Saturday, January 5, 2013

I'm not sure I should get after the children when...

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… they eat all the tomatoes out of the salad and all the carrots right out of the bag.

My kids love fresh fruits and vegetables. Colin and Karyn are not abnormal: they like treats as much as any other child; but for some reason, I don’t have to do much persuading to get them to eat the good parts of the salad. I once had a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies sitting on the table when Aaron came home from shopping, and they ran right past the cookies and grabbed the one pound bag of carrots and ate them all before I could say anything. Maybe I don’t serve them enough potato chips and fruit snacks.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… Colin is “washing the dishes”.

I repeatedly have to tell myself not to discourage the kids from helping in the kitchen. Sooner or later they may either outgrow the desire to be helpful, or worse, think that their help is not wanted or appreciated. However, it can be very hard to patiently tolerate flooding, soapy pans, chipped glasses, and the occasional cuts (it happened once, but Colin learned to leave my sharp knives alone when I’m not there to supervise and I learned to keep the knives separate from the rest of the dishes and cutlery).

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… Karyn bops Colin for stealing her toys or deliberately hurting her feelings.

We live in a country that has this noble minded, but flawed desire to end bullying between children. The common line of thinking is that bullying is a one-sided problem that educational policy can solve. I venture to say the bureaucrats have only made it worse. It’s against the rules to hit back, or publically shame a bully; there-fore the rule abiding get ridiculed and beat up, and the bullies (who by the way don’t care about the rules) get time off and attention (aka counseling). I think it creates weakness in the law abiding, and a sense of impunity among the future criminal class. What I tell my children is that if they hurt others enough, it will eventually be returned in kind; and I do my best to teach them to be polite, take turns, share if they want to but respect other’s rights and property, and not to call names. However, no matter what I say, fights do break out. I usually will only intervene if the violence and teasing is one sided or over the top: using obscenity or hitting each other with canned goods counts as over the top.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… Colin writes “recipes” and “grocery lists” on the utility bills.

Aaron and I keep the unpaid bills on the refrigerator door so they don’t get forgotten or lost; but Colin gets in a writing mood from time to time and doesn’t fully understand the difference between scrap or writing paper, and important paperwork. On the one hand it’s annoying that previously clear print is now illegible, but on the other hand it’s nice to pretend to have an excuse for paying the bills late.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… they play outside in the snow with no mittens, hats, boots, or even pants.

Part of me says it’s unhealthy and looks bad to some of the less experienced neighbors for me to let the kids run out in the snow undressed. I figure that the kids probably won’t be out there long enough to get sick and that reddened fingers and toes will teach them faster to respect the cold weather than overbearing parents. Once in a while Colin will be outside longer than I am comfortable, so I’ll step out and remind him what it feels like and how much he’ll hate me if I have to treat him for frost bite. That’s usually all the persuasion he requires. As for the neighbors, I keep reminding myself that most of them grew up in Northern Michigan and had parents who probably let them play half naked in the snow as well.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… they sing “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam”, or “Skeeda-ma-rinkee-do, I love you” after 10 o’clock at night.

Ok, the late night sing along is a rare occurrence, as they usually conk out by eight o’clock. When it does happen, I’m torn between annoyance that they are still awake, and charm because they are so cute and I love that they enjoy singing.

I’m not sure I should get after my children when… I hear them “making dinner”, and I walk into the kitchen to find it trashed, but they are saying a prayer over a stock put full of toys dusted in baking soda.

I don’t particularly mind that the kids play with my kitchen utensils. I haven’t seen them play rough with them and they demonstrate that they’ve observed the difference between how a whisk is used as opposed to how a pastry cutter used. What does drive me a little crazy, is when they try to make something real, or half real. I’ve seen half a pound of salt mixed with an entire bottle of pancake syrup in the mop bucket to make “cookies”, or in the case above with the baking soda and the toys in the stock pot, (as well as all over the counter tops and floor), it was “turkey pot pie”. I’m flattered at the imitation, and I don’t want to discourage them from learning to cook, but I almost came down really hard and would have were it not for their prayers. I wasn’t sure then if they were praying for real, but if the Lord was listening, I didn’t want to interrupt. It gave me a moment’s pause to consider if my children were actually being incorrigible or not.

I know that most of what Colin and Karyn do in a day to annoy me is merely maturity related and that they will grow out of most of these strange habits. In the meanwhile, I still love them and try to encourage their interests.

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