Occasionally I get one of those parenting epiphanies that reminds me that most things are not that big a deal. My kids aren’t in preschool yet, and I constantly feel like if they aren’t then I must fill their time with preschool like activities. But I realized today that in the end it doesn’t matter. We met a family on the playground whose 3 1/2 year old is in preschool, thriving well, but isn’t yet potty trained. Meanwhile, Little P is doing pretty good with the potty, has an extraordinary vocabulary, and probably spends some time being bored every day. Little R is learning new words at an incredibly rapid rate, just by being around his brother all day. The other mom was concerned about making social connections because her boy is shy. Little P tried so hard to get him to play with him and he would not. Don’t mistake this as an opinion on what they are doing- because they are doing what works for them and it’s great. We can’t do preschool yet because of financial limitations. I was so excited to be a stay-at-home-mom while we were abroad- I had glamorized it to the point of impossibility.
We were chatting and I asked P if he needed a potty break. The other mom was astonished that he’s potty trained and then began filling the conversation with explanation. I was very quick to say that he still struggles and has bad days, refuses to do No. 2 in the loo, and that every little guy is different, and does things at their own pace.
If I’ve learned anything by having relative teens in the house, followed by two little boys of my own, it’s that no matter what the age, they are going to do things when they choose to. I only wish that the rest of society (as much as I hate using that term), and America, together with our neighbors and friends and relatives, would realize that.
It was in that moment, at the playground having a conversation with a fellow mom, navigating these treacherous waters that is parenting in the 21st century, that I had my epiphany. I became overwhelmed with a sudden feeling of lightness, because in that moment I accepted something that I’ve been trying to accept for a long time.
After months of feeling inadequate, inept and generally unhappy, I’ve come to the conclusion (yet again) that it. Just. Doesn’t. Matter.
I’ve made a decision too. I’ve decided to stop thinking that it’s the end of the world. Before you jump to conclusions about how I might be tossing in the towel and giving up, hear me out.
It’s not the end of the world if they get too much screen time one week. Sometimes its raining for four days straight and I don’t think it’s safe to drive them somewhere else to play in this land of zero traffic rules and no drainage. Sometimes I’m just feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated. Sometimes THEY are feeling overwhelmed and unmotivated and simply don’t want to do anything- and THAT’S OKAY!
It’s not the end of the world if we don’t do a craft every day, or even every week. At this age, my boys are less into crafty and more in to sword fighting. And you know what? I let them sword fight the heck out of each other. Go ahead, judge me how you want. It’s not the end of the world if my boys sword fight- at least they are entertaining themselves through imagination and play- I’m not going to worry about whether swords are going to make them violent (they aren’t, in case you were wondering).
It’s not the end of the world if everything we do in our daily routine doesn’t have a purpose or a song to go with it or a “hands-on” learning experience. I tried to let them help bake cookies- and learned real fast that they just want to eat the finished product, not help with the process. They also wanted to eat the raw Jordanian eggs (I’ve seen where those chickens are kept!) and raid the basket of tea bags and dump them all over the floor. Again, it’s largely an age thing. AND THAT’S OKAY. It’s totally fine that they aren’t in to baking right now. It’s also totally fine if they aren’t in to baking ever.
It’s not the end of the world if we just do NOTHING. It is suddenly very important to me that I let them know it’s completely okay to not feel like doing things. I have plenty of time to teach them that sometimes we still have to do things we don’t feel like doing. They don’t always want to brush their teeth, but we always do. I don’t feel the need to force them to do something all the time. I think this has, in part, fed an entire generation of young adults that are incapable of sitting still and doing nothing. My kids rarely ever sit still, if they want to have a lazy afternoon, I’m going to allow it.
It’s not the end of the world if they don’t behave. Because they really can’t behave all the time, neither can I. They also shouldn’t behave all the time. They are three and two and their brains aren’t even beginning to make connections about what is appropriate or not. And what is appropriate is largely based on preconceived notions that are culturally, politically, and morally based. It is important to ME that they know they can misbehave, rant, rave, yell, scream in our home and I will always be there for them in discipline, support and love.
Which means it isn’t the end of the world if I sometimes let my children fight it out. I know what you are thinking. I can hear the collective gasps, with stern scowls of judgement, from around the world….Did she just say she LETS her kids fight?! Yes. I do. If Little P takes Little R’s toy and Little R goes up and tries to grab it back from him and Little P goes running with the car and it turns into a wrestling match on the bed I’m hands down going to let it play out for five minutes or so. They have to learn how to fight their own battles, both literally and figuratively. Now, if Little R is running down the hall and Little P decides it would be fun to run behind and push his brother down and make him cry, (yes it happens!) then that is a different story all together. That’s when I swoop in and make Little P apologize and hug his brother and say “I love you.” And then we move on. There are no long lectures about what’s right, and how that’s bad. (Three year old brains remember?) It’s you did x, that’s not nice, apologize and hug now.
It’s definitely not the end of the world if I just go with the flow a little more. Yes, I sometimes give in to their demands for another show. In fact, this post wouldn’t have happened if I had not. Yes, I occasionally
often give in to their wants for juice or snacks. But I also ran around playing tag with them until it was dark today. I let them shriek and run and tackle me and got a little exercise at the same time! We play in the rain, and in the cold, and I don't have a coronary when Little P suddenly strips his clothes off in our yard, or dashes out of the bathroom naked when the maintenance guys are here. (I just shrugged my shoulders, laughed, and said "Boys!" to the guy!)
I’m learning to channel my inner Don Miguel Ruiz, but it is a daily process. I’m trying to become more lighthearted about life and parenting in general. It’s not just because it is practical, it is because it’s also much more enjoyable when you strip yourself of all the real and imagined obligations placed by our world on the illusion of a perfect parent. It's a hard road to follow, because I think it's easier for our brains to overthink and overdo.
So, I encourage you, to accept the fact that things don’t matter as much as we think they do, and that the majority of stuff parenting throws our way is not the end all be all. Love them. Hold them. Play with them. Kiss them. Scold them. Let them fight. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Love & Happyness to All!