02 November, 2010

Stand Back


These are the pumpkins we carved on the weekend. And the costumes. The inherent laziness of my efforts at costumes for the kids aside, I'm here today to talk about something important. So begins my rant against helicopter parenting and nearly as bad, helicopter crafting.

I want to start my clarifying I am not a helicopter parent. My kids run wild at the park, too wild for many, many parents who either feel free to admonish me with looks or not so gentle reminders that my tiny 2 year old is hanging from the monkey bars or standing 20 feet up at the playground. My kids are allowed to scream, run, and explore without me following behind. My kids are encouraged and even pushed to try new things, ask questions, and challenge (even when that creates a challenge for us). My kids are learning that if they want something they have to work for it, or if they ask that they answer is quite possibly no and that is okay. My kids do get punished when they break rules, and yes, there are a number of basic rules to follow. Most importantly, my kids are allowed to be kids.

We all have our parenting styles/philosophies. I have friends who are close to being helicopter parents and they are still very good parents. I have friends even more lax than us, or more strict. I'm not judging anyone.

But this weekend I had to stand back and judge myself. We were carving pumpkins and making the girls' costumes. The Monster decided that she was going as a traffic light and her sister would be the car she would make stop. (Oh, that is definite fodder for therapy later in life.) Up first was the pumpkins.


First, there was the insistence on 5 pumpkins and no less. They were cheap and really they are the only decorations I do for Halloween, so I let her get that one. Next we had to decide what kid of face each one would have. The first one was for a surprised face. No problem. I carved an O for a mouth, eyebrows, and rather bad eyes. After that I surveyed the girls for their direction on the second one.

(See what I'm doing there? Giving them choices on things I don't give a damn about but will matter to them. All part of my parenting philosophy so I can hold that against them when it comes to a choice I actually care about.)

So there I am carving a mean face on pumpkin number 2 when The Monster discovers the Sharpie. She quickly proceeds to draw all over the pumpkin. Hair, another set of eyebrows, freckles, words, and random shapes. My instinct was to snap and give her hell for wrecking the pumpkin. In only a few seconds though, I realized that I was about to lose it over a pumpkin. A pumpkin with a life span of a few days on my front steps.

Why shouldn't she colour it with a Sharpie? Why shouldn't it take on its own life in her hands? She isn't allowed to use the knife, so what else is there for her in pumpkin carving other than facial directions?

Another Sharpie later, a very serious discussion about what can and cannot be coloured with said Sharpie, and I let them go to town on the pumpkins. And we were all happier when I stood back.

By the time we came to costumes I was feeling strong. No problem, I can stand back and let them decorate things. Yeah, not so easy. I fought every instinct to step in and help them paint Smilosaurus' car. Doesn't it need windows? Or complete coverage in one colour? So many times my hands reached out to take a brush. In the end I resorted to sitting on them when not adding paint to the palette. Was I happy with the car? It certainly wasn't what I wanted or expected, but they were happy in the process of creating and the little one was ecstatic to wear it. That makes me happy.



One final challenge came with the traffic light costume. Just felt glued, then sewn, to a yellow t-shirt. Nothing fancy, until the addition of LED lights. And, according to the Monster, not quite finished until she added some completely random marks with a black pen. I'll admit, there was a very sharp name-calling and a lot of internal frustration. Then she said she loved it and thought it was perfect now. Who am I to argue with that?

As parents we need to stand back some time to let our kids be kids, let the mess or the tantrum happen, or let them dress themselves even when they look like a hot mess. As crafters and artists we need to stand back some times to let the piece be or speak. As teachers we need to stand back and let the students' voices ring through. And some times we need to stand back and shut the hell up.

15 comments:

Suzanne said...

You are singing my song! I have to ask myself a lot, "How important is it?" especially when I am faced with the fact that what they are doing is not what I wanted or expected. However, if it's not hurting anyone or damaging anything, what does it matter if it's not done my way? My kids are my best teachers and they push me to be a better parent and person on a daily basis.

On a separate note, I FINALLY finished my self portrait block. The whole time I thought about your Fear post. Thank you for encouraging me, someone you don't know at all, to just shut up and do it.

Becky said...

I struggle with this because my child doesn't like to do things alone. Especially on the playground. We left in tears yesterday because I wouldn't go down the slide with my two year old who can do it herself! I think the other parents think I'm helicoptering her. I definitely encourage her tomake decisions. Maybe that's it, if I act like it doesn't matter she'll do it? Love the costumes.

Jessy said...

I really appreciate this post. Since I don't yet have my own kids I am learning through nannying the kind of parent I want to be.
I love that you took the time to think through whether it really mattered that the pumpkins were coloured or whether it was such a big deal if your kids put their own "touch" on their costumes.
If you've never read From the Heart, Rebecca is a mother of 3 cute kids near Vancouver, and a while back she wrote a post about saying "no" that I loved as well. Check it out! rebeccafromtheheart.blogspot.com

elle said...

It is all about choosing your battles. Too much of parenting is about me(the parent) and my fears. good post!

Jennifer said...

I really, really appreciate you sharing this... and the internal thoughts that went along with your weekend. I'm not a helicopter parent but I do have a strong internal dialogue that wants to make everything perfect and it stresses me out. But really, I bet I could let a lot of it go...

Thanks for sharing; it's made my day!

Jennifer :)

Megan said...

Thank you. Sometimes I think parents get so wrapped up in wanting what's best for their children that they forget to just let them BE children. It's the doing and making mistakes (or not) that helps us all learn. I know I forget sometimes :-) Perhaps today I'll follow your example and just sit on my hands and stay out of their way!

polwig said...

Amen. I am like you... develop strong children that know how to deal with life. No Helicopter parenting here, no cuddling and crying when they fall down. Get up and brush it off. What kid of play time would it be if your kids did not come back dirty, bruised or both. I love that old saying "whaterver doesn't kill you makes you stronger"

Sarah said...

This took me back to when my oldest daughter was in preschool. I let her pick her clothes out and she dressed herself. One of her favorite outfits was black and white striped pants with a pink and white striped shirt. In her mind, they matched. The best part was her teachers were thrilled that she was capable. They told me to let her continue.

nat said...

As a college professor who gets kids who can't do anything by themselves with any certainty because of their parents constantly buzzing around them and making all of the decisions their whole lives, I thank you wholeheartedly.

Stephany said...

I have always let my kids go "Sharpie Crazy" on their pumpkins. Then I challenge myself to find a face out of the scribbles. They love and I don't have a "Control Tantrum" about it. After all, it is their pumpkins, not mine!

Victoria said...

Great post! And boy does that bring back memories of my own struggle when my kids were little... between my mind's eye for how things "should be" and my heart's desire to let them be free to express themselves. Learning which battles to pick was a day to day process and somedays I did much better then others.

One of my favorite memories was letting my one daughter paint her face with face paints one morning a few hours before she had to go to preschool. She was so proud of what she had done, and wanted to keep the paint on to show her teacher, so I let her go to school that way. However, I'd completely for gotten that it was also portrait picture taking day! When the teacher asked if I'd like to go wash the paint off of my daughter's face, I decided to let her decide. She opted to keep the paint on for the photo shoot. Years later, I still adore that photo... she looks like a proud warrior!

Esch House Quilts said...

My girls started telling me what they would and wouldn't wear at two years of age. I decided unless the outfit was completely weather inappropiate (no sundresses and sandals in January), I didn't care enough to make it an issue.

Now my older daughter is a senior in high school and has been completely in charge of her college search and application process. Not that we haven't had any discussions about it, but she is the one in charge. I know of many parents who are spending hours and hours doing for their children what my daughter is doing for herself.

Susana quilts said...

Good for you! I love what you said.
I raised two independent, strong willed, confident kids by letting them make a lot of their own decisons

brown robin said...

Love the post and love the costumes. You should see what my daughter chooses to wear every day to school.... when she was 3 I had to fight with myself hard. Now she's 7, and I'm some kind of guru (albeit a crazed one.) Every morning, I just say, "wow... terrific color choices... you look spectacular."

insurance quotes said...

I know of many parents who are spending hours and hours doing for their children what my daughter is doing for herself.Thanks for the kind words and the plug. Much appreciated.