Kids Aren’t a Buffet

If you’ve ever had kids in preschool, you know the saying, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.” I am learning that while this works with your ring pop flavor, it works even better when it comes to raising kids. In no case is the “you get what you get” mantra truer than it is in parenting. In our weird, obsessive, often damaging, 2017 style of parenting, it is easy to think we can control the outcome, that we can write the script. The older I get, the more I realize not only can we not write the script, we can’t even find the damn pen.

When you give birth, a real, live, little human being comes out, which is so much more miraculous than a lump of clay. Early on, we marvel at the beauty of our infant’s perfection, and later, we wish for the lump of clay. We may know better, but we still fool ourselves into thinking we should be able to mold our kids into what we want them to be. We want them to be happy, and we take responsibility for this happiness. We want them to be successful — at everything —  and we throw money and time at this pursuit. We want them to find a passion, and we ignore the fact that trying to inspire a passion in someone else is an exercise in futility. We make ourselves crazy trying to enrich the good, and ignore the fact there is often so much good in the bad.

Each of my kids have idiosyncrasies I wish I could erase, either because they are restrictive to them, or because they are annoying to me. Yet, when I stop wishing I could fix what I see as a flaw, I realize that by losing the “glitch” I would lose some of what I love most about them. For example, and I probably shouldn’t share but I am a serial over-sharer, I have a daughter who I think could perform so much better on a field if only she was more aggressive. However, her niceness and concern for other people’s feelings is one of her best qualities, one of the things of which I am most proud. I have a son who never stops talking … ever.  But, I love that he is my only child who will walk up to a stranger and ask to play. While an occasional bout with laryngitis would be great, I would also lose the little boy who literally has no fear of rejection. The things we wish we could change are often the things we cherish and admire most when shown in a different light. My husband and I joke that if we could combine the best of each of our five kids, we could make the perfect child — we would also probably make a very good recreation of Pet Cemetery.

What fun would perfection be? How interesting would it be to raise little carbon copy soldiers? It is our imperfections that make us unique, it is our peculiarities that make us beautiful.

Children are not a buffet. You cannot pick and choose the characteristics you want. Kids are more like being at a charity banquet and you get the meal served to you, only everyone gets a different dish, all delicious, some more spicy than others. Truthfully, I hate buffets. I always take too much and end up with a weird combination of food. I know ziti and fried rice don’t go well together, but I pile it on anyway. I’d much rather sit back, take my chances.

We do not have, nor should we wish for the power to change other people. Next time your child is driving you crazy, pretend for a moment you do have the control, and then think about the particular thing making you nuts. Now, think about what their whole person would be like without that trait. I guarantee, given the chance, you would leave everything as is, and eat what is on your plate. How lucky we are to get what we get!

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness Coach. She helps clients with parenting issues, the challenges of college and young adulthood and issues related to health and habits. Email her at to learn more. She is the author of the Audible Original, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents.


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