I’ve recently been struck by how quickly H Boy has been growing into such a big kid; I’m so adapted to living in Toddler World (and continue to do so with the girls) that sometimes I feel bad that I’m not giving enough space for the kid to grow into his Big Boy Pants. I’m often taken aback by his abilities when suddenly expresses a deeper level of thought or displays a new skill.
Lately I’ve been accumulating parenting questions like crazy as we enter this new stage of kid development. While I believe our guiding philosophies stand strong, my old strategies fall short. Not only do they not bring about the action I’m hoping, but they’re stifling the poor kid. So here I sit, curious about what in the world we do as we bring up this
young boy little man.
1. When do naps cease? I’m a huge believer in the afternoon siesta, no matter the age, so rest time will always exist in our home. However, there comes a time when fighting him to actually go to sleep seems like overkill. However, I look out into the world of exhausted children in our culture, so I don’t want to rush him. He and I discussed the other day the reason that Mommy and Daddy say “no” sometimes – that when we’re little, we don’t always know what is right and good, so we have to tell him. But as he grows and and can distinguish Right and Good for himself, we won’t have to do the telling of no or yes. I’m not convinced he always knows the right and good state of rest for his body.
2. Managing strong will and opinion. H Boy seems to be a bit of a, ahem, Minehart, in his ability to want to stick with his pre-conceived ideas of what is supposed to happen. Perhaps this is true of most children, but when his heart is set, we struggle to lead him in other directions. Sometimes, I realize, it’s not worth the battle and he can simply follow through on the plan. But at other moments, I find value in him understanding authority and realizing that what he wants isn’t what he will necessarily get – I’m also not a fan of creating a tiny little lawyer, letting the person with the best argument win. So when it’s late and he wants another story before bed, how do we calmly explain that sleep is more important, allowing him to express his frustration and disappointment, while still holding our line that it’s simply time for bed?
3. Help[fulness] and responsibility. My kids learn at a young age that Mommy can’t do it all; there’s simply too many kids around here. They’re pretty self-sufficient in the most practical of ways, but there are times – namely centered around the least-fun tasks – that the want me to “help.” Like when they take alllllll of the blocks out in the basement and need help putting them back. I can understand wishing that someone would help lend a hand. However, I also don’t think I made the mess so that I need to necessarily clean it up when they’re of able body & mind. So where do I find balance between putting on a helpful character – willing to pitch in without my own benefit to show them what helpfulness and a servant’s heart looks like – and allowing the lesson of “cleaning up our own messes”, both physical and existential, to begin to grow?
These are just this week’s concerns. I’m also floored that next year we’ll be doing preschool every day – every day! – and my days of having the kid at home with endless freedom to go on day adventures (even if only to Meijer) will end. While I lament my years of “baby prison”, locked down during naptime, I see on the other side a growing need to trim down my wonderlust tendencies. Going to school every day, beginning to have work assigned to complete at home, activities that will require a bit more foresight and follow through on my own part.
My life changed dramatically the day H Boy arrived into it, but that was no shock. What continues to surprise me is the many ways our lives are shaped and changed and altered by these little people year after year. One phase of Not Knowing What We’re Doing begins to fade and we’re met with a new one.
I feel like parenting should be more like school, that when you arrive at the junior or senior year, you’ve got the system figured out. But what I’ve experienced, and what I hear from other parents who are years and grades ahead of us, is that we never do. We return to kindergarten (or worse – 7th grade) about every 3 years. With each kid.
So here we are. Figuring out this next little step for the first of our little ones. Perhaps we can hope that it’s like line dancing at 4-H camp. Though it will be different dance each time, we can work on our grapevines and shakes and high/low kicks so that it becomes a matter of sequencing our arsenal of moves and we’ll look like uncoordinated bafoons a little less each time.
(Though, honestly, it would be a lot easier if parenting was like square dancing and we just have to listen carefully to what instructions Russ calls out before you Bumpsy Daisy).