Friday, June 18, 2010

Finally, I Have a Parenting Philosophy

Well hello Friday, here already? I guess you might as well come on in.

It's hot. This is June on drugs. Hank is in the backyard with my two foster daughters from next door. They are playing in a biggish wading pool, and they asked Matt if they could turn on the hose again to fill another tiny pool we have, I guess because two is better than one. Matt told them we didn't want to turn the hose back on, then he gave them three buckets. He suggested they fill the pool by bailing, and they did. Though somehow a fair amount of dirt was introduced into both pools.

I can see this from the sun room window. I'm lying on the couch listening to their voices. I can hear them but I can't tell exactly what they're playing.

This whole summer/backyard/dirt/scene is somewhat chaotic and messy. Laura has this whole area of the yard devoted to something called Indian Camp. Indian Camp is both a place and an activity--she and her friends can spend a long time out there pretending to be pioneers, moving tree branches around, and making up themed nature tours that they then take the littler kids on. As for Hank and his bucket brigade, I know that I could swoop out there and introduce some order, clean things up, and start them in some more organized game. But I figure that this kind of unregulated kid business is an essential part of learning. It's what we used to mean by "playing," before playing became a more highly parent-sponsored and supervised event. When I was a kid, nobody had playdates. But we played all the time.

Our moms weren't running after us trying to optimize our experiences. Maybe they were inside watching "Days of Our Lives?" I just know that right now I'm having some me time, while Hank has some mud time.

There's a new book out that I'm hoping lends support to our laissez-faire child rearing method, it's called The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids. Anybody read this yet? Matt and I are nothing if not laid-back parents, and now we can say that, heck no, this method is not laziness on our part, it's in a book, y'all.

Anyway, all this unstructured, Rousseau-ian, leave-the-kids-alone backyard time means that I have to basically bathe Hank from head to toe every time he comes in the door. There is a lot of foot washing at our house. Mama has her new couches to think of.

Perhaps in a future post I'll explain my method of child conflict resolution, in which I holler "Stop fussing!" from the other room until peace breaks out. Note that you shouldn't attempt this move unless you know how to holler. Simply calling or even yelling will not get it done.

Now, y'all quit your fussing, go rinse your feet off, and have a good weekend.

23 comments:

Amy said...

Great post! I think it can safely be said, Beck, that you have a laissez faire approach to life--and I mean that in the best sense. It's served you well!

Indian Camp sounds like fun to me! I love to let the kids roam outside, but here I have to tell them not to poke under rocks or leaf piles--too many spiders! I think I could probably be more laid back in my approach...my desire to "manage" often gets the best of me. I'm sure you've never observed this...perhaps it's why I reorganized your closets when I was there in April. ;)

I haven't heard anyone holler in a long time, except for me. I don't think it translates to Oz.

Jenni said...

Oh my gosh I am SO WITH YOU on the laid back parenting. For Oscar's birthday party tomorrow? Sandbox, sand and water table, mini bounce house (fits 3 kids), wading pool. I'm just turning Oscar and four of his friends loose in the yard. No structured activities to speak of. In fact, this is how Oscar, Miles, and Danny spend their days outdoors. I'm out there with them, breaking up more serious scuffles and making sure the little does not get creamed, but I just let them do their thing, you know? And I get a little reading done.

Oh, and you'll have to teach me to holler in August. I think I'll take to it.

Michele said...

They have a book for that? That is what we did everyday. *sigh* Feet washing is best done with the hose in the backyard.

A few years ago my oldest (now 26) said that he really appreciated our "hands off" style of parenting. So I wasn't lazy either. It was a style.

Jill said...

I have beeen reading your blog for a few months now. I relate to so many topics you write about, but this one especially hit home. I am a mom in West Palm Beach, FL (my kids are 9, 6, and 4). My attitude has always been laid back, and over the years I've had to justify myself many times. Thank you for this post. It made me laugh and feel better about my parenting!

delaine said...

I always subscribed to the same school of parenting. And it seems that our kids turned out pretty well. But I gotta say that you girls were easy. You didn't fuss or fight . When I was little I played at my Grandma's house with a passel of cousins. If an argument broke out, she would call out ,"Yall play pretty now." She was a gentle soul, never hollered, but got the message across.We learned to make our own fun in the summer. A lot of hours spent with a garden hose, a galvanized washtub, and plastic sand pails. Cool fun!

Keely said...

Hm. I wonder if what I do qualifies as "hollering".

I'm too lazy to structure ANYTHING, so I'll probably be the same kind of parent. Xander's at the age right now where I keep thinking, "Maybe I should start him in an activity? But thinking of one and then finding it seems like a lot of work."

Beth said...

I fear I'm in the minority here, cause I'm absurdly control-freakish about my parenting. It doesn't help that my husband is, too, and we whip each other into frenzies all the time. I really WANT to be the laid back parent, and I think I'm getting better, but for me, it's really, really HARD.

This quality was most obvious to me when my oldest started preschool. We arrived for the first day of parent/child transition class to find a table decked out with glitter paint, bowls of shaving cream, and brushes of all sizes. My son said, "MOM, what IS this? What do we do?" I replied, "I don't know, let's find a teacher!" When we did, I asked the teacher what we were supposed to do with all that stuff. She looked at us blankly, smiled sweetly, and said, "Whatever you want." And I thanked my lucky stars that I chose the right preschool to balance my craziness with unbridled fun and messiness.

Wallfishwife said...

Beth, what on earth were the bowls of shaving foam for??

Camp Papa said...

The shaving cream was almost certainly for finger painting on the table top. It washes off and doesn't stain clothes.

Maggie said...

I loved this post.For a long time, it has tickled me(drove me buggy) how my preschool parents have scheduled so many "playdates", soccer games, ballet lessons, etc that their little ones never get to go home and play in the yard.Don't get me wrong. I think those activites are really good for kids, BUT no child needs to do so many activites that they are never home to play.
I also loved delaine's response. I too remember Grandma telling us to "play pretty" also our mom telling me as I had young children to practice a little "benign neglect" I know now that was her way of making sure that I would lighten up some on my kids. I am such a hyper doodle kind of gal she figured I would drive my little ones crazy. There is really something to the laissez-faire school of thought.My kids turned out great, just as you and Amy and Dave did. We McBride girls listened to our Mama and Grandma Also, look at your kids, they are the poster children for perfection. Your parenting skills are right on target and you should write a book about it, along with all of the other books you should write!! Love ya

Wallfishwife said...

Finger painting with shaving foam, eh? I never heard of that over here - sounds fun!

Amy said...

Well now. I just spent the last two days thinking about being a more laid-back parent. Not so much in the structured-playdate sense (I'm pretty good there) but just the hands-off-let-them-get-dirty sense.

If I write a really long comment I will completely lose motivation to write the post I meant to, so that's all I'm sayin' here :)

Amy said...

Hmmm...it is an interesting discussion to have, actually. (Not that we need to have it here, just sayin'.) Specifically, what does it mean to be a laid-back parent in that sense? I have no problem with my kids having unstructured playtime or getting dirty. What I tend to want to do is manage their emotions, their interpretations of events--I guess to "make sure" they're processing things "correctly". Shall I use "quotations marks" some more? Sheesh.

Anyway, I think one of my fears as a parent is that some cataclysmic emotional event will take place under my nose and I'll miss it. Weird, eh?

Beth said...

@Amy, not weird at all that you worry about the emotional trauma angle. I worry about that, too.

@Wallfishwife, mostly the kids mixed the different colors of glitter paint in with the shaving cream, testing different colors, and then they painted a big rock in the play yard with it. It was so fun. But really, it was just there for them to put their fingers in, play around, explore, and get messy.

The Messy Mom said...

Amen!!!

Ash said...

I'll be hitting Barnes & Noble in the morning...you're my kind of people.

Rebekah said...

My girls play "In the Wild" with some older girls in the neighborhood. They'd like Indian Camp with Laura and kiddie pools with hank. We'll structure a play date (weekend at Becky's in ATL) so we can watch them out the window while making good adult conversation!

Kate said...

i am in your camp. i was raised with "tough love" parents and I don't believe in coddling children. i am fascinated by the writer of "free range children".
http://freerangekids.wordpress.com/

I wish my kids played outside with friends and walked and/or rode their bikes to school more often.

Casey said...

Our parents wouldn't let us inside until dark and we just had to figure out what to do. We had scavenger hunts and played 500 and Ghost in the Graveyard. Basically did all sorts of fun crap with nobody here to supervise.

I'll admit to being a helicopter parent thus far because if I leave my two alone for more than 30 seconds, a National Geographic style fight breaks out. And I look forward to the day that hollering from the other room works. Sad.

gretchen said...

Damn, I wish I could get Jude to just go in the backyard and roam. Not that it's that big or anything. But there's that creepy area behind the garage, next to the Columbian restaurant that he could explore. The kid seems to think I should entertain him. Huh!

Michele R said...

Gretchen
I think the author lives on a farm in England....
I honestly don't think I have read a parenting book.
My newly-turned-14-yr-old is having a sleepover tonight. The cool thing is along with the PS3, they still like to play Hide and Seek in the dark outside.

Sara said...

You know I'm on board with dirty kids and hollering. Though I do find myself worrying that they're bored all day while I'm at work. Then I realized it's important for them to be bored sometimes. There won't always be someone there to entertain them all the time (and how!,) activities aren't just going to present themselves...they have to take some initiative.
I'm trying to teach them to cook and bake by themselves a little bc I remember that was a major boredom buster when I was a kid. That and a bit of housekeeping.Surprised me what a boost it is in their self-esteem and confidence (though they bucked and complained and fussed) when they do stuff by themselves. If I don't let them (and make them) I'm gyping them on that.

Also so grateful that the kids can go down to grandma's house where there's nothing to do but play in the creek and 'the cave' (super cool root cellar) behind her house and ride bikes. They come home grimy and sticky usually, but happy and refreshed.

"Ya'll play pretty now." How I love that!!!

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

I haven't read the book yet, but I sure do like the title.