Monday, June 6, 2011

Permission to play

I don’t want to jinx it, but my kids have really been behaving well. Shhhh, I know, don’t say it out loud. But seriously, we’re talking an hour of happy playtime together at a stretch. Minimal fighting most days. It’s crazy, and totally amazing. Maybe it’s our new marble jar reward system, or maybe I am finally over the terrible threes and into that delightful phase that is the four-year-old. They listen. They say, “Thank you for having us,” when we leave someone’s house. They sit and eat (well, sometimes), and stay in bed until their stop light clock turns green. They ask permission before touching my makeup or dumping out the laundry baskets. When they want to go out in the pool, or play one of the games on the top shelf, they ask me, without even a hint of whining, and often tack an unprompted “please” on the end. Occasionally, I even get a “thank you,” or an “I love you.” It has been ludicrously fantastically friggin’ awesome.

Even better, they have been so sweet to one another that sometimes I feel like my heart might actually explode. Thing 1 will do a drawing or painting, and Thing 2 will say, “Oh, wow, that’s beautiful. I’m so proud of you.” Thing 2 will want one of Thing 1’s toys, and Thing 1 will say, “OK, here ya go. Let’s play together.” I mean, really? REALLY? After a year or so of “That’s mine!” followed by screams and tattling and hitting or pinching, I can’t believe the tide could turn so quickly.

So here is my question. I’ve spent the last year pretty much as full-time mediator and referee. My job description is clearly changing, but into what? Stretching out in front of me is a whole summer free of commitments. No preschool. No ballet. I haven’t signed them up for princess camp or soccer or anything. I guess what I want is permission to just let the little buggers play. I mean, Thing 2 can’t really write his name yet. I guess we could work on that. There’s always phonics, or early math concepts. They’re doing well in both areas, but could probably be reading simple words by the end of the summer if I really focused on that as a goal.

But I kind of don’t want to. I want to let them swim while I read a novel. I want to listen to their delightful Thomas-the-train banter while I write a blog entry. I want to take them strawberry picking, and make banana bread together, and go to the aquarium, and watercolor paint as a family. I want to take them to see their cousins, spend the day with their buddies, or drive up to New Jersey so they can see where Mimom and Poppie live. I basically want to screw around all summer. Is that OK?

It feels a little too easy. This twin parenting gig has been the most wonderful job I have ever had, but it’s been hard. Like, really really hard. Collapse on the couch into unconsciousness as soon as my husband walks through the door hard. Use all of my zen to keep from screaming my head off hard. Is it allowed to be easier for a little while? I found the energy inside me somewhere, in a deep still pool I didn’t know was there. I found the energy to get 3-4 hours of sleep a night for 6 months. And then to deal with a baby who needed surgery. And then to wrangle two kids who could walk in opposite directions, and then run in opposite directions, and then run faster than I can run in flip-flops. And then defiance, and fighting, and hitting, and testing. And more fighting. And then preschool, and worries about whether or not my kid was OK. Oh, and did I mention the fighting? I found the secret extra love and power reserve inside that enabled me to deal with all of those things with more grace than I would have predicted. Am I allowed to let go of this death grip on zen for a while, and just let my kids play?

I have been using every drop of energy I have, and some I didn’t think I had, just to be a reasonably good mom for the last nearly four years. It feels weird to have anything left. I know I’ll need that extra energy again. There are plenty of challenges on my horizon that will make the non-stop fighting of the past year look like a cake-walk. I know that. But for now... for now... can I just let it go?


  1. Yes you can. I grant you permission

    As a friend of mine said when as a new parent eager to do things right I brought up the "Your Baby can Read" learning system in conversation

    "Yes, maybe they can read - but why the hell should they? They are babies - there's plenty of time for them to read". I say let them play, let them run up the slide and enjoy summer (and beyond) with their mom & dad.

  2. As a former Pre-K teacher of many years, I say YES, YES, YES! Let them play and explore and just be themselves to their hearts content. They'll be plenty of time as they get older for schedules, lessons, groups and stress. I so agree with Donielle ~ let them enjoy their mom and dad now, while the living is easy! Happy, happy summer, Pam!