I remember the day my two young sons were in the
back seat eating chips from a bag. We had just gone to the grocery
store and they begged me for a few chips. I gave in, partly because
I was tired and mostly because it kept them quiet in the back
After enjoying a free moment to think, I suddenly realized it
was lunchtime. Could the potato chips suffice for lunch? It wasn't
the most nutritious meal, but then I wouldn't have to go home and
make lunch, and actually we didn't have much time to stop. We had
to meet a friend at the pool ...
I point out this occurrence because the event made me stop and
think that I never imagined allowing my children to eat potato
chips for lunch before I became pregnant. The dogmatic ideas on how
I would handle motherhood included believing that I would serve
well-balanced meals every single day, following the baby book
completely, starting their chore list at an early age and, of
course, cleaning my house on a daily basis.
Later that week, I shared my potato-chip episode with a close
friend with some trepidation; I worried she would judge me
negatively. She quickly laughed and told me parents have to set the
bar high when their children are infants because if they don't,
their kids will be smoking at age 5. We then laughed about the
things we had done as parents so far-we let our kids eat Cheerios
off the floor, we had occasionally allowed the kids to watch hours
of television so we could get housework done, and shamefully, I
accidentally put my son down one afternoon for a nap without a
Her soothing words helped me immensely. I began to speculate
that it might be permissible to be a less-than-perfect parent.
Perfectionism runs deep through my blood and was somewhat
manageable when I only had to worry about myself. However,
expecting my kids and I to do everything perfectly wasn't
advantageous anymore. I had to lower my expectations.
Of course, this doesn't mean allowing your children to smoke or
run in front of a truck. But it does mean learning to let go of the
little things that really don't matter. I now pick my battles,
which may include offering my kids an occasional meal without any
fruits and vegetables. Homework might not get done right after
school, and their teeth might miss a brushing or two.
I believe it is important to release the minutia in order to
have more energy to fight the battle on bigger issues. There are
many expectations of parents today, and we each have to decide what
is important to us and what isn't so we can begin to fully enjoy
our role as parents.
Being a mother has taught me a great number of lessons. I have
learned to be more flexible, more tolerant and most importantly, I
have begun to live within gray areas as opposed to only black and
It was a turning point for me to allow my sons to eat potato
chips for lunch that afternoon and I am grateful for it. That day I
chose to live more flexibly, and I have continued to let go and
make decisions for myself and my children that allow spontaneity
and peace of mind for all of us.
An occasional meal of potato chips for lunch just may be the
perfect cure for you and your kids, too.
Annemarie Husser is a freelance writer, family therapist and mom
living in Carpentersville.
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