The one thing I love about blogging, is that more than gleaming a look into other people’s lives and stories, it really opens my eyes to my OWN life, and it makes me question the way I do things, or parent, or my views on certain issues. And not in a negative way, more in the sense of “wow, I didn’t think about that before” or “wow, I really didn’t think about doing it that way.”
This morning I read Julia’s post and it really got me thinking about the way I parent. Now of course I think I am the best parent in the world, I mean have you seen my kids – they are awesome! I joke. I do believe that I am the best parent for MY children BUT there are a lot of things that I can and should be doing to improve that relationship. These are the questions which Julia posed:
What is your “play time” like with your child?
Do you do structured activities or does it revolve around free play?
Are you the director or do you take your cues from them at all times?
Do you feel that you have a good balance?
Is this something that comes naturally to you or do you have to work hard at it?
I’m going to answer her questions in one big muddle… can those judgmental readers please stop reading now!
I sway between two very different sides of the spectrum – in all honesty a lot of our play time is usually the kids playing at my feet while I sit on my phone and stalk people on social networking sites. The other side of the spectrum sees me being the controlling hard task master, I direct the play and it mostly revolves around reaching a specific goal – usually educational. When we read, I will most likely choose the books we read – I twist their arms to read specific books because I want to read them (and believe me, I can be very persuasive). Yes, they have reading time alone where they get to read to themselves or each other, where they can choose to read hundreds of books in as many minutes, but at story time, I usually select three books and we read those. First I started doing this because Liam would inevitably choose the SAME book over and over again because he loved it so, and quite frankly I was bored. But now, I choose books that reinforce what they’re learning at school, or what they may have seen on TV or being exposed to for the first time, or their moods – if they’ve had a particularly “emotional ” day then I’ll read our feelings books. Sometimes I read books that I just enjoy, who can refuse a Dr Seuss rhyming book – I absolutely love reading them aloud because they sound good to ME, forget about the kids! Ha! But generally I pick books that will add value for THAT day. Also, I like books that are conversation starters because for me, THAT is my goal – I want to talk about stuff and reading is a good starting block because there’s always lots of questions that follow. On that note, my pet peeve is being interrupted midsentence or mid-page. Again, this is probably my controlling nature. I’ve taught them to ask questions later, just before we turn to the next page!
When it comes to drawing, or colouring in or painting, I can’t stand scribbling, colouring in outside the lines and general mayhem on a page! I’m sorry, I find it verrrry difficult to go “wow baby, that’s awesome” when your drawing actually looks like rubbish. This made worse by the fact that I KNOW you can colour in the lines, I KNOW because you’ve done it a million times before. You are a perfect colouring in-er. So when he scribbles or colours badly, I lose my patience fast… So when our chosen activity is colouring in or drawing, I’d have to say that I direct the play and I hover to make sure he is doing it correctly. With Hannah, I will hold myself back and praise her for her efforts but I will tell her that she needs to colour in the lines and show her how – already there has been a huge improvement because she gets it! I firmly believe in repetition, I go over and over the same thing until they are positively irritated with me. I make Liam practice his name and his letters from here to eternity, until he tells me he is tired. Liam never says he is tired, admitting you are tired means defeat in the eyes of a toddler, you never say die, you just keep going – haha – so when he tells me he is tired, I know I’ve got to back off.
I am a fun parent, some times. I think? They enjoy many hours of free play where I’ll rather not be directly involved – while I’m cooking or busy with something, they’ll be in their rooms or outside doing as they please and I’ll pop in to check on them, or show an interest in what they are doing, and then leave again. I let them jump on their beds (my husband’s pet peeve), I let them dress up, I let them empty every single toy drawer and box and let them rummage around. They do come up with the most fantastic games all on their own and their little imaginations blow my mind – also as they grow, they play together very nicely so I don’t think I need to be there all the time. But when I am directly involved in their play, it’s usually by my rules. And I can be controlling in any sort of activity, let me tell you. When we go for our bike rides in the afternoon, they are counting dogs or post boxes or how many flowers on a bush or whatever. Or I’m teaching road safety or stranger danger because these two will literally stop riding to have conversations with strange people on the road. If we’re doing puzzles, I repeat over and over again to look for outside pieces, assort by colours, refer to the picture on the box, etc. I’ve even started doing time trials, (no seriously) my nephew gave me this idea during the December holidays when he and I were having competitions to see who could build puzzles faster. Now I do the same with Liam; Hannah and I against him. 50 piece puzzles each. Of course I let him win most of the time, but other times I let Hannah win – they both need to know the value of winning and losing, right? Again, is this my need to be in control, to make the rules? Why can’t I just let the kid make and break puzzles as he sees fit? Sometimes I actually need to leave the room, because I want to freak out when the piece he needs is the piece he is holding but his poor little 4 year old brain doesn’t get it as quick as my 31 year old brain.
We all love cuddles and I spend a lot of time just loving on them. Doing absolutely nothing but stroking their hair, playing “dot-dot” on their bare backs, and they love giving me massages or being right up close to my face or under my armpit, so much so that a person cannot even see the tv and I have to ask them to give me some space – my children and my own love language is physical touch, so I’m not a hard cold calculating mother (most of the time) who only does things for results, but I’d have to say that I do find it difficult to get involved in the mindless playing of dolly house, or pushing cars around or drawing a million circles on one page in the same colour – I need to know there is a point!!
As I read this post to myself, I realise that I am really tough on my kids. I can’t help that, that’s who I am. I have great expectations because I see great potential. I do let my kids be kids, they throw tantrums and act up and embarrass me in public and I usually just let them be – that’s what kids do, right? I’m not sure if my balance is good or correct, I don’t know because I’ve only been doing this for 4 years – I ain’t no expert! But Julia’s questions have opened a good can of worms; sometimes I need to chill, sometimes I need to let them be the teacher and I, the student. Sometimes our kids are in fact teaching us lessons that the world or parenting books or other parents cannot. And that, in fact, is the tag line for my blog: Raising my babies, while they raise me. I’m going back to school on this one, let’s see what I learn.