Liz Wilcox: Born to be Different

If you’ve read a post or two here on the site, you’ve probably noticed I’m a bit different than others. Kids would laugh at my disco obsession in the 5th grade. In college, I was known for my chicken purse and showing up to class in flip flops and a bathing suit. I’ve just always been 100% Liz. As far as being a mother goes, I think my parenting mistakes have been a little different, too.

While pregnant, it didn’t take me long to realize I’d be a different type of mom too. While my new friends were talking about nursery themes and the best gadgets to help them out when baby came, I began evaluating my own childhood and how I turned into the person I was. I thought about the kids I had taught over the years and how they were turning out and why.

I became very overwhelmed thinking about all these “parenting rules” I had seen in practice and heard from other experienced parents wanting to share advice. So, being Liz Wilcox and not ever really caring what any one else thinks, I decided early on what rules I would break. Here is a breakdown of the parenting mistakes I do on purpose.

My kid is allowed to run on pavement, in the gravel, and heck, even downhill if she’s feeling confident.

Action shot of a young Chelsea Rose training for her first marathon.

Why am I always hearing “don’t run!” on the playground? This is seriously the hardest thing for me to understand, and not just because I love to run. Well, maybe it is because I’m a runner. I love running and I know it takes a lot of energy to do. After a good run, I’m whooped! Of course I want my kid to run! I value a good nap time over just about anything (sorry husband), and an interrupted night of sleep is imperative to my mood, for real.

I let Chelsea run everywhere. She fricken loves it! At about 18 months, she really started trying and I encouraged her. I would hold her hand and we would go. Now, she runs all over the RV park. Yes, she falls down and yes, she gets bruised and scraped up. So what? Life isn’t supposed to be about never  falling. It’s about getting back up when you do! Speaking of, yesterday we were running around playing and she fell pretty hard in the gravel. I quickly picked her up and she was screaming. I kissed her booboos and started walking with her in my arms back home. She screamed “wwwuuuuunnn,” wiggled out of my arms and sprinted towards the path. The tenacity of this kid is inspiring.

And if you’re still not convinced letting a toddler run around is a good idea, I’ll just tell you Chelsea is 2 years old and still takes a  2-3 1/2 hour nap

I mean, look at this kid. Passed out after a car transfer INTO the DC airport.

I encourage my child to talk to strangers.

A stranger is just someone you haven’t met yet, right? I am extremely friendly, like one of those tell-my-whole-life-story-in-the-first-five-minutes-of-meeting-you people. Could you tell? You could tell, couldn’t you? I knew it.

Anyway, I haven’t always been that way. As a kid, I was paralyzed by fear. I’d faint at pep rallies, or at least have a panic attack. My kindergarten teacher didn’t hear my voice the entire school year. I clung to a baby blanket for comfort and security until my mother (quite literally) pried it from my hands the day after my 10th birthday. The anxiety, panic, and dread I felt as a young person was tremendous. The process to come out of that shell was long, and there were times I wasn’t sure I’d make it.

My biggest fear isn’t that Chelsea will die before me. I pray that doesn’t happen, but it’s not my biggest fear because that is something I have almost no control over. My biggest fear is that my daughter will not feel comfortable in her own skin, that she will not know that it is okay to be 100% Chelsea and see the world as a magical place in which she belongs. I feel it is my duty to set her up for success in this area.

So what does all that have to do with talking to strangers?

Well, it was learning how to talk to people and understanding that meaningful social relationships were far more important than anything else that got me out of that shell. These two concepts molded me into the person I am today, a person in love with life and the world, curious to see the rest of the world and meet its people. I want my child to have that same zest for life! I want my child to never lose her sense of wonder of the world!

When she greets strangers while grocery shopping, strikes up conversation to the flight attendant on the way to see Grandma, and runs up to people cooking breakfast in the park on our morning walks, I know she is learning such valuable social skills, skills that will last a lifetime and help tremendously on her walk through life. She is learning value in people. She is learning value in communication. She is learning the simplest but most profound lesson of society: WE NEED EACH OTHER.

Chelsea learns why flannel is so appealing  at the weekly tribal potluck

Sometimes my kid doesn’t eat dinner.

No, I’m not starving her. If you’re a parent or even ever been around a kid before, you will agree there are times when you cook an amazing meal for your kid and they just will not eat it.

You don’t like it? You want some of this? Try some carrots. I made this because it’s your favorite. Okay fine, have the granola bar. Why won’t you eat the granola bar???!!!!

When you try to feed your kid but she ain’t hungry.

So many nights of frustration, y’all. So many nights. But wait. Why won’t she eat the granola bar that is so very delicious and full of sugar and only pulled out for emergencies like this one? Um…she’s not hungry! Seriously, I don’t think I’m starving my kid or she’s gonna be malnourished if she refuses to eat dinner and subsequently goes to bed without eating. I have yet to have a midnight snack wake-up call. In fact, I think it can be detrimental to the child to force him or her to eat, or offer too much food. Read more about that here.

I don’t call my kid smart and I hope I never do.

Okay Liz, no more of this ridiculousness. You’re crazy. You convinced me on talking to strangers bit so I could forgive you on the no dinner thing and letting your kids cry stuff, but seriously? Now you’re not letting your kid know she’s smart? What kind of damage did your mother do to you?

Hear me out, people! My whole life I was called smart. Everyone always said “Liz is so smart. She’s so good at everything. Wow, her grades are perfect. How smart is this one?” What an ego boost, amirite? Well it was all fine and dandy until I was slapped in the face by reality!

Picture it, 8th grade Algebra. Liz crying into her textbook because of how stupid Algebra was. Gosh, was it stupid! Stupid book. Stupid teacher. Stupid grade! AHHH! This is so stupid!

Alright, sorry about the middle school angst. I’m trying to prove a point though. Everyone telling me I was so smart did little to help me in life and a lot to an inflated sense of accomplishment. When I finally got to a part of my life I could not understand without help, it was stupid. You see, I was smart. I knew I was smart. Everybody and their mother told me so. It was a fact. Algebra? Stupid. I’m not stupid, I’m smart. I don’t get this, so it must be just plain dumb.

Instead of telling my kid how smart she is when she figures something out, I exclaim “Wow, I love how you moved the puzzle piece around until it fit!” You see, that’s called specific praise. Specific praise is so much better than telling a person he or she is smart. Specific praise tells the person exactly what they’ve done right, it pinpoints a desired behavior.

It’s all about that base, ’bout that base, no topple

On top of specific praise, I want to instill the value of hard work upon my child. Hard work beats talent every time. It is important for every child to recognize that success comes from hard work.

I used to nanny and tutor a boy with little drive. I loved him to death (still do) and wanted him to know the value of hard work. If he could understand this principle, he would go far in life. Some days, I had to drag him to tennis lessons. He’d cry. “I’m no good Miss Liz! This is too hard!” I would tell him about the importance of hard work and how a skill doesn’t come easily, that anything worthwhile is worth working for. We read books where the main characters worked hard to rescue princesses from rats, save the wizarding world, and escape mean aunts, Cloud-men, and famished sharks. Eventually, his attitude turned and he now plays on the tennis team and enjoys other sports.

I never once called him smart, but I always recognized when he was working hard and through specific praise told him exactly what he was doing right. I’m pretty sure he still loves me. I hope to do the same with my own daughter.

And finally, yes I let my kid walk behind or in front of me and yes, sometimes she turns the corner before I do.

Holy cow, the frantic looks I get from this one! And the advice about not letting her stray, the warnings about snake bites, and heaven forbid if she falls down and I can’t immediately pick her up because I’m 10 paces behind her!

Seriously, please stop. My kid is not going to die because she is like 5-10 seconds ahead of me! I like that she has a sense of self and isn’t afraid to be without me. Honestly, I’ve worked really hard on that, thank you!!! And if you haven’t noticed she is a bit of a blabber mouth so I can hear her at all times if I suddenly get my glasses slapped off my face and can’t see.

Okay, sorry about the rant. Back to why I let her do this.

Well number one reason should be pretty obvious, I don’t have to carry her everywhere! Oh my gosh, at 18 months she was already half my height. It’s kinda hard to carry something that big around. No, she’s not heavy, but she’s also not a sack of potatoes. She wiggles around and that is hard to keep under control when something is half your size length-wise!

Number two is I love watching her explore her world. It is seriously my favorite thing. Back to the earlier mention of wanting my kid to be 100% comfortable with herself and her world… this encourages that. She loves walks and picking up rocks on the road, and getting blades of grass, and running up to where she hears birds, or chasing after squirrels. At the gym, she loves running to the child care room and knocking on the door, greeting the woman that works there and waving bye to mommy while closing the door. She loves running ahead of me to say hello to all the people walking down the hall to the gym. Why would I force her to hold my hand or carry her during these activities and deprive both of us the simple joys in our day-to-day life?

Chelsea quickly acquaints herself with muddy tire tracks on our morning walk.

Number three is a pretty important one for me too. I want her to be independent! Have you ever seen a kindergartner that wasn’t ready to be away from mommy on the first day of school? Yes you have? Okay, well how about the 6th month? It happens! Some kids rarely have the opportunity  to be without their parents and rely very heavily on them for every need and want. In other words, they don’t know what to do without them. I do not want Chelsea to be petrified at the thought of going to school, or just me not being around her. I want her to have certain freedoms and know that I am not there just for her needs (that’s a whole ‘nother post. I’ll stop there.)

In short, I want her to have the confidence to do things without me. Allowing her to walk ahead of me, or stroll behind me is a baby step to the much more independent and confident young lady I want her to be.

So hopefully you don’t think I’m a monster and report me.

At the end of the day, I just want to do what is right by my daughter. And don’t we all? For me, there are just too many dang rules and too much pressure to think about “what will people say?” Personally, I barely have enough time to shower, let alone care about all these rules and what people say about my parenting style.

So here’s to all the parenting mistakes, ones we do on purpose because only we know what is best for our family, and to those ones that are for real woopsies! May we each have more confidence to raise our children the way we see fit and forget all the side-eyes coming our way at the park!

Comment below some of your best parenting mistakes! And if you’re interested in more about parenting in an RV, click here for my post on RVing With Kids: What it Looks Like

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23 thoughts on “Woops! Parenting Mistakes I Do on Purpose

  1. WOW haha! This was a great article. I’m very much the same with my 2 boys. Just the other day I let my 16 month old run around at the park and he fell flat on his face in the grass. I can’t even begin to tell you how much side-eye I got.. he didn’t even cry! People can be so judgemental. Like you said, only we know what’s best for our family

    1. Thank you for your awesome comment! My kid falls all the time. Sometimes it is hard to stifle a laugh when others are worried…can’t lie.

  2. So I don’t have kids yet but I imagine that when I do, my wife and I will be raising them much like this! Sometimes kids just need to run all over the place and not grow up with a sense of entitlement! I had the same experience as you in terms of being called ‘smart’ from the time that I was young. That really limited my development of ‘hard work’ since I felt like I could just fly by doing anything. Instilling that from a young age is crucial!

    1. Thanks Dr. M! I always love your comments.
      And it was so hard getting knocked off my pedestal as a young teenager! It took me yearrrrsss to realize I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was!

  3. I wish I’d been less anxious with my kids when they were younger–they’re both responsible adults and wonderful people now, but I’m pretty sure I passed along a healthy dose of anxiety with the many good things I taught them. It sounds like you’re teaching your children to be confident citizens of the world. No kid could ask for more.

    1. Wow! Thank you for an amazing compliment. I had TERRIBLE anxiety growing up and by 18 I had had enough. It’s a forever journey, but I’m happy to say I’m still on the path, trying my best to be “footloose and fancy free.” haha

  4. You get it! So much I agree with, not wanting to be called smart, hard work beating talent. In one post you asked your readers why they read your blog. I realized just today. I read it because you articulate, so well, what I have always thought on many subjects, especially on raising a child. It is remarkable especially since we come from very different backgrounds and raised in very different times. Perhaps what you are preaching is more universal than you think. Things become “normal” because people are afraid to change status quo even if it is the right thing to do. Then they get caught up in this whirlpool and can not come up to see the sky. They end up living their lives underwater gasping for air. They need us weird people to throw them a rope. You seem to be a lifeguard. You are a good writer. Your keyboard is your rope.

    1. Eray,
      Thank you for the sincere compliment and response! Seriously, I am grateful it! I am just writing and hoping people can relate. I also agree with you that too many are afraid to change status quo or talk openly about how they are going against the “norm”. For me (and especially after having a kid), I just have to do what feels right in my heart.

  5. I’m so glad that our paths have crossed, Liz. I’m pretty sure you and I are soul sisters. I couldn’t love this post more- especially the part about specific praise!

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