James and I have had many conversations over the past two months (since Juliette's birth) about rules and free agency. I think the fact that it's suddenly on our mind a lot more speaks to the fact that we suddenly have a daughter to raise. And although I wouldn't specifically raise a girl different than a boy, I think it is fair to say that girls face a completely different type of peer pressure and temptations as they grow up.
James is a rules man. He likes to see the rules laid out, so that he can follow them to a T. He has always been one to follow the rules, and enjoys the inner reward of that kind of exact obedience. He was never one to fall to peer pressure. And if that was the rule, then that was the rule, no questions asked. It wasn't blind obedience - the rules he followed were ones he felt made sense and were beneficial to him. But once he decided it was a rule worth following, there was no bending.
I find myself more of the questioning type. I find it hard to lay down an unbending law. This type of leniency works well in situations where circumstances might call for a second look at a rule. But it can be a dangerous approach to someone who is just looking for an excuse to break a rule that is actually very important.
My hope is that with one parent firmly in each camp, our kids will have a very balanced home in which to grow.
James' position is "this is my home and these are my rules." I push back against this sometimes, as I worry that the kids will then rebel openly or in secret, simply because they don't feel like they can work through and figure out the standards on their own. I am a huge proponent of helping someone understand why it's a good rule to follow, and letting them make the decision on their own. There is danger in this, however, because it's hard to know when your child still needs your firm guiding hand, and when it's time to step back and let them make their own decisions (and mistakes.)
I heard a great thought the other day - that the last couple years of your child's life in your home should be coaching years. It's a time when you step away from actively guiding them, and help them start to live life on their own. The moment to let go isn't the day they leave the nest - if you haven't taught them how to fly yet, then they'll just plummet to the ground with possible disastrous consequences.
It's funny to be thinking about these kinds of things, with it being a stage of life so far in the future. But better for James and I to mull it all over and work it all out now, instead of when we're standing in the middle of all the mess!
Here's a good quote to end it all off:
"It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings."
(And for a great blog entry by Shawni at 71toes.com on personal conversion, read here. Here's a quick passage from what she wrote:
We need to help our kids understand that free-agency thing as well. We believe that we should teach them correct principals and gradually let them govern themselves. Make some important decisions all by themselves…and even let them make not-so-great decisions once in a while. That’s how they learn.)