“Just Leave Them Alone”
A friend of mine posted this on Facebook a few weeks ago and I read it, rejected most of it off-hand as semi neglectful, but I have to admit, I keep coming back to it. I’ve probably read it 50 times since she posted it, and it sounds less and less awful every time I read it. Dare I say at this point that it sounds like wonderful parenting advice?
Going hand-in-hand with the Imagination post I made a few days ago, that article has some sound theory. I’m sitting here watching my kids play Legos on the living room rug. There’s no TV on, no music on and neither child has asked to have either of those things turned on. They, like me, are simply enjoying “being” here. Now. With each other.
When someone calls my house and asks what I am doing, the answer is often “nothing”. That’s not entirely true. I am almost always watching my kids, or listening to them if they’re outside. I have noticed that when they’re outside lately, there will be long stretches of time when I can’t hear them. I’ve gone from being slightly freaked out by that to reveling in the fact that they can entertain themselves for that long, without making a ton of noise. When I peek out at them, it’s a game or a scenario that they’re playing. It’s just so neat! And this is without the interference of parental involvement.
I think what turned me off about the article initially was that it makes a parent who follows such a way seem lazy. I don’t like lazy parents. Parents who are too busy with their own thing (even if that things is just watching TV) to be bothered with their kids. I think there’s a balance that needs to be struck between letting your kids have the freedom to do their own thing and being unwilling to interact with them because you don’t have time for them. The article really doesn’t address that. It’s probably meant to be a bit tongue in cheek, and that’s fine, but I can’t help but feel like there’s some lazy mom or dad out there reading it and using that as justification for being a crappy parent.
I can see the value in leaving them alone and not having every entertainment be parent-directed. I never wanted to be one of those over-scheduled moms, shuffling kids back and forth to lessons that they don’t need to learn how to do things they don’t enjoy. We did tae kwon do one year and dance another, and though it wasn’t a huge imposition on our time, they didn’t enjoy it enough for us to stick with it, and there’s nothing right now that sparks their interest enough for me to manage classes either. I do want them to take piano at some point, but that can come later. I told my husband that with all the money we’re saving by not having the kids in classes, I am going to take the classes I want to take – probably a better use of our money and make me less inclined to ‘want’ them in classes that they aren’t interested in, too!
So here’s the manifesto… my comments are alongside in parentheses.
Manifesto of the idle parent
We reject the idea that parenting requires hard work (sorta… it requires effort, which is not always the same as hard work)
We pledge to leave our children alone (for the most part…)
That should mean that they leave us alone, too (with child-to-child issues, certainly. Letting them hash out their own problems is good for them. But there are times when they just NEED Mom or Dad’s attention, and not because they’re hungry or hurt, but because they genuinely need some of Mom or Dad’s attention. And when they do, they should have it, without reservation when they’re tiny and according to their ability to understand and wait as they age.)
We reject the rampant consumerism that invades children from the moment they are born (yes, I wholeheartedly agree!)
We read them poetry and fantastic stories without morals (yes, yes, yes!)
We drink alcohol without guilt (Occasionally, and let the kids have a sip now and then, too. Pretend you’re French or Italian and don’t be so damn puritanical!)
We reject the inner Puritan (This is why that word was stuck in my head, lol – yes – talk to the kids about life as it is, not as we were raised to think of it. Life is GOOD and full of pleasures that should be enjoyed to the fullest. Don’t deny them because someone else says you shouldn’t)
We fill the house with music and laughter (and love and life and peace and rambunctiousness and worn comfy furniture and tons of books and art supplies and good food and yummy smells…)
We don’t waste money on family days out and holidays (It’s not the big vacations that count. It’s small things like going out to a family fun night every week or making a special project that create lasting memories of childhood. No one big vacay to Disney will make up for not being present and involved every day.)
We lie in bed for as long as possible (sometimes with the kids, all snuggled up in a big puppy pile…)
We try not to interfere (but are every watchful over our young brood)
We push them into the garden and shut the door so that we can clean the house (daily)
We both work as little as possible, particularly when the kids are small (definitely)
Time is more important than money (undoubtedly)
Happy mess is better than miserable tidiness (truer words were never spoken… though a neat and orderly house does tend to lend itself more to creativity because things are easily accessible and handy. Nothing stifles creativity than having to wait until the supplies can be located.)
Down with school (more and more, yes…. though I am enjoying homeschool immensely)
We fill the house with music and merriment (or peace and quiet – whichever strikes your fancy and mood at the time.)
So that’s my thoughts on that