If you’re a parent on social media you’ve probably seen those articles or blog posts that are meant to tug at your heart strings. The ones that say, “the dishes can wait, your children can’t.” They implore you to relish every moment of your precious children’s life because they grow up so quickly.
And it is precious. And they do.
I’m here to say – close that article, get off social media and go do those darn dishes, they won’t do themselves.
The children are alright. They really are.
See, when my boys were little, those posts DID tug at my already tender heart strings. But seriously, life must go on. I don’t like eating off the floor. Or wearing the same clothes for a month. Or letting my garden to turn into a jungle.
It’s ok to take care of the things that need to be taken care of. But more importantly, by shirking your responsibilities you’re not doing your children a favour.
If nothing else, by entertaining them all day you are not giving them a chance to be bored. And you’re not giving them the opportunity to learn how to entertain themselves.
But here’s what I’m getting at: bored kids are creative kids. Sure, it may take an hour or two of whinging and moaning but here’s what you do: you offer them the wonderful opportunity to help you with those darned dishes (which is actually a great opportunity for connection and teaching responsibility) or the freedom to choose whatever they like. Guess what they’ll choose?
And here’s an important point: don’t beat yourself up offering them ideas of what to do as soon as they can’t figure out what “whatever they like” is. That’s their responsibility, not yours. They’ll get used to it in time.
Even better, minimise the number of toys they have access to, because toys do not foster imagination. Too many toys can cause overwhelm and decision fatigue. KISS – Keep It Simple, Sweeheart. If they are younger, keep them in the same room, or a safe playroom nearby. As they get older it may be in the garden. (As a side note, my boys have lived in an old house with a separate kitchen since babies – no open-plan house here – so I’ve always had no choice but to leave them play independently nearby but out of direct sight while I cook, OR involve them in the kitchen – and it continues to this day.)
So, it’s a win-win situation. They get to flex their imaginations, you get your dishes done (or your work or your nails, whatever the case maybe), they see you modelling being all responsible and you get some peace for a few minutes.
I’m not talking all day every day, but start with an hour or so and build from there, and then set aside some time later on to reconnect with them, because connection IS important. In fact, this all works better if you connect with them before you send them out into the giddy world of freedom but as they get older, they will not need it as much and they might even get up and make their own breakfast* and then read books or make up stories about dragons and knights while you blissfully sleep in (trust me, it can happen!)
It’s all about balance.
Remember, just a generation or two ago, children practically raised themselves. Their parents didn’t even know where they were half the time, me included. We don’t have to go that far but we can trust our children to play by themselves for a while.
Let them be bored and you may see something beautiful happen… without the need to eat off paper plates for a month.
*Tip: A lesson I learned from Maria Montessori: have a cupboard in your kitchen that’s easy to reach with bowls, spoons, cereal, etc. and they can make their own breakfast from quite a young age.