Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let them be little

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.


Kinsleys4 said...

I agree with you to a point, but with an exception, as I'm starting to deal with this with Madison. I think you're right that when it's possible to let them take their extra 5 minutes to let them explore and do it at their own pace vs. nagging. We're at the point with Madison that, though she will come if you call her, she takes her sweet time & sometimes detours. She smiles & thinks she did a great job b/c, though she detoured, hey here she was, she came. She's not even 2, I know. The problem is, though, that I've had several close calls in the parking lot when she decides to take off or detour. Thankfully the cars aren't driving too fast, but because she hasn't yet learned that when I say 'come', it means to do it immediately every time - not when she in her little less-than-2-year-old mind thinks she should - it could be extremely hazardous for her. I guess it's a fine line between choosing your battles and enforcing obedience without question for their own good.

Laura said...

I actually did use that sond to Logan's 1st year montage - yeah, it's country, but the words were so perfect.

Yes - a great lesson and one that is good to remember - I am guilty of hurry up lifestyle when I should stop a little not be in such a rush to have these precious days gone so quicky.

Jana Green said...

Totally agree with you. I agree with the Kinsley four too. But you have to weigh their motives. Sounds like Lana wasn't wanting to make the whole family wait, she just wanted control. There's a slight difference in that and what her daughter was doing.

I am reallllly trying to get this point (let them be little) across to my husband. He thinks "Jakob needs to know..."(not to touch, do that, etc.)

I'm like, he's fourteen months old.... He's doing what God designed him to do. So what if we have to turn the tv back on. eventually that won't be fun for him anymore. And we're almost waisting our breath anyway, because his brain just isn't ready to be able to control his impulses yet.

Ok....sorry about that tangent.

DJ said...

I love this post and this sentiment - I sometimes find myself turning into the screaming harridan that my mother was, always rushing the kids from one mundane task to another with no humour and no care for their feelings. About time I stood back and gave myself a reality check!

Doré said...

I've done a few slideshows with Let them Be Little and they turned out great! I love that song and it is so true!

Michelle M. said...

I wish I had more patience because my 3 1/2 year old son tends to take him time whenever I am in a hurry. I think I continually need to pray for patience :)

Momma Miller said...

Excellent post, Niecey. I've been having to work hard on my patience lately. We are also a non-punitive family, but at times I get upset and will yell or do some other threatening type of thing that brings fear-induced compliance. It's a quick fix. Then I feel icky later. I want my children to comply out of love and obey out of respect and trust--because they see that I respect them as individuals equally. I feel the same way about the reasons I want them to love the Lord--out of sheer love and devotion and NOT primarily out of fear.

Boy it sure is a hard line to walk at times. I find that as a non-punitive mother I have to be more hands-on, more right-there-when-there's-danger when they're little, and to not ever place my children in a situation where I cannot act quickly enough to protect them. We have to have a pre-talk before we do anything--to go over rules (and the REASONS for rules) and expectations. I've become very quick to discover natural consequences so that the results of a dangerous choice make absolute sense--even to a 2 year old. If I used fear or threats, getting the behavior I desired would be easier when they were younger. But like you, I'm looking at the long-term and these early years are so vital for their little minds and self-esteem. I'm raising up someone who will soon be another adult. It's such a huge responsibility and there are days when I do not feel up to the challenge.

Thank you for your sweet posts (and your comments on my blog) over child-rearing. It's nice to know I'm not alone when I face those difficult choices. Parenting is work. REAL work, most days. :)


~Shaye (Momma Miller)

Al said...

Holy crap, I think I'm going to bookmark this blog post it and read it every morning. I need this advice; this perspective.

I try as hard as I can to be patient, but with our little baby around now I've noticed myself slipping. I promised myself I'd never be the parent who says "because I said so" and I still have technically lived up to my promise, but so much of the sentiment of how I get Anna to do things has that same feel to it. "Hurry up and just do it because I want you to do it and do it now."

You're absolutely right. Parents make more problems for themselves than they need to. I'm so guilty of this with Anna and dammit, I think your post maybe just made me realize that.