A few commenters honed in on one particular sentence in yesterday’s post. To be honest, when I wrote it, it was much more of a fluffy lead-in to the meat of the post (about swingsets), than a statement about a parenting philosophy I have. I barely gave it a second thought when I wrote it.
What I said: “Gone are the days of spending my days running errands or getting ‘my’ stuff done while simultaneously hanging out with Owen.”
What I meant: “I like doing fun, active, outdoor activities with my kid whenever I can.”
That said, perhaps because not spoiling Owen is in the top 5 things I worry about as a parent, the comments about being a “suck it up” parent or NOT a “suck it up” parent (read: creating a spoiled brat) really made me think. First of all, I resist putting names on parenting decisions and I find it hard to believe that parents fall into one camp all of time (this is one of my issues with the Bringing Up Bebe book as well, the labeling and the over-generalizations). I would consider myself very much a “suck it up” parent in some respects (like in last week’s unavoidable time crunch), and very child-centric in others. It makes me uncomfortable to slap a label on myself or others, especially as I’m learning every day that parenting is a very fluid process. None of us know exactly what we are doing and we are entitled to change our minds!
Of course the balance of playtime versus “getting things done” time is a very personal one. And it changes every minute and every day depending on your needs and your schedule and your To Do list and your kid’s mood. BUT, in general, I subscribe to the theories that:
1. Play = Learning
Kids learn through play. At all ages, I believe, but especially as toddlers. For Owen, physical play engages him and allows him to learn, explore the world around him, try new motor skills and learn new words. While he is in daycare 4 days a week his play is quite structured and he learns to listen, follow directions and abide by rules. At home, although we stick to a pretty strict schedule of meals and naps and a pretty regular routine of activities (and of course there are rules!), I like to give him a chance to choose what he does and when he does it. More free play. More time when he gets to decide what he wants to do.
Does that mean I forego my own To Do list so that he can play outside all day? Nope. Does it mean that I never force him to do things he doesn’t want to do? No way. It means that I do what I can to respect his playtime and, thus, his learning.
2. Tired Kid = Happy Kid
Well, not tired, exactly, but mentally and physically exercised (and subsequently well-rested!).
3. Compromise Should Be Mutual
I expect Owen to compromise his wants and needs for me. If I say it’s bedtime, even if he’d like to stay up and play, it’s still bedtime. However, it’s important to me that he knows that I compromise for him too. Do I really NEED to go to the bank right now, which will result in waiting in line for a long time? Maybe not. Can I squeeze in a quick stop at the playground on the way home, even if it will make me a little late, to accommodate his need for some activity after running an errand with me? Sure! Thanks to online banking, Amazon.com and taking advantage of things I can do after he goes to bed or on the days I work during the week, most of our necessary errands can be done without him in tow. Believe me — that’s a blessing for both of us! And it leaves a lot more time for us to just be together and go where the day takes us. Similar to the idea of giving him choices whenever possible, I try to plan our days in a way that meets both of our needs.
At the end of the day, what we’re doing works for our family. Owen is a sweet, kind, hilarious, good-natured toddler whose tantrums and outbursts are few and far between. Only time will tell if too much time at the playground has ruined him :) As I’ve said before, if spending too much time with him and planning my days in a kid-centric way are my biggest parenting flaw, I think I can live with that.