I have very little in the way of parenting advice to give anyone. I’ve been parenting for less than five and a half years, and I don’t think there’s enough evidence at this point for anyone to consider me an expert.
That said, I’ve received some pretty stellar advice.
Some of it has changed. my. life.
For instance, Andrew and I were discussing which things I was saying yes to when the (then) 3- and 4-year old girls would ask to do various things. They, like probably most preschoolers, love messy things and are less than awesome at cleaning those things up.
But still, I said “yes” to most of their requests. I’ve read things from credible sources (like the internet) about saying “yes” as often as possible. And so I tried. Play-doh? I guess. Painting? Uh… sure. Baking? Heck no. We draw the line somewhere. (Much to my husband’s chagrin, I don’t love baking. Baking with toddlers pushes me fully over the edge into the territory of “homicidal.” And nobody needs a homicidal mama.) But, short of baking, if we had the time and supplies, I did my best to say yes to everything their sweet little creative hearts desired.
And I regretted it immensely.
Every. Dang. Time.
They’d lose interest before they were finished, much less had cleaned up. So, like a good mom, would try to enforce cleaning up. Freaking out would ensue. They would sometimes join me in the freak-outs. Everyone was miserable. The house was a mess. My nerves were shot.
So, after yet another day of this ridiculousness, Andrew and I were talking over our respective philosophies of “yesses and nos.” (If you don’t have a philosophy of yesses and nos, I suggest thinking it over. As humans, we spend SO MUCH TIME having to choose yes or no that it’s useful to have a starting point.)
I was explaining to him why I tried my best to tell the kids “yes.” (Learning through play! Sensory benefits! Exploring life! BEING A “FUN MOM”!!!)
He cocked his head at me, genuinely baffled.
“They aren’t entitled to anything that makes you crazy. You know that, right?”
And it was suddenly so obvious.
I don’t know if it was his use of the word “entitled” or what, but of course they aren’t entitled to that. We don’t want to raise entitled kids…
Fast forward a year or two. I’ve begun to filter their questions through this new (somewhat odd) criterion.
Will this make me crazy?
Also in this time, I’ve begun to understand and embrace my tendency toward high sensitivity. (Here is my very favorite post on highly sensitive parents. I’m certain this is at least the third time I’ve linked it. And here is another fairly useful post of hers. Heck, if these resonate with you, click on her “highly sensitive parent” tag and have a ball.) So the list of “makes me crazy” things is long and fluctuates some based on what kind of mental space I’m in. I can do finger paints, but only if I have a LOT of margin and some quiet time on the way.
Current mood? Can’t even. I know this about pregnancy. The later it gets, the less space I have for sensory input. Period. This is a useful thing to know, since I spend an inordinate amount of time this way, it seems. So right now, if the kids want to get anything out of the craft cabinet, my default is “no.”
Now, I know exploring and mess-making and all that stuff that fun moms do is important. I don’t want to shortchange my kids in the sensory experience department. Someone (maybe many of them) will call this selfish parenting. Maybe. But do you know what’s more important than unlimited access to finger paint? A mama who is not losing her ever-loving mind. Serious. I could be a “fun mom,” but it’d be at the expense of being a good one. A lot of moms can handle being this kind of fun mom. I’m not one of them. I am coming to accept this.
But also, childhood and stuff. So I outsource. The Children’s Museum is basically my favorite place ever. (The kids don’t seem to mind it, either.) They have all the crazy multi-piece toys and random goo for them to play or paint with and all kinds of craft supplies. I happily enrolled the girls in forest school, so someone else takes my kids out to play in the woods and answers all the questions. ALL the questions. I still have to do muddy laundry, but that’s a small price to pay for some dedicated time with Brian Boy and a HUGE reduction in mom guilt over never taking them out wandering nature.
So yes to outsourcing. No to paint, puzzles, unlimited craft supplies, play-doh, gak, and any toy that lights up or makes noise. I can handle all of those things in other spaces that are not my home. Will this make me crazy? Yes? Then NO.
They bike outside a lot these days. Burns energy, makes them happy and tired. Makes them happier and tireder than finger paint. The trampoline is coming out soon. Thank the Lord for springtime. We do parks where they can play and climb and fall on their heads in the pea gravel, then scoop it up and make mountains of it.
What makes you crazy? Are you saying “yes” to it? Could you try a “no” and see if it doesn’t make everybody’s day better? Just a thought.