Ok, I have to take a break from the vacation stuff, just for today, because it’s spring break and my kids are off for the week and well, they are my kids, which means endless things to blog about it. Today, it’s worms in first son’s bedroom. Simply wonderful!You see this face? This is the face of a boy who just informed me that three of the four worms that were in his room are missing? He is holding one of them. To which I said, “Why are there worms in your room?” To which he said, “I didn’t want them to get eaten.” This from the boy who was dissecting worms yesterday.
Suddenly, the whole morning made sense, first son skulking around like the cat that ate the canary. Weird questions like, “Do birds eat worms?” Which didn’t seem weird at the time since they were all consumed with worms yesterday. But, I knew something wasn’t right. I thought maybe first son didn’t feel well, he has a habit of playing coy when he’s sick, but no, that wasn’t it at all. He was bursting at the seams to tell me about the four worms he rescued from outside, that somehow, “skedaddle” off his dresser into the sunset. He claims to have found two of them, I only saw him with one. I found the third after a thorough search of his dresser drawers. Number four, though, I guess he’s moving in, because as first son put it, he must be a “fast one.” Great.
I’m not sure how I feel about a worm wiggling its way around first son’s room. Is a worm one of those creatures that can reproduce on their own? Because I don’t need a worm family living up there. But, after my whole respect God’s creatures speech (which by the way does not apply to any insect or wild creature found in my home) which I gave after watching said dissecting of worms, I’m partially to blame for the worm’s new home.
Let me tell you how this all came to happen. You see, I am big believer that kids should be kids. They should play outside, in the dirt, ride bikes and use their imagination. The only problem with my beliefs is that they have to compete with my fears, my worrying side, the side that believes if I let my guard down for one second something terrible will happen. I hate that side, but it exists, spawned by an active imagination, a love of reading, twenty-four hour news channels and the internet. Living in fear is no way to live, yet, I do. There are real fears, like first son could eat a nut and die, and then there are other fears, that I suppose are real too, but are very unlikely to happen, like a shark dragging first son off into the Gulf of Mexico, dry drowning (yea, look that one up), or one of my brood swallowing a battery. There is the fear that my kids will get snatched from their bikes by some deranged stranger, lost forever, as they turn the corner, way ahead of me, while out for a walk. And of course, the fear that they will befall some sort of tragedy at the hands of the stranger that they do know, like a priest or teacher. There’s the fear that they are being inundated by chemicals and medicines and vaccines, and then there’s the fear that they will die if I don’t give them those same medicines and vaccines. There’s the fear that I’m raising serial killers (supported by the way they treated those poor worms) and the fear that they will be killed by some gun toting school kid. It’s enough to make me want to crawl in a hole and hide, provided that hole is clean and safety inspected first.
I also find it interesting that this subject has been appearing on the news lately, because for a while now, my sister and I have been talking about our irrational fears, mourning the loss of neighborhood play, and our sometimes misguided desire to make everything ok for our children. I truly believe hyper focusing on children can be just as crippling as the parent who doesn’t give a crap. There has to be some middle ground. I also don’t believe that we are the only two parents that feel this way, and inevitably have asked the question, if other people feel the same way we do, why aren’t things changing? Yet, even as I ask this question, I’m still not letting my seven year old walk around the block (out of my vision) to ask the neighborhood kid to play. I want to change, I really do, but there’s always the looming fear of what if?
Still, I’m trying. I don’t know if it’s having more kids, or getting older, or the fact that I safely enjoyed considerable freedom as a child that has spurred this change in me, but I’m starting to see the absurdity in how we treat children today. And, I’m especially struck by the absurdity of all the attachment type parenting I did, and how much trouble and sleepless nights I could have saved myself had I just let a kid cry, or occupy themselves, or learn to wait. Maybe, had I done those things, I wouldn’t be so annoyed with my children, who using their best manners, run me like a waitress for a good half hour every morning attending to their every need. More juice, please. More syrup, please. Another waffle, please. A straw, please. More ice, please. Like the child who uses the expression excuse me until your ready to strangle him or her, please has begun to grate on my nerves like no other.
So, I’m trying to let go a little. Trying to be a little free range like. I’ve been taking baby steps for a while now. It sort of started after first son was diagnosed with a food allergy. I thought I had been doing everything right for him, spaced his vaccines, fed him organic food, attended to his every need, until the point that I was excited when he finally pushed himself up (just lifting his chest off the floor) at close to ten months. I should have been alarmed that we had carried him so much that he needed to do nothing for himself, but that thought never occurred to me. I nursed him well into his first year of life, never let him cry it out until he was fifteen months old and I was desperate and alone (my husband had already relocated to Florida before we had settled on a house). Guess what? He cried himself silly for hours for one night, and then never again. Which only left me wondering why I had waited so long? Maybe he was just a highly attuned infant, or whatever crap experts try, and did, feed me, the operative word being whatever! And for all my efforts, what was my payoff? A life threatening food allergy and asthma. So, with second son, I was way more liberal. Suddenly, dirty puddles and sand weren’t so taboo anymore, and little lady, well, I hardly ever wash her hands. Here’s the crazy part, second son still has terrible eczema and is starting to develop seasonal allergies, and I’m pretty sure little lady is on her way to becoming an asthmatic as well. Ha! You thought I was going to say that nothing is wrong with them, didn’t you? I wish I could. My point is, parenting is not a science and no one really has all the right or wrong answers, despite what books like “The Happiest Toddler on the Block”, and “The No-Cry Sleep Solution” try and tell you.
I could go on and on on this subject and I’m sure I will revisit it many times on this blog, but for now, back to the worms. Where I would have scrubbed first son down if his big toe happened to land in a little bit of mud, I now smile upon mud play. So, when my kids, inspired by Curious George, announced that they were going to have worm races yesterday, I was actually happy. Worm races kept my brood fully occupied outside for over and hour. They happily dug and I happily made dinner, in peace, as they played in my (fenced in) back yard. Who knew this would cause a new found affinity for worms? Certainly, not me, who hates all things creepy, crawly and slimy, but lo and behold it did. And now, little “speedy,” rescued from certain death at the hands of some crazed bird, is sure to find certain death stuck in the in vast region of first son’s wall to wall carpeting. Happy Tuesday! Go play in some mud!