I might just be learning as parent but I’ve come to realize there are sacrifices that I make in order to allow my four year old to grow in his self-reliance. He, if you didn’t know already, is incredibly independent. It has been important to my husband and I to allow him to wade through his life with a chance to fail and grow. No, we are not just bystanders letting our child run the show. Manners are not an option and there are tasks that he knows and must do everyday. We are actually pretty strict parents, but I am also calming down and realizing what I need to give up in order for him to gain his autonomy. So, in hopes of having a strong, well rounded, and experienced son — when it comes to the state of our home, please enter with caution.
First off, yes, there is toothpaste everywhere. If you see it in odd places, just let me know. It is so hard to allow a child to put their own toothpaste on the toothbrush. If someone invents a toothpaste dispenser that will not send out extra, please, send it my way. In the last two days, I have cleaned blue and white stains off the all the cupboards, the hardwood, the baseboard and the 7 month old. Yes, you can judge and say, “man, why can’t you keep your kid in the bathroom?” I’m not sure, I try. Maybe, he has seen his mom and dad run around the house getting ready for events and outings with their tooth brushes hanging out the corners of their mouths. Maybe. This is a mild problem and one day he will learn, and more and more blue stains will be in the sink; with less on the counter or floor. He does know where the toothpaste should be. I’m willing to wait it out and let him do it himself. At least he is brushing his teeth and enjoying it. I could also mention how he stresses each day that his hair is done like a dinosaur. I might get a chance to do it every now and then, but why not make him excited to do his own hair?
Next, look down when navigating his room. I swear, we clean it. We do. We constantly do. His quilt might be messy and hanging further on one side of the bed than the other. However, that is because he made his bed. I’m proud of that. I’m excited that he knows that; when he wakes up he makes his own bed. Yes, he cleans up his toys. But like most kids, every toy is more important than the next and each toy is key to the game. Hot Wheels and Army Men need to play together. Paw Patrol Pups play with Transformers. The floor is mine field of toys and we find our way through in order to maintain a cleaner living room, kitchen and hallway. There are books on the chair, on the bed and holding up the race track. Eventually, they will make their way back to the shelves and the bins. But I can sacrifice a few hours of mayhem in order to let him experience and learn. I have no problem leaving a fort up over the weekend. Why not play and explore from a new angle? I wish I could spend my Saturday in a fort. We grow up way too fast. Let kids enjoy their own space. He knows the toys stay in his room, or the basement, and that keeps the balance.
Do not expect as a guest that I will set the table with spoons as well as forks and knives. I know this is the way to do it. In our case, we do not have enough…I have looked everywhere. They are gone. I have come to accept that possibly, while allowing my son to independently clear his plates and bowls, some small spoons have been dropped in to the garbage. Yes, you might think this would be sad for me. I mean a wedding present that I can’t get back might be frustrating. Well, yes, it is. But who ultimately cares if you have all of the small spoons? Okay, me. But just don’t judge. We can use big spoons. I just wonder what else has made it to the trash and when I’ll need to use it.
You might notice the Costco boxes, extra papers and pipe-cleaners laying around. Just a heads up. Those are art. That is a robot, not a box. That is a butterfly antenna that he made and has been wearing around the house, not a pipe-cleaner. Those stickers on his door are buttons that run his space ship. That chip in the paint is where is robot broke down. I have come to accept this garbage is important. Those rocks you just stepped on are gems and money for his pirate ship. I’ll remind him they have a place, and too keep it tidy, but I’m not going to stop letting him dance around at his living room concert with a paper towel roll microphone. We’ll eventually throw stuff away and replace it with new treasures. I won’t stress though, life is short.
Overall, everyone likes a tidy home, and we do our best. Ultimately, I’d rather let a child learn than do it for them. If that means piles of clothes in the drawers and not folded ones, at least he knows what drawer pants go in and which one shirts go in. I’ll give him a break. He can learn to fold down the line.
Sadly, self- reliance also means we have less cutlery… who knew.