Why I Give My 7-Year-Old Options

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My husband and I have different family dynamics. I’m one of 4 kids with 13 first cousins; my husband is 1 of 2, with 1 first cousin. In my family, our birthdays, holidays, and sometimes vacations, were full of cousins. In my husband’s family, his cousin didn’t live near by and their visits weren’t as frequent.

I loved growing up with cousins. My mom’s sister had 4 kids – 2 boys, 2 girls – just like my mom did. The 8 of us still share memories of the fun times we had growing up. I want the same for my son but I also want to give credit to the way my husband was raised.

In my son’s short life, my husband and I have made a lot of choices for him. His religion, his school, his bedtime – all our choices. Recently, we had a schedule conflict where we had my nephew’s first birthday party and Festival International – a family event we attend annually and all enjoy.

It was a no-brainer for me. I was going to my nephew’s first birthday party. Yes, I know he wouldn’t know whether or not I was there. Yes, I had seen him 7 days prior (he lives 2 hours away, so I don’t see him terribly often). But I would know.

So we gave the option to our son. He could stay in Lafayette and attend Festival with Dad, or come to New Orleans for his cousin’s first birthday. Of course, I believe he should choose the birthday party. It’s his cousin’s birthday. No questions asked. Your family is your priority. But, my husband sees it differently. And he’s not wrong. While some people view our commitment to festivals or sporting events as ridiculous, that is how we chose to spend our family time. Dancing, cooking, tailgating – those are the times we get to relax and enjoy each other with limited distractions. I was bummed that I had to miss festival but that’s life.

So my son chose the birthday party over the festival. I was proud of his choice but the reasoning behind it was so heartwarming. Our son didn’t have a first birthday party. No cake, no presents, no singing. (Read more here) So he chose his cousin’s birthday party because “he thought it was important to be there for him since no one was there to celebrate his own birthday.” And he couldn’t wait to see the baby’s reaction to his birthday cake!

Giving him the option helps him develop his own priorities, but also gives him a chance to express his feelings. Now we know how important those events are in his life, even though we would assume it’s for the presents and the cake.

Of course there are other options we offer our son. He reads menus and picks his own meals at restaurants, he picks his own outfits and hairstyle, amongst other things. We’re fostering independence and decision making all whilst learning about our son and his feelings.

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