Faking it: my favourite parenting strategy

Many things in life can be faked: tans, fingernails, smiles and orgasms immediately come to mind. Parenting? Well, this one’s a bit trickier, though I have to admit I wing it on a daily basis.

The inspiration for this blog post came from a story by Amy Matthew on Chieftan.com, the online version of the newspaper in Pueblo, Colo. Faking it is the secret to parenting used the story of the dad who put a bullet through his daughter’s laptop as an example of impulsive, “winging it” parenting. Immature and overblown “winging it,” to be sure — I’m sure Dad didn’t wake up that morning and say, “If my kid vents about me on Facebook, my strategy is going to be to shoot the messenger,” — but reactive parenting, nonetheless.

What to do when the kids are climbing the chain link fence but there's no fence strategy? Fake it. It works for most sticky and unexpected parenting situations.

Faking it is, essentially, reactive parenting. We’re presented with a situation we have no idea how to handle, so we bluff our way through it and hope for the best. I like to think that I’m a consistent, reasonable and patient mommy, and I am all that — for the most part — until one of my kids throws me a curve ball. Which happened tonight, at bedtime snack.

Avery: “Can I have some of the new cereal with the panda bear on the box?”

Me: “No, you need to eat something healthier for your snack.” Usually, she says, “OK,” and we’re off to the races. But not tonight.

Avery: “But Bennett gets to eat the good cereal.”

Me: “That’s because it’s gluten-free and he can’t eat the other kind.”

Avery: “But that’s not fair!” Cue tears (seriously, they are on-demand with her), wailing and utter heartbreak over mean mommy’s edict. And here I am, wanting to get my kid to bed, wondering how to calm her down and still get a healthy snack into her, when she throws the game-changing zinger.

Avery: “You always let Bennett eat whatever he wants. You like Bennett more than me!” Louder crying, faster-flowing tears. There’s no way we’re going to make bedtime.

Me: “That’s not true. You’re being ridiculous.” Would it really hurt to let her have the gluten-free cereal, I wonder? Is this a battle I need to fight? I really have no idea how to diffuse this before-bedtime bomb. I could give her a healthy-snack-or-no-snack ultimatum, but she ate a poor dinner and no snack might send her to bed hungry. So I wing it. “Well, how about we do half-healthy half-panda cereal?” I venture.

The tears stop (again on demand — she’s that good). “OK!” (Smiling now. I’m a sucker.)

Overall, it’s not a bad winging it compromise. I faked my way through, got half of what I wanted (I poured the healthy cereal on top so she had to eat it first) but still got Avery to bed on time, no guns involved.

Of course, she threw me another curve ball after I tucked her into bed. “Mommy, can I ask you a question?”

Me, hesitating: “OK.”

Avery: “What does ‘sexy’ mean? Mrs. Anan says it’s a bad word. Is it a bad word? What does it mean?”

Guess we’re not going to bed just yet. Let’s see if I can fake my way through this one.

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