My MIL and I were talking about parenting once. She mentioned, as she has before, how grateful she is that her grandchildren have such good mothers. She said it’s not a given, and that she is impressed with how we manage our charges, who range in ages and difficulty.
That said, I’m not her daughter, I didn’t grow up in her home, which means that her daughters and I sometimes parent differently. Not anything drastic, but there are battles that my SILs pick that I don’t. I mentioned that to my MIL, that there are some hills I’m just not willing to die on.
Then she asked me a question that I’m still thinking about, years later.
“What hills ARE you willing to die on?”
I had to sit and think about it. What are the things that are most important to me? What are the things I’m willing to fight with my kids about?
“Going to church”, I said. That was all I could come up with, mostly because at the time, it was the biggest battle I was having with my kids–they don’t want to go, they don’t want to bathe, they don’t want to put on church clothes, they don’t want to sit still in Sacrament meeting. And yet I push it, we battle, sometimes with tears on our way to the chapel (which, you know, makes for a SUPER spiritual Sabbath).
Now, we battle homework and piano practicing and bedtime and washing your hands after you pee and not spoiling your appetite with 2 dozen Oreos before dinner. But other than the normal routine nagging of parenting, I don’t know that I pick a lot of battles. My other MIL (yes, I have two–that’s another post entirely) has a favorite saying about parenting: Be careful which battles you pick with your children, because if you pick a battle, you have to win.
My kids are still young. Ages 9 and 3, so we’re not battling cell phones, dating, modesty, or serious academic issues. We’re not battling drugs, pornography, friends with bad influence, drinking.
Not yet, anyway. But I’m fully aware that someday in the future, probably much sooner than I’m comfortable with, these battles will land on my front door. How do I know which ones to pick?
I sat in an Institute class once where we were discussing the virtues of modesty. The predictable points were made, how you should establish modest dressing habits early, how girls need to know how boys are affected by the way they dress, and how they need to shun the styles of today, etc, etc, etc.
I appreciated it when a mother of a teenage girl spoke up and said, “You know what? Our girls are really trying hard. It’s not easy to stay modest with today’s fashion. And my daughter came to me and asked if she could wear skinny jeans. I told her no, that they were too tight. And she started to cry. She said she was just trying to fit in, that she didn’t wear the immodest tank tops and the halter tops and the low jeans and whatever else girls wear today, that all she was asking was for cute jeans that still covered her backside so she could look like a 16 year old instead of a 40 year old mom. And you know what? I let her wear those jeans. It’s not like she was asking to wear those new JEGGINGS or anything!”
I silently applauded this mother for recognizing her daughter’s need, and for picking her battles: slutty top that shows cleavage, nay. Skinny jeans that everybody else is wearing that covers her butt, yay.
And I did neglect to reveal the fact that I have a pair of jeggings in my own closet, and that I think they make my legs look smokin’, thank you very much.
But I’m sure that other mothers in the room disagreed with her, that skinny jeans shouldn’t be a part of a modest girl’s wardrobe. These are mothers that are willing to die on that hill.
What hills are you willing to die on? How do you decide which battles to pick and which ones to let go? Do you find you are more willing to pick battles with certain members of your family, and have you picked battles with older children that you’ve decided aren’t worth it with the others?
I heard Julie Beck say once that we as mothers are “Lionesses at the Gate.” Tell me which battles you fight to protect the fortress of your home.