Whenever I whine to someone about how my kids don’t listen, he or she will invariably tell me I have to pick my battles. I nod in agreement, but I never do it. I never take out my master list of daily battles and whittle it down to only a few. The reason for this is because it’s very overwhelming; there are just too many battles to pick from, and they all seem really important. How many am I supposed to choose anyway? And what is the criteria everyone else is using to determine which battles stay and which ones go?
For example, I feel very strongly that I need to limit the time my daughter spends scrolling through mindless Instagram feeds on her iPod or my son plays fake basketball on the Wii, but I feel equally as strong that tortilla chips are not to be eaten whilst on the toilet. One might be considered a big deal, the other small, but I can’t be expected to choose between the two. It’s just too hard.
Bedtime is something my kids fight every single night, but I can’t let that one go. If they don’t get enough rest, they won’t be able to adequately process what they are learning in school, or they could compromise their immune systems and get a nasty enterovirus. No thanks. This is a battle that is definitely worth fighting. But what about the twerking lessons my oldest child has been secretly giving to my other children in the basement over the last few weeks? Am I supposed to just laugh that off? I can’t. It’s not going to be as funny when I find out that my six year old has been teaching all the other six year olds in the neighborhood how to pelvic thrust like a pro.
Homework has to be completed every night and it has to be completed correctly. If something is wrong and a little extra help is needed, it will reveal itself through homework and eventually be rectified. I have to stay strong when it comes to homework, but am I really being a good mom by letting my last and youngest kid walk out the door wearing a shirt stained with yogurt because I have already hit my battle quota for the week? The answer is no.
The way I see it, my kids have to do it all. They have to brush their teeth, but they also can’t leave the light on after they leave the bathroom. They have to walk the dog they begged me for even though it is raining AND they have to go to soccer practice even though they would rather have a playdate. Also, they cannot physically assault each other over who ate the last piece of gum AND they can’t have a snack when I am in the middle of making dinner.
My point is this: picking battles is virtually impossible. If I cross a few of the seemingly unimportant ones off my master list, I send the message that my kids don’t have to behave all the time, just sometimes. It’s inconsistent and confusing. It might sound like a whole lot of nagging, harping, and yelling, but combined with an equal amount of love and positive attention, that’s simply the sound of mothering. Instead of telling moms to pick their battles, maybe we should encourage them to simply forge ahead, stay strong, and have some faith that the battles are in fact worth it. Every last one of them.