Lately I’ve I’ve been thinking back over some of the parenting lessons I have learned over the last two years. Today I’ll share one of those.
Often parents remark about how you hover less as the number of children in your home increases.You realize the little things aren’t going to harm them and are able to let them be more independent, messy, dirty, loud, messy, adventurous, silly, and did I mention messy?
I was told many times before The Boy was a year old that I was, “extremely laid-back for a first time mom.” I always shrugged it off as being a result of my personality and my husband traveling so much. I also think it had a lot to do with me being exhausted though. Have you tried being 6 months pregnant and chasing a crawling baby across the house, only to have to hold that baby down and attempt to change his diaper while he, quite literally, stood on his head and left elbow to get away, kicking you the entire time? Yeah, it left little energy for dragging him down off whatever he was climbing on for the 100th time that day. It didn’t help matters that he was very coordinated from the beginning and didn’t fall when climbing. I knew he could do it, so why worry?
There was one thing I was constantly battling though. The Boy’s obsession with eating things drove me crazy! Baby gates blocked every doorway and I put everything away – dog food was moved to my bedroom and crayons were in a drawer and hardly used. No joke, he ate finger paints until he was 2. (Rarely was painting done in our house until recently. )
Then Brother came along! If I was “extremely laid-back” about things with my first son, I probably really scare other moms with my second son!
Lesson #1 (It wasn’t the first thing I learned, but for writing purposes that’s what we will call it.)
Let them eat dog food.
Now, before anyone panics and calls Child Protective Services, I’m not recommending you feed your children pet food. Definitely not. However, there are only so many hoops you can jump through, and so many places you can hide stuff. Millions of kids have grabbed a handful of Kibbles or a dog biscuit and crammed it in their mouth before mom or dad could get it away from them. I did it, and I’m betting you did it if you grew up with pets in your home.
Thankfully, Brother has not shared in The Boy’s habit of eating everything. He does, however, show the same love for dog food that his older brother did. Today was no different. The dogs had left a few pieces in one of the bowls in the kitchen, and I didn’t realize it until I was halfway between the refrigerator and the counter, arms loaded with leftovers I was getting out for lunch, and little brother was 2 feet from the bowl. I started toward him, immediately realizing it was pointless. “Have at it son. If you think it’s that tasty…”
It was not just about dog food though. It wasn’t even about realizing it was not necessary to drop everything, trip over the open dishwasher, and accidentally kick the dog just to pry open his mouth to dig out dog food, crayons, dirt, or any other non-food item I knew to be non-toxic that he could safely chew.
It was about that word I posted about yesterday. Joy. Today, like so many other times, keeping the boys out of the dog food, paint, or whatever mess it might have been, was not about protecting them. As usual, it was something that I know isn’t actually harmful. I just didn’t want to deal with a big mess or having to clean a dirty face and hands again. Was it really worth the fight of trying to pull the dog food out of his hands, making him furious, and probably causing me to spill our food everywhere? I decided it wasn’t. A little extra mess would be okay. If only I can remember that more often! If they want to get muddy and dirty outside, that has always been fine and dandy with me, but inside…oh inside the house is a different story. Well, where’s the joy in that for a little boy? Next week I’m planning at least two messy activities. (There. It’s in print, so I have to do it now.)
I went on with making lunch, and Brother happily helped himself to the last few pieces of dog food. Oh well, someday he will realize it tastes disgusting. Until then, I guess I won’t have to worry about him not liking anything I cook!
Isn’t it amazing how children teach us things through the smallest everyday events?