Friday, June 27, 2014

Boys will be Boys

My approach to parenting changes over time. I often find myself biting my tongue. Reid says things I want to keep in check, but so much of what I've read forces me to just bite my tongue.

Yesterday I watched a couple of kids for one of my friends. The older girl was sitting in the front room reading books to Nell when Reid entered the room with a toy saw. "I'm going to saw you!" he shouted at her as he waved his saw in the air. Oh how I wanted to pull him aside and explain why he shouldn't use violent, threatening language and tones during play. Oh the long list of reasons my kid was not going to be that kid.

But I bit my tongue. I waited to see how the whole scene played out. Without missing a beat, the girl exclaimed "Okay, saw off my foot. It's broken and you need to fix it."

"I'm going to saw your face," Reid replied in the kindest voice you could ever use while making that threat.

"No, go get more tools and saw off my foot. Get all your tools. Bring them all in here. Both my feet are broken and you have to fix them. Hurry!"

He ran back to the toy room and returned with some pliers. He spent the next five minutes happily sawing her ankle and pinching each of her toes with the pliers. The two of them had a blast. And I think both her feet were miraculously healed after all his handy work.

The three older kids spent a good half hour running around my yard fighting tree monsters. They took bats, guns (squirt and make believe) and large sticks to the trees -- working their hardest to kill all the tree monsters. The number of times I heard the word kill would not have been tolerated a couple years ago. But I choose to ignore each one. Let them be kids. I kept telling myself.

In the basement the older girl serenaded us on my keyboard. She commanded the three younger kids to dance. Nell happily stomped her feet and spun in circles. The two boys spent almost 10 minutes wrestling each other. I let them. Pull, push, knock down, whatever ... all in the name of childhood, boyhood. Each topple was met with the sweetest giggles. The boys quickly rose to their feet for another dual for three full songs. The moment the other boy said he was done, Reid left him alone.

Luckily, I knew the mother to these young kids wouldn't mind my approach.  With other kids I may have limited the wrestling. But with these kids it worked.

At the end of the day Reid came inside with a HUGE goose egg on his arm. When I asked him what happened he casually told me the other boy hit him with a stick. He didn't seem hurt, upset, or one bit bothered by it. So I choose not to be either.

I feel like kids nowadays rarely have free time to play with other kids their age. They are almost always supervised, constantly watched and coached on how to be a kid. Yesterday I choose to let them establish their own unspoken rules; I let them dictate the terms of their own language. There were toys everywhere and there was a lot of cleaning up to do, but I'm nearly sure Reid has never gained so much from play time.

Playing is so crucial. Every expert agrees, playing is learning. Playing is kid work. I'm trying to intervene as little as possible, and watching Reid use his pliers to fix a little girl's toes justified my latest approach. His near ignorance to a welt on his arm was growth. 

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