old school parenting

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to parent in an era where you could just plop your kiddo down on his or her bike, push them off down the driveway, wave goodbye and go back inside to finish your crossword puzzle without, even just for one second, being hesitant about what just transpired?  

It really is upsetting to me that life has changed so much for our children, as well as for our lives as parents. I much rather prefer the ‘feed them and send them’ method than the ‘I am a sherpa and I pack the house every time we go anywhere so that I have that one blue car (in the off chance that this is the Thursday you ask for it) while I personally walk you 3 blocks to school to avoid society deeming me an unfit mother.’  

I didn’t live in a city where crime was rampant, but later in life I met plenty of friends who had spent a large portion of their childhood in the thick of true city living–Newark, St. Louis, Detroit, Oakland, Cleveland, Cabrini Green (dude… Candy Man….). And, funny thing, we all grew up to know that when the streetlights came on, you were to be home for dinner. The time between breakfast, lunch and dinner was spent any which way you saw fit, and as long as you abided by the dinner bell rule, you were out doing it again the very next day (in the summer months anyway).  

Nowadays, if you see a child without an adult, or god for bid with an older friend (gasp!), worry sets in or sometimes you just go straight to badmouthing their “irresponsible parents.” I judge you not, I am guilty of this too. Whatever logistics or social media or personal experiences have brought us to this point, I find myself grieving the loss of that unquestioned safety. And it is mostly because my children won’t be able to jump on their scooters and go up to the local shaved ice shop, or candy store, buy ONE piece of candy (and be satisfied with just the ONE piece) and eventually make their way home hopped up on an admirable amount of sugar.

So… if I can’t persuade the neighbor who thinks everyone, even Auntie Margaret’s dog, is a potential pedophile, that my kid will be OK riding his bike in his own driveway with 3 adults watching him, then at least I can make sure that they learn a few old school parenting methods:


This was one of the harder rules that I learned as a child, but it has since played a very important role in the person I am today.  My experience had to do with a ten speed bike, my leaving it at swim practice overnight and ultimately not receiving another new bike until after I’d married.  But whatever that lesson may be, it’s important they experience one, learn what they can from it and appreciate the value of it’s happening.  Perhaps waiting 20 years to have a replacement is a bit much, but in the end a lesson was learned/etched/burned.


There is something to be said about sitting down with your family, the television is off, electronics are away, toys are off the table, and just basking in the homemade moment.  It wasn’t until much later in life that I learned that my Father being home for dinner every night was a privilege, and that my Mother’s food was a force to be reckoned with.  (Don’t believe me, just ask my Dad how much weight he loses every time my Mom leaves town for a bit.  It’s really quite impressive how unmotivated he is to eat when it doesn’t taste even half as good.)   In any case, this is a tough one for our family even if I do cook every night because my husband’s work schedule is so inconsistent, and well because… life.  But we do try, and we do use our dining room from time to time so there’s that.

*This also brings up another red flag in our house: being a short-order cook. This, too, has been hard for us especially since last September I became a vegan (who eats fish). My husband is totally on board, but the kids really do love their bacon (and corndogs, and cheese, and milk….) !  So I’d say we manage this rule maybe 75% of the time.


I will cheer you on until I’m blue in the face, encourage you to make proper choices, and emotionally pick you up when you fall. But I will not be that Mother that gives you a medal or a ribbon or an award just for participating in something. Knowing what it feels like to truly earn something is the umami of life–indescribable, but recognizable and extremely satisfying.


So you didn’t make the lacrosse team, eh?  Whelp, you gave it your all and there is always next year. End. of. story. I’m probably not going to take you out for ice cream to lift your spirits, or give you a pep talk about how the coach didn’t see your full potential. It’s hard for awhile, and sometimes it doesn’t even work out the following year, but listen, if you truly did your best and you sincerely tried, then there were just people better/stronger/faster than you. This will be true in other aspects of your life as well. Train harder. Work smarter. Earn your place.

And hey, years later you may look back and be thankful you weren’t a chosen one.  I can fully accept (and appreciate) why I didn’t make the 9th grade POMS squad (and also say ‘Thank You!’ for sparing me the embarrassment). I cannot dance. Inept. Zumba-intolerant.  


This is one of favorites because not only is it quite selfish, but it spares whatever is left of my sanity. By the end of the day, and the completion of chore #423, just as I’m putting away the (completely dog hair-filled) vacuum, mud gets tracked through the house. Instead of begrudgingly walking over to the cleaning cupboard and gathering the necessities to schlep up the mud on my own, my children are responsible.  

Yes, my daughter is 2, but she does know how to spray window cleaner and throw around a Swiffer. (And don’t worry, we use chemicals that are supposedly safe to swallow even if the packaging says not to actually try it—so don’t go judging too heavily there, ummmm kay?) It’s important to us that our children know how to clean up after themselves, and sometimes when they’re feeling kind, they’ll even help clean up after me. So for now this works for us, their chores are the messes they create.  In the future, however, we’ll be adding in making beds, unloading the dishwasher and performing Thai Massage on their Mom.


That turkey must dance it’s way into the Thanksgiving oven, if you receive a bow on your Christmas present it must be worn on your head for the duration of gift-opening, stockings items are delivered by Santa and must be opened Christmas morning, Halloween remains ‘Grammy’s Day,’ 4th of July my husband plays Russian roulette with his life… you know, all the good ones.  And it’s fun to see what they’ll add to the mix as they grow up.  We oblige the odd requests and we welcome the new ones…  Speaking of, I need to figure out a way to get a crab boil into our list of traditions.

And to my Aunt Lisanne, I really am sorry about the crackers.  Christmas 2018, game on?


This may be a controversial thing, but that’s not my intention. The idea behind this isn’t so that my son thinks women are incapable of doing things for themselves, but rather so that he shows respect to his sister and to his grandmothers, and well, to me. He needs to learn that his competitiveness will sometimes have to be put in check, and that he doesn’t always need to be first.  

Just the other day, my son opened the door for his sister and let her get into the car first.  It was adorable, and in the foreground I was literally high-fiving myself. Those two words have suppressed fights, helped to explain ‘why’ and the kindness I see when they’re being used is enough for me to keep on letting dem dere ladies go first.


I personally have a hard time with this one, so this is as much a rule for myself as it is for my children.  The ‘lead by example’ sometimes gets lost on this one. Heck, our dog can’t even eat her entire bowl of food without taking a break. She is a LABRADOR, people!  Anywoo, the concept behind this is that if you enroll in a sport or agree to help volunteer, and it turns out not to be what you had anticipated, it is imperative that you see it through to  

(see what I did there?)

the end.

Loren McEllin
Lo is the Founder + Chief Innovation Officer of Trotting with Tots, a local stroller-toting mama tribe. When not scoping out new trails and neighborhoods to explore with the running group, she spends her time cooking up random vegan concoctions, inflicting pain on friends with her waxing skills, putzing around on her Cricut machine, inventing some new house project for her husband, and/or drinking wine while watching the latest episode of Intervention. Lo is married to her very own Magic Mike, whom she met on an airplane, and is lackey Mom to two munchkins (Gage + Gemma), and an allergy-ridden pup (Killian). She loves the color yellow, the sound of high heels on asphalt and gargantuan wind chimes.


  1. Such a great post! I am sure you are not the only one who wants to embrace these parenting methods! Times used to be so simple, but there are things on this list you can still easily do!

  2. My kiddos were appalled a few weeks ago when I told them to drink from the hose instead of going inside (and subsequently leaving the door open and letting all the cold air out of the house) to get a glass of water. These are some good methods!


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