My Parenting Style: Survivalist

A helicopter mom, I am not. And I'm not a tiger or a dragon either. I don't practice attachment parenting, and I believe free range is better for chickens than children. So what kind of mom am I? I am a survivalist. To me, the definition is simple. While most of the time I try to raise my kids in a nurturing, educationally rich, nutritiously sound environment, sometimes, the s*@# just hits the fan (or, more likely, my most expensive rug). And when temper tantrums, fevers, or general fussiness is the order of the day, all bets are off . . . and the cartoons come on. And I am totally, 100 percent OK with that. So how do you become a survivalist mom? Here's my handy guide to my "whatever gets you through the day" philosophy.

  • Feed them healthy foods, at least half of the time. The days you get in all five food groups, give yourself a pat on the back. But the ones that are filled with chicken nuggets, ice cream cones, lollipops, and nary a vegetable? Those will happen, too, and your kids will survive. While scrambled eggs, whole-grain toast, and fresh strawberries would be a great breakfast, the frozen, maple-syrup-topped, pumpkin-spice waffles and SpongeBob-wrapped yogurt tube my daughter ate this morning? That's perfectly acceptable, too.
  • Get them to sleep, by whatever means necessary. I coslept with my kids for the first couple months of their lives, then kicked them out of my bed for good, and they've been perfect sleepers ever since. And if you believe that, you're as delusional as I was about the ease of sleep training. These days, my 3-year-old only naps in the car and my 8-month-old prefers to nap with a boob in his mouth. So I spend part of my afternoons driving around aimlessly and another big chunk topless. Nighttime is slightly better for me . . . mostly because my husband is in charge of putting my daughter to bed. Last night, he snuck out after 20 minutes, content that her snoring meant she was totally out. Ten minutes later, she was schooling him on where he was supposed to be sleeping. "What were you thinking, daddy?" was her ultra-accusatory intro. After being thoroughly reamed about his disappointing behavior, my six-foot-three-inch husband apologized and climbed back into her pink-sheeted, stuffed-animal-occupied bed for another hour. When it comes to sleep, we know who's boss.
  • As long as their clothing won't make them freeze or sweat to death, we're good. This was a hard one for me because I've always been a bit obsessed with style, and my daughter has a closet full of lovely little dresses, tops, and jackets, all designed to turn her into the Crewcuts model I know she could be. But for the last month, pretty much every day, she's been wearing a cheap-o Target t-shirt, a pair of Gap leggings two sizes too small, and a pink tutu that also doubles as her preferred sleepwear. And honestly, I just can't muster the energy to fight the good fashion fight anymore. She thinks she looks beautiful, and that's all that matters. Well, that and the fact that when it's a choice between the sequin-covered Hello Kitty ballet shoes she wants and the hip and practical Superga sneakers I want, I know I'll never win.
  • Let the screen calm the beast. Sometimes I think that I should really feel guilty that my daughter knows every Disney Junior character's name and sometimes recites show plotlines like they happened to her in real life. "Mommy, remember when Princess Sofia turned into a cat today? That was so funny." But, in truth, I'm just glad she prefers Doc McStuffins and Daniel Tiger to Dora and Caillou (I just can't take those voices!), and I'm grateful for TV's ability to give me a few minutes of peace during even our most stressful days. There are times when our screen time is perfectly limited to a quick show in the morning and one before bed, but there are others, when she's sick or just in her most crazy-diva mood, when we've watched Shrek on repeat. On those days, I tell myself that tomorrow will be better. And if not, I have three new Little Einsteins episodes on my DVR.