Battles I’ve Won and Lost

Sometimes, parenting is war a difficult exercise in strategic operations, and I often feel outgunned as a parent. If there was ever a time I’ve been thinly stretched, it is NOW.  Part of this is logistical: I’m outnumbered 6 to 1, my husband works long hours, especially this time of year, and I simply cannot do everything I’d like to do or be everywhere I’d like to be.

The other part is by choice. I choose to keep my children busy. Sports, music lessons, scouts, church youth groups, and school clubs for 5 of the 6 take up an inordinate amount of my time and energy. And money, gas, tires, and socks. I try to be as organized as I can and teach my children to organize themselves. I envision our home and family working as a well-oiled machine of schedules, organization, cleanliness, and personal responsibility.

And then I wake up, and open their bedroom doors.

Enter Plan B:

Pick your battles. I Googled it.

“This term references a well-known aspect of military strategy, which suggests that when troops are thinly stretched, they are often unsuccessful.  The more fronts a military is coping with, the harder it is to handle the strategic and day to day operations on all of these fronts, and sometimes a front must be abandoned because there are not enough personnel to secure it, which is generally undesirable.”

Fits, doesn’t it?

Allow me to illustrate:

The battle I’ve abandoned:

My daughter will keep her room clean and organized. She will do her laundry on a specified day of the week, and said laundry will be neatly folded and placed in drawers or hung up by day’s end. Or else. (see above picture for status)

I don’t view the fight for a clean, organized bedroom as a loss, because I have chosen to let it go. I’ve tried numerous strategies to make her clean it, and none of them have produced any long-term results. One day, I just decided that she needed to exercise her right to be her and be in charge of this part of her environment. I realized that getting stressed, angry, or resentful about her refusal to keep it clean and organized was taking energy from me that was needed elsewhere. I still express my wish for her to clean her room, and describe all of the benefits for doing so (like finding car keys, etc.), but I decided to focus my efforts on other battles aspects of her development. I decided to let it go.

The battle I’ve fought:

My daughter will develop her talents, do well in school, and prepare to leave home and enter college as a functioning, self-reliant human being.

(check on link below to view status of said battle)

This is just one example of the talents she is developing. She plays piano, guitar, sings, and writes songs. She’s an excellent student and has been accepted to several colleges and offered scholarships. She holds down a part-time job, has friends, and is a really nice person. I’ve changed my perception of her from a messy, unorganized slob to a creative, self-expressive artist. I like her alot better that way.

This new paradigm came in very handy when she introduced me to her new, long-haired, tattooed, giant, Polynesian boyfriend. Who, as it turns out, is one of the sweetest gentlemen on the planet.

So, maybe the spring cleaning that needs to happen in your home this month is clearing out old, ineffective expectations, making room for what matters most instead, and redrawing your battle plans to ensure that eventually, you win the war. Maybe, with this new outlook, you’ll notice it isn’t a war after all.

It is one thing to show your child the way, and a harder thing to then stand out of it.  ~Robert Brault

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tina Clark
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 09:43:19

    Love it!! You rock Caroline!!!


  2. Catherine Snow
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 10:20:30



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