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Cream Cheese Addiction

Finding the balance in parenting is hard. As the mom of a 4 year old and a 16 year old bonus son, I am constantly on the tightrope, leaning to one side thinking I want to give them everything, then leaning to the other side and wondering if giving them everything is going to make them better people or simply make them assholes. I’m grateful for the vast amount of parenting tools available to me but have come to find that the best lessons often come in places I least expect. 

In her book, Untamed, Glennon Doyle shares a time when she was asked to bring bagels and cream cheese to her kids soccer game. One of the other mother’s contacted her the night before to ensure she would bring 5 flavors of cream cheese.  You see the week before one of the other mothers had only brought 2 flavors of cream cheese and some kids didn’t get what they wanted.  Doyle thought, “Five flavors of cream cheese is not how to make a child feel loved. Five flavors of cream cheese is how to make a child an asshole.”  She may be onto something…

Yes, I want my children and YOUR children to be loved, and to be cared for, but I don’t want them to turn into spoiled, entitled people because they were given SO MANY CHOICES at a young age. And while cream cheese might be the most benign example, this notion lays the foundation for children to grow up not knowing how to deal with disappointments, compromise or an ability to be grateful with what they have versus what they want or ‘need’.

There are times I find myself thinking, “What could be the harm of giving my kids everything they want”?  It is usually the easier route, at least in the moment - no crying, no I hate yous, and no silent treatment (well sometimes the silent treatment is nice).  But, is it actually easier in the long term?

I came face to face with this cream cheese conundrum last week when visiting Stout Street Foundation to see if some of our AI workshops aligned with their curriculum.  Stout Street Foundation is an addiction treatment center that provides a safe and supportive environment along with a rigorous program to overcome addiction and learn to thrive in recovery.  

Our host for the visit had just completed the program and was so refreshingly open and transparent about his experience.  You see, what he said led to his addiction was always getting what he wanted.  He was an only child and understandably his parents wanted to give him the best of everything.  When he started running into situations where he didn’t get what he wanted, he coped with drugs and alcohol.  Ultimately, what started as coping mechanisms became addictions and one bad choice led to another. 

Let’s be real, I’ll likely be in this conundrum until my kids are taking care of me. Where I’m at right now is, I believe that loving and supporting our children needs to come in the form of not always saying yes because it’s easier and we can. It’s critical to hold boundaries and teach kids from a young age healthy ways to cope when they don’t get what they want. It’s my responsibility to teach them that all the cream cheese flavors in the world aren't going to make them better people, more than likely, it’s going to make them assholes.  

I didn’t go into Stout Street Foundation thinking that I’d walk out with a reinforced parenting notion, but to my surprise hearing our hosts stories did just that. His courage to share his own struggles in turn refreshed my perspective on what it means to nurture your children and how in the end it not only impacts their lives but our community as a whole. 

Hey, if you all get a chance to visit and/or support Stout Street Foundation, they provide an invaluable service in a time of great need.   

At Articulated Intelligence we help people find, shape, and share their stories of parenting, addiction, struggles, and celebrations to help others as they try to figure out their balance and face their conundrums.   

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