I really want a trampoline. Not for me- for Maximus and Minimus. In all likelihood, I will never be able to purchase a trampoline because the cheapest ones I’ve seen are about $65. Not in the budget. Not in the ‘maybe if we saved up’ budget, either. They make some awesome ones, with a bar to hold onto, and padded edges, just the right height and size upon which a tiny hyper person could expend some energy. Not gonna happen. If I had a trampoline, I would not have to listen to people’s horrified gasps when they hear of jumping on couches and beds.
Sometimes you have to use the tools you have.
If for instance, you lack medical insurance, how do you treat a cough? You use the info you’ve got; the Pharmacist, your Mom, the labels on over-the-counter meds, the internet, your friends; all useful tools. Oh and I forgot one- your BRAIN! Yes, the most useful tool of all. Capable of taking every experience and piece of information you’ve ever been exposed to and using it in a few minutes to help you evaluate what kind of cough syrup to purchase for your sweet child. No doctor needed. No outside sanction or authority needed.
So I have a hyper child and a couch. Viola! Trampoline time- because in the end, we find a way to get what we need. Kids MUST have large motor activity. Rainy day? Yes, my kids are allowed to run at top speed in circles around the house. My house- my rules. Oh no! Horrified voices clamor at the lack of decorum! The noise! The fuss! Children…. (gasp!) RUNNING!!! Take them somewhere where running is appropriate! They will think they can do that in everyone’s houses! (don’t worry, I’d never bring them to your house anyway) Yes, fine. Can you drive us? My husband’s bike blew a tire and he took the car…which normally wouldn’t be a problem except its raining.
You know ever since Maximus was born I have blessed our local library system. One particular wonderful lady whom we’ll call Martha, not only tolerated my cranky baby and I, but actually welcomed us. She learned my son’s name, and said hello to us and asked how we were. No pushover was she, Oh no. Martha gently and persistently stated the Library’s rules to my son. Never once did she ask me why I couldn’t control him. She’s not at my library anymore, she’s starting a Children’s floor in another county library. I miss her terribly. Library was one of my tools. Sanity, snacks (it has a coffee shop), lessons in money and treating computers well, books, a play area, and lots of tiny people to be friends with. Another precious tool.
What to do with bored hungry kids? Why cook, of course. Mis-measured flour, wasted eggs, shells in the batter, boiling over noodles, macaroni and cheese with lots of extra milk in the sauce. Flour all over the floor, ground cloves up my nose, spilled everything, missing ingredients. Aaaahhhhh……… contentment in the kitchen. We made gingerbread today. Why? Um…why not? How do you teach a kid to measure? Not with a paper chart for starters. You need a measuring cup, a tub of flour, sugar or almond meal, or dried beans, or what have you, plus a huge tolerance for messes, a double dose of patience, and the ability to laugh very loudly when you feel like crying. Speaking of crying, I really should try to figure out where that egg went….. Cooking with my boys is a parenting tool, all the way. I don’t have to yell at kids who are hungry, don’t have to convince them to eat their lunch, or resolve disputes between hysterical children. All I have to do is get two chairs, one for either side of me, and I can cook with my kids. They’re happy, involved and feel very special. And they eat what we make.
How do you sweep a floor, or mop it with a toddler and a 4.5 year old? You hand them both a tool. Do they get much actual cleaning done? No. But it doesn’t matter, because you’ll get a little something done, and they see sweeping and mopping modeled. There is no better way to teach than to model, practice, and remind. Maximus swept the floor the other day! He literally took the broom from me, and swept part of the floor!!!! :O Talk about total shock! How did he know how to do that, I asked myself? Oh, yeah, I let him get in the way- Er…help, every time I sweep. I have some great memories of Maximus at about 15 months old, scrubbing the kitchen floor with me. I had non-toxic cleanser in water in a bucket….both of us on our hands and knees, and sopping wet when we were done. But the floor was clean. There wasn’t any other way to get it done…I had to work with the situation I actually had, not one I wished to create.
For me, attachment parenting and gracious parenting isn’t about formulas and the ‘proper’ way to do things. It IS, about being there alongside my boys, elbow deep in the nitty-gritty of life. It’s about having only the rules that matter. I have heard a few people now saying that they’re not ‘raising children’ they’re training future adults. I want to release competent grown-ups into society, not scared children in adult bodies who only know what to do when someone is giving them directions. I don’t really care if my kids run in the house. I do care if they hurt themselves, so it’s my responsibility to make sure that the area I choose to allow them to run in is safe. As time goes on, keeping them safe will be less and less my responsibility because when they leave home (and well before then actually) they’ll need to be fully capable of keeping themselves safe.
Controlled kids become easily controlled adults, not self controlled adults.
It seems to some like there are no rules in my house. That is so far from the truth as to be absurd. I have witnessed parents who rule their houses like a Third World country- and who are permissive to a shocking degree in some arbitrary moment. I have seen these same parents disregard simple rules and even laws whenever they could get away with it. This is so confusing to a child because it teaches them that the rules only apply ‘sometimes’- or when authority is looking. I have very few rules right now. My children are pretty much right next to me. Most of my rules are safety oriented, or are rules for allowing others their personal space and liberties. Lots of my rules are for me, not the kids. The rules I have are easy to keep. I think very carefully before I institute a new one. Right now, we are working on the ‘cleaning up’ rules. I stink at putting my things away. I haven’t been modeling it, so I cannot expect it. So now I am modeling it, demonstrating, talking about it. Pointing out what happens when we have a clear space to play.
So in the season when we spend so much time visiting other houses and meeting family members all over again, try to remember that every house has different rules. Just because you don’t understand or cannot see the structure behind someone else’s life doesn’t mean there isn’t one. You may choose whether to stay in an environment that is uncomfortable to you, kids cannot. You should be able to modify your behavior most of the time…kids are still learning.
One more small word… My own family will probably never read this blog- mostly because they don’t know about it. But I want to say for the record, Thank-You to my Grandma and my Aunt. Grandma, I love you, all 86 years of you. I hope you are around for many Thanksgivings and Christmases to come, but if you aren’t I will remember you warmly. Thank you for accepting and loving my kids. Thank you for giving me Space and Grace to raise them in the best way I can. Thank You for loving them, and me, just as we are. Aunt G, I love you. I wish you could have enjoyed a family like I have now. I am glad you can enjoy them now when we get together. I love you, and I look forward to a few decades more of being your niece. Thank you both for not judging me; for treating me with Grace.