Pausing for parenting praise is not something that happens often. It’s February though, the month of love, and that love should extend to ourselves. In that spirit, I am sharing five of the best parenting decisions we (my husband and I) made for our family. Perhaps this may inspire new ideas for you and your family or affirm you are doing a lot more right that you give yourself credit for. Let’s get right to it!
1. Letting Our Children Start A YouTube Channel
“Can I make a YouTube channel?” my then-five year old asked in a soft-spoken mumble of a voice. A question only mom and dad could translate.
There is soft-spoken and inaudible soft-spoken that no one, Grandma and Grandpa included, could understand my son. My son’s speech was the latter.
Contemplating the YouTube query, with immense reservation, I took the iPad and hit record.
My son and I watched the video back, “No one can understand me,” he shared, reflecting and speaking clearer that I had ever heard before. “I gotta do that again.”
I hit record.
His volume shifts from a one to a three; we were onto something.
I will save more of that story for later, but I think you see where I am going. YouTube gave my child a communication tool: he wanted others to understand him and knew the concept of YouTube was that there was an audience.
Now, at age eleven, my painfully shy son shares stories he has written, directed, filmed and edited on YouTube. With the camera and this channel, this communication tool, he is developing confidence. Deciding to support a child in developing their self-esteem is why letting my child start a YouTube Channel makes this list of best parenting decisions we made for our family.
2. Specific Rules Around Extra-Curricular Activities
Music is instrumental, no pun intended, for a child’s development. Study after study, like this one — “Brain Structures Differ between Musicians and Non-Musicians” — describes how music enhances brain development, including receptors within the brain’s motor, auditory, and visual-spatial regions.
One of my children lived drifting into a comatose state weekly from age 3-years to 7-years, but his brain development concerns began a year before the seizures started. He developed a cataract at the age of two, and pain receptors stunted some of the synapses in the brain from firing “traditionally.” Working with his neurologist, she recommended piano. After researching the benefits, there was no turning back.
When my child could not read words, he could understand music and play notes on a keyboard. He learned how to follow the page from left to right and how the symbols on a page have meaning.
This rule to have piano be a mandatory activity for our children is one we have communicated with our children, so they understand why it’s so important to us — for their benefit. They get it. We are not strict on practicing, we keep the emphasis on fun, and the monthly concerts in the house, organized by the kids, surely is evidence of how much they enjoy the craft.
The extra-curricular activities extend to a rule around sport and physical activity. We have let our children know that if there is any sport they want to try, we are committed to making that happen. If they desire to participate in a sport, they must start/end the sessions/season before deciding whether or not they wish to continue.
When rocking climbing, equestrian and skiing (we are 3-hours from snow) made the list — the excitement of the diverse activities superseded the expense. I learned the hard way to get creative with budgeting, so our family is fortunate enough to follow through and make this a reality. This is a blessing of suddenly losing half of your household income — but, I digress.
Making this a foundation with our parenting guides dialogue for my husband and has a parenting team to keep this a priority. Encouraging music and sport in a fun and non-competitive environment unites our family through experiences. It also helps me and my husband keep budget discussions transparent, which is why our choices surrounding extra-curricular activities make this list one of the best parenting decisions we made for our family.
3. Paper Route
When my oldest brought the idea of starting a paper route forward, my husband and I had much hesitation. We didn’t know whether or not he was ready and capable. The reality was and is; he is not — yet. Not alone, anyway. And that is okay; that is our place as his parents. It has been a bumpy (and wet) road, but an avenue of opportunity to develop skills towards potential independence. But there’s much more to this story and why it makes this list.
In addition to helping my oldest develop social skills and enhance his fitness (read that story here), our child’s paper route is helping teach our children financial literacy. The conversation around a Lego set costing $70 Canadian dollars has translated into completing the paper route for seven weeks to purchase that set; our children are more informed around making financial decisions than they were before the route began.
The paper route also gives our family time to unite on shared tasks every week: a family bagging papers together on a rainy day in a cool garage or pulling a wagon uphill while rain soaks through our clothes during a Pacific Northwest downpour is a bonding family experience.
Enhancing our children’s development, teaching them financial literacy and facilitating regular family bonding time — you can see why a paper route makes the list of one of the best parenting decisions we made for our family.
Before COVID, we decided to homeschool our oldest child. We arranged to withdraw him from “brick and mortar” to homeschool for the 2020–2021 school year. As of March 2020, he was attending the local public school. When the government extended spring break, and uncertainty around the pandemic meant schools transitioning to remote learning, many in our region — parents and teachers alike — were scrambling to transition to home learning. Meanwhile, our decision affirmed; our child began to thrive.
My son’s neurotypical development reflected in his precise routine showed that he had the remarkable discipline to succeed in this environment. Combine this with technology and the course was set for success. Add-in: a distance education program filled with supports including a subsidy for art programs (piano fees now covered by the school), one-on-one sessions with his teacher and his educational assistant 3–4 times per week, two Zoom classroom sessions each week, and technology clubs and virtual field trips that are optional to join — it’s an exemplary, well-rounded package to support his learning. Our only regret, we did not transition to such a program sooner.
We were so impressed with the distance program; we also transitioned our youngest. That was a much bumpier road, but the learning and progress made far exceed anything we saw from attending the brick and mortar institution.
The flexibility within the school days adds another benefit. This flexibility is how we can fit a paper route into our schedule; we integrate it into their school day. Additionally, the skiing noted above — the hill is much less busy during the week, so rather than missing school to enjoy such an opportunity, we conveniently move things around.
While the safe and supportive learning environment tops the reason for homeschool making this list, the flexibility home learning allows is also why choosing homeschool is one of the best parenting decisions we made.
5. Purchase An All-Season Camper
Freedom to adventure and an ability to be completely self-sufficient while keeping to a budget, yes please! The opportunity to explore and change environments, seeking new experiences, and making unforgettable memories is tremendous for family bonding.
The self-sufficient home on wheels and budget piece had us exploring this decision. With my youngest playing hockey, out of town tournaments meant costly hotel bills. Less than one weekend at a hotel covered two of our monthly payments on the travel trailer! After researching over sixty units, we selected a unit that demonstrated good resale value.
The practically initiated this decision; however, experiences with hours around the campfire, exploring new trails and beaches, and the memories purchasing an all-season camper allows for is why it makes the list of one of the best parenting decisions we made.
There you have it: five of the best parenting decisions my husband and I made for our family.
In compiling this list, a theme emerged with those actions that support family unity and bonding. Michael J. Fox says, “Family is not an important thing, it’s everything.” For us, nurturing our family values and fostering a connection of trust and community is our purpose. Our values and this action keep us grounded. They allow us to encourage compassion and neighborly stewardship beyond the walls of our household and have a lot of laughs along the way.
As hard as parents can be on themselves, there is a constant evolution of doing what is best with the knowledge you have at any given time. This story shares the knowledge I have right here and right now; these are the investments we are making in our family — for that, I think they each serve their place well on this affirming list of best parenting decisions for our family.
So, that’s our story; what’s yours?