it’s just full. So many details to think about, to worry about, to lose sleep over. Let’s focus on what is important, shall we?
Things not worth fighting about with your kids
1. Hair length. Okay, there is a point where it is too long (especially if your child is a boy) but really, as long as it is clean, does it hurt anyone to have it a bit longer than you might like? Or too short? Or if it is blue? Or green? Or spiky? This is an easy point wherein you can let your child ‘have their way’, but really it is in line with what you want anyway.
2. Clothing. This pains me to write, and I have to bite my tongue when it is sports clothes every.single.day, but ... it's not the end of the world if it is. Again, as long as it is clean. And covers what needs to be covered. I admit, I am not sure this would be as easy for me to say if my kids were into goth/all black, but this is another area where kids can feel like they have their say and their freedom and it is all what you want anyway.
3. Grades. Please don’t get me wrong; I am not saying academics are not important. Instead, know that your child’s best efforts may not look like an A/8/top score. Instead, ask for and praise ‘best effort.’ School is their day job, sure, but we don’t always get 100% on everything we do, right? Be realistic in your expectations, AND expect only the best effort because that is what really counts in the end.
4. Different preferences/skills between siblings. This is not news to you: your children are different people. They will like and prefer different things, activities, school subjects, sports, people, books, movies, clothing, drinks, room temperatures, sleep positions, drinking vessels, food, etc from you, your spouse/partner, and your other kids. They will not be the same, and it is not (necessarily) to spite you. They just are different. And it is okay. As long as they know what they like and do it because they like it and not because someone else is pressuring them to do it, and it isn’t dangerous, it’s 100% okay. Maybe, actually, you could do it with them and learn something new.
5. Fairness. I know, you’ve heard about how unfair their life is. Why should you not engage? Because life is inherently not fair. Isn’t home a good place to learn this life lesson?
Things worth battling it out
1. Social media. Make sure your kids know what is and is not okay online: acceptable behavior, websites to avoid, interactions with unknowns, … make sure you have conversations about the internet, about online behavior and things they see/do regularly.
2. Behavior with peers. Esapevcially once kids enter tween/teen years, their peers become significantly more influential. Our kids are flexing and improving their social skills. Their relationship with you feels pretty secure, especially when compared to what they are experiencing at school. Help them to understand what is and is not acceptable behavior.
3. Helping in the house. We are raising an interesting group of young people, especially in this foreign service lifestyle. Not only do they get to see and experience things we read about (if we were lucky) in our text books or on National Geo-type shows, but they are also in a lifestyle where we almost always enjoy having a housekeeper. So. The boys don’t HAVE to make their beds, they don’t HAVE to learn to cook, they don’t HAVE to contribute to the household... except that they do. I can’t not teach them how to be responsible adults, to pick up after themselves, and to be responsible adults. I can’t not teach them simple independence skills like doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, and keeping the yard tidy. I can’t not teach them how to take responsibility for our furry family members. Just because they are not adults does not mean they don’t contribute. Their day job is different than mine, sure, but in the end, we all come home, and we need to share the load.
4. Eating well and being active. It doesn’t have to be whole wheat, wheat germ and sprouts every meal, but it does need to be generally healthy with mostly sound choices. They do need to be active every day. Without both of these components of wellness, without developing both of these skills, our kids will not grow up to be healthy adults.
5. Devices. Our kids are growing up in an age where everything is available on a device; they could literally spend all day looking at one screen or another. Interactions with people through a device is not at all the same thing as an interaction with a living human. We are in a scary time when we are more connected than every, and yet social skills are atrophying at a horrifying rate. Humans are social creatures. Humans need other humans. Humans do NOT need devices.
Remember that you are going to be getting a number of challenges while you raise your kids. You will butt heads with them, with their teachers, with their peers ... pick your battles. Save your energy for the ones that really matter.