• Routines Are Meant To Be Broken

    by  • May 8, 2012 • Parenthood • 


    Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family

    This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.



    It’s a scene we are all familiar with—an “extended family” gathering where children are hard at work divorcing from every single habit their parents have dutifully accustomed them to. You know the familiar look on the mother’s face, acknowledging: the third piece of buttered bread making its way into the precious mouth, the extra-large-extra-sweet piece of cake in the next course with a promise of long, exuberant, sugar-induced tantrum in-waiting.

    If you are nodding your head reading this, it means you are lucky to have family around while you parent your children. It also means you’ve come face-to-face with the “extended family dilemma”. Of course you treasure the time your children spend with their cousins, uncles, grandpas, and grandmas. But (and there is always a but) you find yourself spending hours if not days afterward reintroducing limits, restoring house rules—putting your tots back together again.

    Yet these inconveniences are actually minute downsides to the bigger and much more important picture. We know that certain amount of rules and limits are helpful to children, but breaking those rules for special occasions may help them understand that rules are, inevitably and thankfully, meant to be broken (sometimes). And knowing this makes abiding by rules easier for kids. “I know that when grandpa is over I can play soccer in the apartment and disrupt the neighbors all I want because grandpa won’t tell mom!” Not good news for the neighbors, but plenty of memories for the kid to treasure and come back to, especially on days when grandpa is away and mom keeps fussing about being quiet and calm. “When my aunt takes me to the park I get to eat a hot dog and then ice cream for dessert!” Not a healthy lunch from the point of view of the mother, but that afternoon is what the kid remembers when downing kale juice and savoring the quinoa salad with avocado strips.  If we look at ourselves, this is not unlike adulthood and knowing that there are times for work and restraint, and there are times to relax and let loose, and both can be meaningful and “productive” but not one without the other.

    And while consistency matters to children, an occasional break in the routine is natural, as I’ve come to realize. Do we want our children to be so bound to what they are used to that they can’t handle staying out past bedtime, eating something they haven’t tried before, or hearing a different language around them? Actually, we don’t. We want our kids to be able to adapt to different environments and situations because that is exactly what life will expect of them when they grow up.

    So what does it all have to do with the “extended family”? It’s no accident that we call it “extended”. It is the link between the family nucleus and the world, and being that link, it is the crucial adjustment corridor between whatever we may obsess about at home and what actually happens in the real world. We may not agree with the way our extended family incrementally influences our daily life, but I implore us to keep the bigger picture in mind when this or that small thing throws off our routine.

    All of the inconveniences notwithstanding, loving connections with extended family mean a lot to a child’s character development, communication skills, and a sense of belonging, which is a huge prerequisite to being at peace with oneself.


    Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

    Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

    • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
    • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
    • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
    • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
    • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
    • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
    • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
    • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
    • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
    • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
    • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
    • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
    • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
    • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
    • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
    • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
    • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
    • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
    • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
    • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
    • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
    • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
    • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
    • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
    • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
    • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
    • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
    • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
    • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
    • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
    • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
    • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
    • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
    • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
    • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
    • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
    • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.

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