Humble pie, anyone?

Ok, I was wrong. When I left home at 17, I held strong opinions about child rearing and vowed that there were certain things I'd never do as a parent.

Since then, however, notions about raising kids that I conceived before I conceived have been choked down with a slice of humble pie.

Any of these sound familiar?

"I will not give in to childish tantrums."

That conviction lasted until the first time a toddler of mine registered 6.7 on the Richter scale in the middle of the supermarket. I hesitated for one nanosecond, then shoved the denied box of cereal into her arms.

My strategy now is preemptive tantrum avoidance. I keep treats with me at all times, and bribery takes place before we even get out of the car.

"I will not child-proof my house, I'll tell my children firmly, 'That's a no-no,' and they'll leave it alone."

Unbelievably, this vow survived until my second child was scrambling around. Our oldest, Ben, actually did what he was told. Friends with children would come to our house and marvel that my porcelain figures were still on display.

Then my next three destructo-children arrived. Our household motto now: "If you leave it out, they will break it." Plastic dishes and locked cupboards rule.

"All my children will do their share of housework."

As a picked-on middle child, I promised myself that all my kids would do substantial housework. It hasn't worked out exactly as planned: My children are good workers when I remember to remind them. But honestly, which takes more energy when I spot my six-year-old's dirty clothes on the floor: dragging him home from the neighbor's and supervising while he takes 30 sulky minutes to pick up a few wrinkled items, or simply grabbing them myself on the way to the laundry room?

"My children will get my full attention when they need me."

Will one-fifth of my attention do? I mean, I'm juggling a phone call, the new recipe for dinner, $10 for the papergirl, and the glass of milk that I spilled in my distraction (who left that in the fridge, anyway?), when my youngest, Ty, comes to me, bursting to share the latest adventure of his imaginary friend, He-Ro the Dragonslayer.

I've been forced to schedule "listening time" appointments at bedtime, which means our evening schedule now takes as long as your average pro golf tournament.

"I will not let my children into our bed and encourage poor sleep habits."

Oops! How did that happen? All I know is I often wake up in the morning with one or two more warm bodies than I started with. As long as the stowaways don't wake us up, I guess they can stay. If they can stand our morning breath.

Lately, I've been having fun watching my headstrong offspring make "won't do" lists of their own, just as I did. I make no comment, but smile inwardly like my wise mother.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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