Healthy Misbehavior for Parents
When I was a kid, I had a wish list. It went something like this.
- a horse
- to meet Donny Osmond
- a camper in which my siblings are not allowed, and…
- some sign of who my parents are, as real people
My parents ate, slept, and breathed the symphony orchestra. Classically trained musicians, they expected me to do the same. And I did. I loved it more than they did. But I also caught a whiff of something tantalizing that fell outside that realm.
It was 1972. We ate pizza under a stained glass light fixture, over a red and white checkered tablecloth. Someone put a coin into the jukebox and out came the most irresistible song. Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll…Loggins and Messina. Remember that? The lyrics meant nothing to me then, but I couldn’t resist moving my feet to the bass rhythm. My brother bounced in the booth seat beside me. Mother looked at us like we were speaking in tongues.
“Eww,” she said. “Pop music.”
The moment stuck with me. I thought, Why can’t she enjoy this? And years later, I thought, Who is this person who can’t laugh at Ferris Bueller?
Now, as a parent, I realize she was holding the parental facade of consistency (PFC). She had no idea I needed her to misbehave. A little parenting advice is to connect with your kids in a new way.
Here are a few ways to drop the PFC, once in a while, and let your child see another side of you.
- Make a mess. Have a silly string war. Let them help you cook. Paint rocks together.
- Laugh whenever you can, even if you think it’s naughty. Use crude slang words.
- Share the pop culture of your youth. Tell about an embarrassing moment in high school.
- Cry when you feel like it. Let them see you. Give them the real answer when they ask.
- When you feel stiff and parental, tell them what scares you into being stiff and parental.
- Listen to their kid humor. Participate. Laugh at bodily functions.
- Have friends over with whom you can relate. Let your kids witness you having fun.
- Show the anger on your face when you become completely exasperated. (Yes, I trust that you can show your anger without hitting or verbally abusing your child.)
- When you feel tired and vulnerable, let your partner nurture you in front of the kids.
- Laugh at yourself. Experiment with self-deprecating humor.
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