On this blog I have often talked about how my parenting has evolved from super nervous mom of one still slightly shell shocked by an emergency c-section to somewhat seasoned parenting professional of five, of course still prone to the usual mishaps. Plenty of things have changed in going from one kid to five, sure. For one thing I buy in bulk because OMG HOW MANY BANANAS CAN THEY EAT IN ONE DAY?! Also I am the Hand Me Down Queen. No really, I am. I have a third daughter wearing a nightgown that belonged to me as a baby that both her sisters wore. I rule hand me downs.
The other thing that has crept up slowly is what I like to call "Lord of the Flies Style" parenting. Now, before you jump all over me, YES I realize there was a little bit of murdering in that book (spoiler alert in case you didn't read it in grade school!) and perhaps not the rosiest of stories, but in general I'm a big fan of how the kids did things in that book (before the murdering, etc.). Mainly, they worked things out amongst themselves. That's what I like to see.
In my house, I like to remind the kids that part of parenting is to help them become independent people. That means: if you are hungry, make something to eat. If you want something cleaned, clean it. If you have a dispute between you and another child, solve it on your own. If you fall and you aren't in need of actual medical attention, get up and dust yourself off and carry on. Some people might call this lazy parenting, but let me ask you this: have you ever seen the mess that one child can create in the simple act of making a sandwich? Is it not WAY EASIER to just make it for them yourself? Yes it is, and I rest my case.
But it's these last two parenting styles that seem to sometimes rub people the wrong way. Like at the playground. One thing I am not is a playground shadow. It's a playground, go nuts! It is literally MEANT for you to play on it! Once a child is old enough to navigate it on their own, they do just that, on their own. Sure, I keep an eye out and make sure they aren't dangling precariously, but for the most part, I'm sitting there doing my thing while they do their thing. If they fall down and get hurt, trust me, I will KNOW their "I am really hurt" cry from a mile away (or with my back turned while sitting nearby on a bench). Why? I'm their mom. I know the difference between "I need a band aid because I really like those Paw Patrol bandaids" and "Trip to Urgent Care". I am not being neglectful because I won't rush over and kiss boo boos. I am helping them become resilient.
I am also not being neglectful when I don't interfere with their little sharing tugs of war. Part of learning how to socialize with their peers is just that, learning how to do it, with their peers, not with mom standing over their shoulder shouting "JACK, SHARE!". If he doesn't want to share his toy, fine. So be it. Maybe when the time comes and he wants to play with some other kid's toy and that kid also won't share, he will learn a lesson, a lesson probably 100 times more valuable than me forcing him to share. I also try to model appropriate behavior for them whenever I can. Monkey see, monkey do, am I right?
Don't get me wrong, I do also teach my kids manners. Please and thank you and all that jazz. But let's get real here, most of that is "fake it till you make it" kind of stuff. My two year old will say please if you are going to give her an ice pop but really she is probably doing it to increase the likelihood of you giving it to her. And the concept of gratitude is something that largely escapes her little toddler mind right now, so if she says thank you, sure it's cute, but she has no idea what she's saying. I mean, we live in a society here, people. So you do what you gotta do.
One of my favorite sayings is "Let them be little" but I also want to shorten that one to just "Let them be". Let them figure things out, on their own, with each other. Let them have their disagreements and disputes and upsets, because guess what? That's not going to go away. I would LOVE to tell my kids that all adults behave the right way when we get older (ed note: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HAHAHA. HAHA) but sadly, they do not. So might be best for them to realize that now and figure out the best strategy. That kid shoved you? Maybe steer clear of him for now. You wouldn't take turns on the swing and now your friend won't play with you? There's a lesson there, pal.
OF course, of course, I intervene if there is something major going on, but for the most part, I let them solve things, or not solve things, on their own. Especially at home when it is just my own kids. There is NO argument or dispute that I am willing to help solve. That doesn't stop them from trying. "MOM! Levy won't play Shopkins with me" is not something I'm eager to jump into. Not a day goes by where I don't shout something along the lines of "FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELVES" down into the playroom or out to the backyard. Have a problem, kids? Deal with it. Solve it. Work together and find some common ground and move on. Don't want to play together anymore then? Fine. Find something else to do, but mommy is definitely not coming out to sort our your squabble about who gets to play with what bubble wand.
On the playground, I do appreciate the well meaning moms who will ask my little angels "Are you okay?" when they fall on their butts or will gently inform me "I think your toddler is eating sand over there..." but the truth is, I don't care. Not in a horrible, abandoning kind of way, more in a "They are two, they're gonna eat sand until they think it's gross and then they will stop" kind of way. So while it may appear like I'm not paying attention to them, what I am doing is letting them play. And jump and run and get into little scraps with friends and test their boundaries and learn how to self soothe and follow rules and behave in their own little kid society.
I give my children plenty of attention (yes all FIVE of them). They all know they are loved and taken care of. Because I won't make them a peanut butter and jelly when they are fully capable of doing so themselves doesn't mean I don't care, it means I really do care. I really do care that they can do things all by themselves. I really do care that they can be self reliant and can handle their own emotions and can take care of themselves. Because while there are times I would love to have them stay little, they won't. They will grow up and get their hearts broken and their stuff stolen and their feelings hurt, and they will need to deal. On their own.
"But kids don't stay with you if you do it right. It's the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won't be needed in the long run." - Barbara Kingsolver