Sometimes I ignore my kids.
Perhaps ignore is a strong word. It has a negative, slimy feeling to it that doesn't quite express what I'm talking about. Maybe I should use a euphemism here. How does encouraging independent play sound?
Okay then I'll carry on.
Last week as I tossed and turned waiting for Cameron's next hourly wakeup (night weaning, more on that later for sure), I reflected on my day with the kids. Did I leave the TV on too long? Do I always make eye contact with my kids when they speak to me? Am I spending enough time engaging with them in age appropriate but mentally stimulating ways? Should they be reading by now or something?
I started to question whether I was doing enough as a mother. We visit the museum, library, toy store, parks, restaurants, and more. We get around but was I doing the right things? What are the right things?
Am I doing them?
I stopped beating myself up. In the midst of one of the most difficult periods of my life I wasn't going to allow myself to make things worse by obsessing over the minutiae of my mothering. I adore my kids and live to make them smile.
My mom was a good mother and SHE used to take naps on the couch. Know what I did while she napped? I ate raw hot dogs out of the refrigerator and spaghettios straight out of the can. Why? Because mom was asleep! My mom was a single mother who worked long hours and then worked a second shift at home and carting us around to extracurricular activities. She deserved a nap. SHE didn't stress out about her daily 3:00 p.m. nap.
Why am I killing myself at 3:00 a.m. because I forgot to change the channel before Spongebob started? SHE wasn't beating herself up over my raw hot dog consumption. Then again she is the woman who chased me with a plastic lobster when I misbehaved.
Then it happened.
Yesterday the kids and I were hanging out on the porch working on some cute little craft kits I bought from Michael's. We had a rocket and a boat. Preston was working on painting his rocket while Cameron rifled through my camera bag. Preston was really eager to glue the rocket together but I kept telling him that we needed to wait for the paint to try.
Also, I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to follow the instructions since I am a total failure at anything requiring engineering or construction -- even a toy rocket. I figured waiting for the paint to dry would buy me a few hours until my husband's return from work.
I left Preston alone while I took Cameron to her room for a nap. I can't lie. I was nervous. Was he eating paint? Destroying the white couches? There wasn't much I could do. Preston was really excited about his rocket and I would have felt awful pulling him away from it. I left him alone.
A little while later after Cameron decided that she didn't want to nap after all but dump Cheerios on the floor I checked on Preston.
He glued all the rocket pieces together himself. Correctly. I was stupefied.
I was so proud but I was surprised. Preston is a lot like me. He gets frustrated when he is faced with something he thinks he can't do. I hate to watch it. I know he can do it and it kills me when he won't try. I hate it. I hate that he inherited that trait from me. He is smart and capable but he'll sometimes say "You do it. You can help! I CAN'T DO IT!" I gently encourage him to try but I don't force the issue. He's still a little guy.
I left him alone and he accomplished a difficult task by himself and without asking for help.
Maybe ignoring encouraging independent play isn't so bad after all? I'm going to try it again. Maybe I'll take a bubble bath tomorrow. Who knows? Might even go nuts and attempt a nap. Kidding! Cameron would probably take up insider trading or something.
Do you encourage independent play for your kids? What were the results?
More from parenting