Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Are we doing this right?

Before I had kids...I judged parents.

I'm not going to say what you think I'm going to say here.

I didn't judge the parents that had kids with dirty faces and wild hair and mismatched clothes or yelled in restaurants.  Not at all.  I actually judged the parents that were constantly hovering over their carefully groomed children.  The ones that seemed to micromanage their kid's use of the playground equipment or the correct use of color when drawing a picture.

I will not be that parent, I thought.  My kids will be allowed to be kids.  I'm not going to tell them that "slides aren't for climbing" or that "grass is green and not purple".  I would be proud of their dirty finger nails because it meant they were experiencing nature.  They'd be allowed to jump on the bed.  And play with their food.  And go outside without shoes because the feel of cool grass between your toes is one of the best things in life.

But then I became a parent.  And the truth is there are so many conflicting feelings about everyday situations. Granted...I still prefer purple colored grass and I do smile when I'm cleaning the dirt out from under the boys fingernails at the end of the day.  But there are a few things that I see differently now that I'm a parent.

I didn't realize that as a parent you're constantly walking a fine line between teaching what is appropriate/safe/respectful and encouraging your child's creativity/feelings/exploration.  Nearly every moment of every day is me trying to balance my responses between the weight of these two sides of the scale.

I'll use the instance of the playground slide.  Every kid likes to climb up a slide.  Max used to say he was pretending to be a "mountain climber".  The free spirited mother in me loved his imagination.  It's a playground for kids afterall...why should I tell him the right and wrong way to explore the slide.  But my instincts as a mother make me hyper-aware of the infinite ways my children can get hurt..  The other kid coming down the slide could kick your the face.  So many scenarios run through your mind ending with your kid crying and you just want to step in and make sure they don't get hurt at all costs.  

The first time I saw Max climbing the slide my first thought was to say "No, we go DOWN the slide!"  but I didn't.  I was screaming it in my head, though.  I took a deep breath and remembered that Billy and I want the boys to learn for themselves even if it does mean a few bumps and bruises.  So after a heated inner conflict I decided...climbing slides is ok.  I gave Max some pointers such as "make sure no one is going down the slide first", etc. that I knew would probably be forgotten quickly.  

And guess what happened one day?  Max was climbing his "mountain" and another kid came barreling down the slide.  He got gut-punched and ended up on his back at the foot of the slide.  After a few tears, followed by some kisses from momma, Max said "Maybe I should just ski down the mountain instead of being the climber."  I said, "I think that sounds a lot safer, buddy."  And he hasn't climbed a slide since :)

But then there are other debates that I can't seem to settle in my mind.  For example, sidewalk chalk.  The boys love to draw on the driveway.  And the on deck and chairs.  And on the wheels of my car.  My first instinct is to give them a lecture on respecting and caring for things.  But not wanting to limit their creativity, I think, well...those are just "things" and its only sidewalk chalk that can wash off.  But THEN...where do you draw then line?  What if they want to use permanent marker on the couch as a form of expression?  

And what about playing with food?  I guess it's considered "poor manners", but if Max wants to pretend that his carrot stick is a mini golf club why shouldn't I let him?  He eats the food...just creatively and painstakingly slow sometimes.  My initial reaction is to say..."don't play with your food" because, you know, everyone knows that's a rule.  But why?  I don't really have a good reason to enforce it.

Ugh.  Parenting makes my head hurt sometimes.

So I had to set some simple parameters to work within to keep from over thinking all the time.  I make a conscious effort not to hover over them.  I try not to constantly correct them or lay down rules that don't really hold any value.  Things I'm not laid back about...being disrespectful, unkind or interrupting.  These are my hot buttons.  My kids (Max particularly) know that it doesn't matter if we're in the middle of Nordstrom Cafe...they'll be serving time in the "cool off spot" for any offenses in these departments.  I do not get embarrassed by the scene.  Don't test me.

Billy and I are pretty much just flying by the seat of our pants with this parenting thing.  Or walking on a tightrope is probably a more accurate visual of what we're doing. We're continually trying to find a balance between encouraging individualism and enforcing boundaries/rules when appropriate.

We want our kids to seek out answers and challenge authority when something doesn't feel right, but we also want them to abide by our rules.  We want them to be safe, but have the freedom to learn from their own mistakes.  It's all very conflicting, isn't it?

 We still have so much to learn and many mistakes to make along the way I'm sure.  We love these kids like crazy and are doing our best.  I have my fingers crossed that that counts for something.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, Sara Marie...once again!

    I love you, always and forever! Mom