Sunday, August 11, 2013

Let them be kids!

 I heard this weekend, the best thing you can do for your kids to help them be successful in life, is to let them be kids. Allow them to figure out what they want to do. Try a taste of everything and see what feels the best.
I feel like this is something we are doing. Maybe we're not the best at it, but who doesn't have room for improvement.
We took a little trip last week to my (Sonya's) parents house, during which, my kids received a little lesson in being kids.
My Dad LOVES fishing and loves to take the canoe out. I have many fond memories of fishing from my dad's canoe out on the lake.  This is a memory I would love to pass on to my children.
Fishing on the lake with Papa.
In order to have a memory like this, a few lessons need to be taught first.
Lesson 1 - How to fish. This has been done. It is a tradition in our family that when you turn 4, you get your first fishing pole and you, then, are deemed old enough and responsible enough to go fishing.
 Lesson 2 - The proper way to sit and ride in a canoe. This is done at the age of 5.
The best way to teach this is inside of a pool. It's controlled, if the fall out the can touch the bottom, and it's a place they are already comfortable and familiar with.
My dad doesn't mess around when it comes to proper canoe etiquette.  He has no problem dumping you into the pool because you stood up when you weren't supposed to. It scares the kids (and the onlooking parent) but it's effective, and it's usually the last time they stand up in the boat.
He teaches them how to properly move around in the boat, he teaches them how to retrieve something outside of the boat, and he teaches them how to climb back into the boat if/when they fall out. It's a fun, slightly intimidating lesson. But if you listen, and do what you are told, then you get to go out on the lake for a little ride.

Nothin says lunch at Nana's like a PB/Nutella sandwich
and Chocolate chip cookie when you get out of the pool.

 It's an exciting thing to go for a ride out on the lake.
There is a certain rush of anxiety you get when you first dawn the life jacket, made in just your size. There is a special kind of smile that takes over your cheeks, and doesn't seem to want to leave.
There is something magical about going out into the middle of the lake, knowing there are hundreds, possibly thousands of fish swimming underneath you, and yet, you are perfectly dry.
A certain amount of trust is required to experience this enchanting adventure.

 When a child is allowed to feel everyone of these emotions, and experience the feeling of complete trust in someone other than his parent, they grow up just a little bit.
It's a sad and exciting step to watch your child grow up. Being able to trust others, completely, without a second thought is rewarding. Knowing that they still posses the innocence and unending love that we all should have.
Allowing your children to be child like is not always easy, and can be slightly scary, but in the end it's what is best for our children.
 Some days I wish everyone could look at children and see what treasures they are. It makes me sad, and scared that the world we  live in takes these preciousness tiny spirits for granted.
I wish we could all see the world through the eyes of a child.
A world that has no reason to be untrusted.
A world where everyone is a good person.
A world where words like "please" and "thank you" possess magical powers.
A world where it's an odd thing for someone to be grumpy or angry.
 I admire my children and cherish the lessons they teach me about trust, and how to have a good time. My children love everyone and see no reason why they shouldn't. I admire that in them.
I wish I didn't have to protect them from bad situations, or people, or even bad dreams. I wish my children could just be children for the rest of their lives.
How wonderful it must be to live in a perfect space where the worst thing you have to worry about is if there are any pink otter pops left.
 When I was little, I was allowed to be a kid. We played outside when we wanted. Playing outside was more fun than playing inside. If we were inside we helped Mom clean the house. We played in the street, down the street with people we didn't know. It wasn't uncommon for us to play in the cow pasture behind our house and the lady on the corner always had apples and carrots for us to feed the horses. The old people that lived next to us were referred to as "Grandma and Grandpa" even though there was not blood relation, and they always had Ice cream for us. We came in the house for very few reasons, to go potty, get a band aid, or because the street light came on.  When we were in trouble we knew it, when we were being good, life was good. My parents were stricter than other parents, but it was for our benefit, and it only made us better adults. My sisters and I fought, but we are now best friends. My brother and I have always been more like twins than anything.  My parents allowed us to get hurt, and fall down and fight with our friends and siblings, because they knew it would make us stronger and teach us how to solve our problems with out having someone else do it for us.
 To a certain extent, we need to allow our children to fight with each other. We need to allow them to play out a scenario even though we see they will eventually get hurt in the end.
We do our children an injustice when we solve each and every problem for them.
How will they ever learn to be problem solving, independent adults if we are constantly intervening whenever there is a problem. We as the "grown ups" have more, and better common sense then our children do. We didn't get that from being carried around on someones shoulders our whole life. We learned through experience that if you mess with an ant hill, ants get mad. When ants get mad, they bite you.
Certain things need to be, and will be experienced that we have no control over.  Some kids need to learn for themselves what happens when you touch something hot. There will be times that you give your children ample warning and they don't listen. These are the lessons they need to learn through experience.
 If you stand in the canoe, it will tip over.
If it tips over, you need to ask Papa to help you climb back in.
You need to wear your sandals because they will float so you don't loose them in the lake.
If you can't see the bottom of the lake, take smaller steps so that you don't step on something sharp, or fall into a hole.
If you don't listen to Papa, you don't ride in the canoe.

We are big fans of choice and consequence. Every choice comes with a consequence.
If you choose to eat your dinner, the consequence is you get dessert.
If you choose to take a nap, the consequence is you get to stay up and have campfire.
If you choose to splash me, I WILL splash you back, even if I know you don't like to be splashed.
If you choose to be adorable when you are mad, the consequence is I will most likely make you mad on purpose, just to see you say "I'm not talkin to you"
If you choose to go past Auntie Sonya in the lake, the consequence is, I will hold your hand for 10 mins, and don't pretend you don't like it.

 Children are fun. They need to be. We, as adults, need fun in our lives, and that's where children come into play. Literally. I have found that it's when I am the most stressed out, or feeling overwhelmed, that is the very moment that my kids run, screaming and giggling and playing into the room. Most of the time it's annoying and, lets be honest here, I yell at them to take their noise elsewhere. But maybe we should work on recognizing their cue to remind us to find our inner, carefree child and join them in their game of pirates or super heroes or ninjas or princesses, or whatever it is that your children love to play.
 "The dishes/laundry/housework can wait" is a popular phrase among more experienced Mom's and Grandma's. My response to this has always been. Yes, it can wait. But you can only put it off to play with your kids for so long before everyone is out of clean underwear and there are no bowls or spoons for breakfast.
There is a balance that needs to take place. My boys are now old enough, and big enough to help me with these tasks. We have taught them how to unload the dishwasher, fold their clothes and put them away. They can both run the vacuum and know the basics of wiping down the bathroom. My children are in the process of learning the balance of play and work. The have basic, minor responsibilities that expand them and help them realize that Mom and Dad have things that need to be taken care of before we can play so that life is bit more comfortable. Can the dishes wait?! Yes the can, but if your 5 yr old helps you with them before you play baseball together, the game is more fun.
Can the laundry pile wait?! Yes. It will still be there when you get back from the lake. But if you get your kids to help you, it goes by quicker and the trip to the lake is much more relaxing.
Kids love to help. They love to help anyone who will let them. My kids love the feeling of being responsible for something. There is a sense of pride that washes over their whole being when you say to them "thank you for helping me, now I have nothing left to do except go play" Knowing that they were there for you when you need it is a rewarding emotion. You can see it on their faces. Not to mention, playing is 100x more fun when you know that the house has been taken care of first.

Kids want to be kids. And why shouldn't they. I want to be a kid.
At the end of the day, is it really worth the stress of constantly standing over them watching their ever move. How are they supposed to know what it feels like to dip their face in the water if we don't let them. Who knows, maybe they'll like it. How are they supposed to know what it feels like be so dizzy they fall over if we keep telling them to "stop because you might fall over" How are they supposed to know what rain on their face feels like if they are constantly told to come inside when it starts raining.
Kids should be allowed to experience life. Get hurt, break something, experience every emotion so that they know how to handle every emotion.
Teach them how to be angry and what to do when you are.
Teach them how to be sad, happy, frustrated and excited.
Teach them how to handle anxiety and what to do when you're nervous.
What does it mean to be scared or so excited you want to scream? How does it feel, and what do you do about it?!

Children are in a constant state of being educated, and so are we. Who better to have a lab partner in life than our own children. Experience new things together. Be excited with them, be nervous. Giggle uncontrollably and cry when you are sad.
Teach them that emotions are OK and that it's a part of life. It's how you handle those emotions that really matters.

Teach them that cousins are really just distant siblings. Sleep overs are fun, but you can't have a sleep over if you don't sleep.
Aunties are just a 2nd Mom and you should love them as much as your real mom. And you should listen to them as if they were your mom. They just let you get away with more stuff, which makes them slightly cooler than your real mom!

Teach them that family comes first. Your family is there for you 100% no matter what time of the day or night it is.  Silly is fun, and if your family is silly, your kids will be comfortable in their skin. 
They will be comfortable being who they are.
They will have fun being KIDS.