Monday, October 5, 2009

Tool Card Update: Letting Go

(Originally posted at Rational Jenn)

I’m a little behind in my update for the Letting Go card, and with the traveling behind me and traveling ahead of me, this update will have to suffice as my parenting post for the week. Back to semi-regular PD Tool Card posts beginning next week!

I tried to step off the Mommy Hovercraft over the last week or two, and I think I was mostly successful in doing that. For me, “Letting Go” means leaving the kids alone to do certain tasks AND leaving them alone to handle their own affairs. I generally tried to be mindful of IF my assistance was truly needed and desired and then sat on my hands calmly remained in the background until I was called upon.

This Letting Go is something that I am usually pretty conscious of, because if I didn’t keep this issue in the forefront of my mind, I really could turn into one of those helicopter mommies. And when I sit back and let the kids interact with reality without my help or interpretation, they usually surprise the heck out of me with the range of their capabilities and the amount of their resilience.

This turned out to be an excellent week for this exercise, since we spent an unusual amount of time working on household projects, doing things that don’t normally come up in our every day lives. Brendan has been cleaning out the basement, which desperately needed it, and also cleaned out the garage. This is in preparation for his moving out of his office since he’s going to be on-site with his new job. We need a place to keep all of his crap stuff. And since his job isn’t going to start for another few weeks, this was the week to do this work.

Here’s an important way in which I Let Go of Ryan and Morgan—they spent much time downstairs with Brendan, working, and I really have no idea what it was they were doing. Morgan certainly did less actual work than Ryan, but both were in the basement sweeping and scraping off the concrete walls and hauling things to the dumpster and wiping things down and I don’t even know just what else. See? The Me Not Knowing is important here, because usually I’m so nosy I need to know everything.

Of course I knew they were just fine with Brendan and he was keeping an eye on them, but Brendan and I sometimes don’t see eye-to-eye about which tools the kids ought to be using, for example. If it had been solely up to me, they’d never use the pruning shears, because I would have just shot that idea down immediately. Brendan, who has less trouble Letting Go than I do, was the one who realized that this was a tool they could handle with proper training and supervision. And I’m glad he did—even though, yes, I tried to talk him out of it initially—because it allowed me to see for myself what the kids are capable of.

(This is a good time to briefly mention a topic I’ve been meaning to bring up for a while—that of differences in parenting styles. Brendan doesn’t always do and say the exact things I would. I know, right? And that’s okay. I think each parent needs to establish his/her own independent relationship with the kids, and differences in styles are not only inevitable, they are enriching. Of course it’s easier if both parents share the same general parenting principles, and if that’s true, then differences in application shouldn’t matter in the long run.)

I was able to Let Go in other ways, too. In addition to all manner of house project activities which they participated in but of which I have little knowledge:

  • Morgan and Ryan played on a playground for hours with dozens of other kids and we mommies didn’t watch them every second. We all sat by the one entrance to bounce any wanderers back into the gated play area, but what they did exactly at the playground wasn’t closely supervised by any of us. We gave them general guidelines (“Stay in the gated area. We’ll be over here.”) and then they were off.
  • Morgan and Ryan also played outside our house for hours—until it was past dark--with neighborhood kids, and only occasionally checked in with us.
  • Ryan is beginning to want to play by himself in his room—I wonder if this is a new age/stage for him. He did who-knows-what up there off and on all week. :o)
  • Sean climbed and bounced those ottomans all week long without serious injury, or indeed, even a fall.
  • Sean used a broom to “sweep” and generally wandered around the garage work area, getting dirty, and into real tools. I removed a chisel from him, mostly because I didn’t want him to continue gouging the walls of the garage, but in general, he was allowed to play with almost anything. Of course I watched him like a hawk, but I didn’t interfere until it was necessary.
  • Sean is growing more capable and skillful each day, as he’s figuring things out, so I allowed him to be the Door Master most of the week, and he thinks that’s super fun (front door, refrigerator door, dishwasher door, etc.).

All in all, a good week. As I said, this is something I am constantly working on, because I believe that too much interference by mom is actually detrimental to the child. The trick is figuring out where the line falls, when a situation goes from wait-and-see to jump-on-in.

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