I'm totally planning on making a slideshow to that song. It's unfortunately a Country song, but the words are precious.
Please, let them be little,
'Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give them hope, give them praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let 'em sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little.
We were leaving the park on Thursday, and it was pretty late in the evening. We had been at a potluck and it was long over. We had stayed later because Kaya found some guy's cell phone and Rene called the guy who was traveling across town to come collect it. It seemed to take a long time so when we were finally heading home, it was getting dark. I was also seriously sleep deprived, I had had 2 nights in a row of 2 hours sleep and was very keen to get home early to get to bed.
We packed up and started shuffling the kids towards the car. Rene was buckling in Kaya and Zoe, but Lana was still at the swings, putting on her shoes verrrry slowly. I started to get frustrated. I started to nag, "Lana, come ON, we have to leave now!" Because she's just like me, this made her want to slow down even more. She played with the stones and the sand, looked up at the trees, then wiggled her foot in her shoe a little, then took her foot back out and played with the stones, then started on her shoe a little again. By now everyone else is buckled in their car seats, waiting. I wondered to myself why she was misbehaving and I started contemplating what I could threaten her with to make her comply.
Then I stopped myself. Which I should do more often. And thought - hold on for a sec - is she *really* misbehaving? She's 4 years old. She's had a fun day at the park. She isn't sure exactly where we are taking her next or how the rest of the night will pan out - she won't have much control over that. We *all* feel the need to have control over our lives. Lana gets very insecure and scared when she doesn't know what's happening to her and feels out of control. Right now, she was in the drivers seat, and it felt comforting to her. She could decide her own pace and feel that she had control as she headed to the car. She *was* going to the car, just extremely slowly.
So it might take an extra 5 minutes if I just stand and wait. If I get mad at her now and threaten her or ground her etc we'd have the following negative outcomes:
She'll cry (possibly all the way home)
I'll get more upset
I'll feel guilty
She'll feel like she doesn't have control over anything in life, like a puppet (I feel the same way, like institutionalized. She's just like me)
That insecurity will develop into bitterness and we'll probably have more acting out later in the evening which I'll also have to deal with
Her spirit will be a little crushed, her flame slightly less bright. Maybe not enough to notice, but it builds up over time.
And the positive outcomes?
I'll be home 5 minutes earlier.
I placed them on my imaginary scales and it just made more sense to stand patiently and let her take her sweet time to walk back to the car. And she did. She took her time, and she walked back to the car. And she was happy and content. And so was I.
Sometimes we make more problems for ourselves as parents, than we need to. I am guilty of it. Sometimes we need to just remember to let them be little. Run things through the "so what" test before we make a big deal about it. Is this really a battle I want to enter into? Will this actually benefit my child to "learn a lesson" that you're not allowed to walk slowly back to cars? I expect the family to wait for me often, while I take my time over something. Lana is a valid and important member of the family, and I don't see why we shouldn't wait for her, if it's important to her to go a little slowly while she gets some closure on her adventures that evening. I think she'll learn lessons about being a valued member of a team as well as lessons in patience (through modeling) by waiting and letting her be Lana. Little Lana.