I Should Have Known Better

So, we all have them, those parenting moments, when we just should have known better! Really, I have no excuses, I’m the oldest of 8 kids and with 3 of my own now, I have plenty of experience with young children. So, when I say “I should have known better”, I really should have known better. So, here’s my top 5, “what was I thinking?” items.

1. Styrofoam – Guess what I just attempted to clean off the entryway steps? Yup, styrofoam, otherwise known as “static cling white snow”. It sticks to the broom, it flies up and sticks to my socks, and then it floats down to a few steps below just taunting me as I work my way down the stairs with the broom.

How did it get here? Well…the other day I was assembling a new shelf. And, like all packages, it came packed with styrofoam. Nice, long pieces of styrofoam, perfect for swords. Well, I felt that the kids would be better off playing outside (since the weather was beautiful) than they would be inside, on the couch, playing the iPad – it should be noted that this decision was a good parenting decision, I am getting my kids active. So, I suggested that they take the styrofoam outside and have a sword fight. Like children often do, they eagerly took all the styrofoam, only, they didn’t take it outside. They first had a sword fight in the kitchen, up and down the stairs, through the basement, and finally outside. I’ll be cleaning up styrofoam for weeks.

2. Glitter – I really could just say here that “I should have known better” and you would agree. No explanation needed. The other day at Hobby Lobby, the girls found a big bottle of glitter that was on sale.¬†They love anything that sparkles so I got them some glitter. After we got home, I showed them how to put glue down on some paper and sprinkle a little glitter on. Of course, within minutes they had dumped out the ENTIRE bottle of glitter. Not wanting things to go to waste, I actually put most of the loose glitter back in the bottle for later. The next week, they did it again. This time, I threw it all away. I’ll still be cleaning up glitter for a month!

Not to forget the Christmas decorations that shed glitter everywhere. You’d think I’d learn and just throw them away! But, nothing beats glitter on everything for a month, right?

3. Pom Poms – you know, those things with the long strings that shed off when the kids breathe – or shake them or pull them off to use as confetti. I’ve been digging those plastic pom pom strings out of the wash for WEEKS! They’ve also managed to wind themselves around every vacuum I own and there is still somehow a hidden supply that produces a few new pieces every day. Who thought these were a good idea for children?

And after FINALLY getting all the pieces out of my house, someone gave my children 4 more for Christmas. I must think up a truly awful gift to give their child next year. Maybe a styrofoam house, or something with lots and lots of glitter!

4. Play-dough – so I usually have good success with this stuff but the last time the kids had it out it ended up everywhere! Probably because the baby felt that since it wasn’t good for eating, he should throw it. Fortunately, once it dries, it’s easy to sweep up and throw away. We’re just almost out of play-dough. Horray! And when we run out, I’ll probably buy more even though I know better!

5. Legos – I love the little things and I hate the little things. They’re constantly on the floor like little spikes for my feet. It doesn’t seem to matter how many of them I pick up, there’s always one more down there! I like that the girls enjoy building, but then baby boy comes along like Godzilla and smashes them all. I’m looking forward to the day when he wants to build instead of destroy!

It doesn’t help that we have my husband’s lego collection from when he was a kid, so there’s this endless supply of “new” kits to build. And don’t forget the giant tub of random pieces that I picked up at a yard sale last year. To top it off, I’m seriously considering creating a lego room for my son when he’s a little older. I probably should know better, but what would be the fun in that?

Mixing the PlayDough

So, there’s this thing called helicopter parenting, you know, where the parent “hovers” over the child all, the, time… I’m not a helicopter parent, at least, I don’t think I am. I was at the chick-fil-a playground the other day and this parent could not let her child play for more than 5 seconds without having to comment, correct, or otherwise check on her child. This child was probably 3 or 4 so it’s not like playing on a slide was above her capabilities and she actually needed help. Nope, this parent was just afraid something might go wrong, maybe her child would get upset. Either way, it was making ME nervous just watching them. It’s a kid’s play area, the kids are supposed to run around and have fun.

There’s so many things I’ve had to learn to let go of as a parent of young children. I’m constantly asking myself, Do I need to interfere? Do I need to help? Do they need direction? Alot of times that answer is yes, but, many times, It’s no. Is it important? Does it matter?

Really, does it matter that my 3yr old prefers to crunch her suckers instead of suck on them. Irritating, yes. Does it matter, no.

For example, the first thing that almost drove me crazy as a young mom was my daughter mixing the play dough colors. You know, play dough has these nice plastic containers, with colored dough in them, and the lid to the container matches the dough. So, when you’re done playing it’s all supposed to go back where it came from. Right? Nope, not at all. These kids make “pies”, “pancakes” and little people. And they have these toys that you push the play dough through to make shapes, and horse hair, and such. And of course, things can’t be one color, they have to be a rainbow – which eventually turns brown because if you mix enough, it will be brown.

I found myself managing her play, don’t mix these! Don’t let these touch! Don’t smash those together, I’ll never get them apart! And then I realized, what am I doing? Is this necessary? How does it matter that the play dough is mixed? It’s for playing with, it has no purpose but to be smushed, mashed, squished, shaped, and unfortunately, mixed.

The kids help me in the kitchen. I do instruct and heavily supervise (it’s the kitchen, a lot of things can go wrong). I do request that they try to keep things in the bowl, off the floor (and off the ceiling), and I don’t let them do something beyond their abilities that could harm them. (as in no sharp knives and I’m the only person putting things in and out of the oven). My 5yr old can operate the electric mixer, cut anything that is soft enough for a butter knife, and she understands when things are hot and she should let me handle it. The 3yr old can mix with a spoon and mostly keep everything in the bowl. And the 1yr old knows how to lick the beaters and bowls :). ¬†Here’s the key, I let them try anything that can’t harm them. We’ve had lots of messes, and plenty of mistakes. I show them how to do it right, but if you just can’t quite stir without making a mess, it’s ok, practice makes perfect. And we all have fun trying! And somehow, this was easier than the play dough…

I want my kids to know how to solve problems on their own – if the kids are fighting over a toy and come to me, I offer to take the toy and store it in a safe place for them. In 3 years, I’ve only had to actually take the toy twice. Once they realize that they both loose this way, they figure it out. My mother-in-law was shocked the other day. She was babysitting while my husband and I went out to dinner. She had found a fairy dress and wings at a yard sale the weekend before and she was worried about how the girls would react to there being only one dress. But, she pulled it out and prepared for the worst. To her surprise, there was no fighting. They decided that one should get the dress and one the wings. The 3yr old needed help putting the wings on but, that was all the help they needed. They traded items an hr or two later and each of them got to play with each item.

I’m not saying that I don’t teach manners. We sit at the table till everyone is done eating, we’re polite to each other, the kids say “yes sir,” and “yes ma’am”, and they’re required to obey. We take them to meetings and they have to sit quietly. So, I do require a lot of my kids. But on the flip side, I try to leave lots of room for them to explore.

We mix the play dough (actually, I don’t mix the playdough – they do), we make big messes in the kitchen, and cupcakes with LOTS of sprinkles, we color, paint, and explore. My rule for outside on the swingset, if they can figure out how to do it, they can give it a try (I know one of these days someone will have a broken bone but as long as they learn their limits as they go, hopefully it will be a while before this happens). No one has figured out the monkey bars yet, so no one uses them, they try, they’re getting close, but not quite there. And I don’t help, when they’re big enough to do it, they’ll figure it out.

In my opinion, if I’m always helping and fixing, they’ll never learn how to do things on their own.