The “One Right Thing”

The WHY behind what parenting choices we make matters sometimes maybe even more than WHAT parenting choice we make.

About four seconds before bedtime, my then-4yo switched which toy he wanted to bring to bed with him. Literally on the stairs to his bedroom he spotted a toy plane. It’s one half of a set, a plane and a helicopter. He immediately snatched it up and also immediately began sobbing that he needed the helicopter too.

The helicopter is somewhere buried in a zillion piles of toys littered around the house; I have no idea where.

I think it would be a perfectly valid respectful choice to say to yourself, “Okay, this is important to him, and if we both look, we might find it within 10 minutes max. I can delay bedtime by ten minutes to connect with my child and show him that what he cares about, I also care about.” And then say out loud, “okay buddy. Let’s go look for it.”

I think it is an equally valid respectful choice to say to yourself, “He is allowed to be disappointed; I am not afraid of his emotions. I don’t have to go out of my way to protect him from even the smallest discomfort. And it’s time for bed. It’s important that bedtime happen right now.” And then say out loud, “oh man, I know. That plane goes with the helicopter. I’m sorry, bud. I don’t know where the helicopter is. We can look tomorrow.” (This is what I actually ended up doing at the time, by the way.)

Both equally valid. And the same respectful, mindful, consciously-parenting parent might choose one one night and the other another night, depending on any number of factors. How they’re feeling, how tapped out they are, how tired their child is, how the day has gone, etc.

It’s when you start making decisions out of fear, or anger, or lack of trust, or automatic/ingrained snap judgments, or those kinds of things that I think we fall into difficult parenting places.

I say all of this because sometimes I really see people wanting me to give them the One Right Thing To Do ™️…and I don’t think that exists. I mean, there might be a “more” right thing to do based on any number of factors. But I also think there’s a lot of margin for different styles and different choices here, too.

[Image description: A pastel, faded, rainbow background with text over it that says: “Two decisions can both be equally valid and respectful, so worrying about finding the “One Right Thing To Do” in a situation is less helpful than contemplating the why behind the choices we make.” It also has my watermark on it, @occuplaytional. End description.]