Why I let my children climb up the slide

You know when you go to a park, there’s always that kid who runs straight to the slide and starts climbing up it? Yeah, those are my kids.  They love to climb up slides, and I don’t try to stop them (unless someone else is about to come down, I don’t let my kids act like assholes).

It’s instinct. Slides are shiny and fun, and there are no repercussions if you make a mistake – if you slip on the way up, you just slide to the bottom, which is the eventual goal anyway.

I’ve heard some parents make passive-aggressive remarks to their children about it “I don’t know why that girl is climbing up the slide. We don’t do that,” and “Slides are for going down, I don’t know why that girl’s parents aren’t stopping her.”  Fortunately for them, I normally don’t respond to passive-aggressive remarks.  I tend to ignore those (but make an aggressive-aggressive remark, especially involving my children, and you will regret it).

Here’s why I think those parents are wrong: they are teaching their children there is only one way to do something.  You must follow the pattern, you cannot color outside the lines, you must go up the ladder if you want to go down the slide.  That’s great.  Their children will make wonderful office drones some day.

I’m kidding about the office drone thing.  But I really believe that we need to allow children to exercise their creativity and let them explore their world.  As adults, we know how (some) things work – we’ve had years to figure it all out.  We shouldn’t assume that our children have the same knowledge base that we do – they don’t have years of experience to rely upon, so for them there is not one way to do something.  They have to try different ways and figure it out.

Let your kid climb up the slide.  Let them approach the world differently.

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Things I guess I should have learned as a child

My child isn’t even close to her teenage years, but she already thinks I’m a colossal idiot.

Last year, when Wildling turned four, she got to participate in a ritual at her school, one in which the birthday child carries an earth and walks in a circle around a sun to symbolize turning another year older.  Later, when I was telling my mother-in-law about it, Kathy asked what the sun that they used was made out of, and since I didn’t know, I asked.  “Hey, Wildling,” I said, “What’s the sun made out of?”  She gave me a withering look, as though she could not believe she was even related to me, said “It’s a big ball of burning gas,” and turned back to her toys.

Tonight after dinner, Wildling announced that it was ‘Dessert time!!!!”  I hadn’t planned on serving anything for dessert and didn’t know what she was talking about, so I asked “What’s dessert?”  And she responded by explaining the concept of dessert.  Thanks, Wildling.

Be that trusted adult

When I was in elementary school, one of my friends told me about how her neighbor boy had forced her and her little sister to take their clothes off at knife-point.  The boy had told them that if they told their parents, he would kill them.  Years later I realized that the reason she had told me about it was so that I could tell someone.  I think she wanted me to tell my mom, so that my mom could talk to her mom and something could be done to protect her from this predatory boy.  Unfortunately, she didn’t know that I couldn’t tell my mother something like that.  When I was a child and told my mother something, her immediate response, no matter what, was to call me a liar.  It didn’t matter what it was.  I could tell her it was raining outside and she would dismiss it as ‘another one of [my] stories.’  Because of that I never had the confidence that she would listen to me, and I couldn’t approach her with such a serious issue.

As a freshman in high school, a friend of mine brought one of her friends to talk to me, telling her not to worry, that Melinda will know what to do.  That friend-of-a-friend told me that her step-father had been raping her.  I asked her if she had told her mother about it.  She had, and her mother accused her of lying.  She was looking for help, and I couldn’t give it, because if her own mother wouldn’t believe her, I didn’t know who to send her to.  I know now that I should have told a teacher, or encouraged her to do so, but I didn’t because I didn’t know what teachers would listen.  And again, I couldn’t go to my own parents for help.

As a senior in high school, a freshman girl told a friend and I that she was going to kill herself.  At that time I knew a little bit about suicide prevention, and I knew to ask her questions like did she have a plan (yes, to shoot herself), and did she have a weapon (yes, she had acquired a gun, I believe it belonged to a parent).  This time, I knew I had to do something – there was a life at stake.  My male friend and I decided the best thing to do would be to speak to the high school guidance counselors at lunch.  We figured we would hand the burden over to them and they would take care of it.  When he and I approached the lunch monitor and told him we needed to see the guidance counselor, the lunch monitored smirked at us, but let us go.  When we went to the guidance office we were again smirked at by the secretary, and, when we met with a counselor, she was all prepared with information for us on teen pregnancy.  Yes, that’s right, everyone assumed the reason we needed to see a guidance counselor together was clearly that my friend had knocked me up.  And those smirky self-righteous grown-ups were the people we were supposed to confide in.  Fortunately we did talk to the counselor about the actual reason we were there, and the freshman did not kill herself (though she did confront us later and yell at us for getting the gun taken away).

I don’t want my children or their friends to have those kinds of experiences. Wildling and I have discussed it before, and she knows what to do if someone tells her what we call ‘a bad secret.’  She knows that she should agree to keep it a secret and then tell me right away.  If someone threatens her and says that they’ll hurt her if she tells on them, she knows to promise that she won’t tell and then tell me so I can protect and help her. I talk to her about this now (without gory details of what those bad secrets could be) so that I can cement the idea in her head now, while she’s young and impressionable and still likes me, that her mama will be able to help.

I’m not speaking just for myself but for all parents out there: if we want to protect our children, we have to give them the confidence that we are willing and able to do so.  If we react by calling our children liars when they tell us something, they won’t trust us.  If we tell them that secrets are meant to be kept, they won’t know that they should share the bad ones.  This is the kind of thing that they need to learn when they are young, so that when they are older and the real bad stuff starts, they already have a foundation of confidence and trust.

I want to be the trusted grown-up.  I want to be the one that they come to when bad things happen, and I want them to have the confidence to know that I won’t dismiss them as liars and that I will help them.

Things keep getting better

It’s been just over a month since I gave up my office and started staying home with the kids.  In three weeks, pre-school starts again for Wildling.

I don’t really know how to evaluate my time at home.  I’m sleeping more, I’m now (as of a week ago) doing yoga everyday, so I think I’m getting healthier.  I let the kids sleep until they wake up on their own (6:45 for Mellow, usually 8:45 for Wildling), which I think is good for them.  We go to the library weekly and read a lot of books, so that’s good for their development (side note: Parents, the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems are actually funny – if you’re stuck reading the same thing over and over, choose one of those).

The house is gradually getting cleaner and less cluttered.  I have a goal of achieving a base level of cleanliness so that we just have to work on maintenance.  I think the secret to an actually clean house is getting the whole thing clean once and then afterwards just putting stuff away as you use it.  It’s hard to convey that to Wildling, who is so easily distracted and who believes as long as her messes are in different rooms she doesn’t have to clean them up (but Mama, I’m working out here now, so I don’t have to clean the bedroom). We haven’t achieved that base yet, but we’re getting there.

I have been making our bed everyday.  It sounds kind of weird to me, because I’ve always been one of those people who figures I’m going to sleep in the same place and in the same sheets that night, so why bother?  Then I read a couple of articles talking about cleanliness and the habits of successful people, and making the bed kept getting mentioned, so I figured I’d try it.  It turns out that I like it.  It makes the room look neater and better put together.  It’s nice to go in at night and feel like I’m entering a clean and relaxing space.  Plus, it turns out it takes less than two minutes to do.

Wildling and I have been doing art projects.  We painted a bunch of rocks for our fairy village project, which is unfortunately stalled while we look for the perfect clay pots to house the village.  We’ve painted and colored and drawn things and made objects out of perler beads (warning: those things scatter all over the place if you leave them within reach of an inquisitive toddler).  Will and Wildling did a crystal growing experiment, and this week we’re going to tie-dye some shirts. It’s been fun.  She calls herself an artist, and I want to encourage that because I love to see her express her creativity.

Pre-school starts again on the 19th, so things are going to change around here again.  I don’t know what to expect.  I don’t know how much I’ll be able to get done for myself, and I don’t know how Mellow is going to react to not having her sister to play with all day.  It should be interesting.