The Parents’ Playground Rule

This past weekend, my older daughter had a party for her 9th birthday. The guest list was a core group of four boys whose friendship dates back to preschool and kindergarten.  And her six year old sister.

The party was at Northern Lights Rock & Ice — an outdoor climbing, challenge, adventure site.  The kids had a blast crossing a ropes course that was about 50 feet in the air. It was not easy and it was a cold day with the wind blowing in their faces.  For several activities they had to work together to cross moving obstacles (50 feet in the air).

My dh & I were on the ground watching.  Knowing these children well, we enjoyed observing their relationship dynamics.  I heard one child call another a “moron” and I heard another encourage the group to work together. I saw one extend a hand and another back down.  But then, I saw trouble.

It was my six year old. I must have looked very small from up there.  I saw her get tears in her eyes.  My husband began to attempt communication.  “Quick,” I said, “turn with me so our backs are to them. If she doesn’t make eye contact, chances are she’ll work it out!”

Now this might seem cruel, but parents who spend their afternoons on the school playground know this to be true.  As long as you know the company they keep is not likely to inflict any emotional or physical damage, it is best to let the schoolchildren work these things out. We enlightened parents refer to this as the Parents’ Playground Rule (PPR).

I listened to the instructor say he was taking my 6-yr old and two others down from the ropes.  I decided at this point to walk away and go set up cake to get away.  There is something about the power of “mother” that can turn a child to mush faster than a summer’s day does to ice cream.

When I returned, my little one had actually pulled herself together, found her inner dangergirl, and crossed the scary “pipe dreams” after all.  You Go Girl!!

In the end, they all finished with a fun ride down a very long (450 foot) zip line.  They all were flying high with confidence!  This is proof that the PPR works. I’m incredibly proud of all these kids. I’m especially proud of the youngest — mine — who persevered through her own fears, and came out ten feet tall. And I’m proud we parents didn’t insert ourselves only to muck it up!

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Recycling Art & The Little Bits of Everything

I used to be a saver. Ok, I still save some things. I have buried deep in the basement letters from my tween years through my courting days with my husband.  And some stuff I inherited from now deceased relatives which was already neatly packed in their house and I just moved it into mine intact.  But since having kids, I am constantly trying to throw things out.  Sometimes I have to be sneaky about it.

Recently, I stumbled upon my old business cards.  Now these would have moved here in their box from the office desk to the moving box to the home desk drawer without thinking.  Yesterday, while in a lather looking for tax documents, I found them and immediately pitched them. I didn’t really even think twice about it.  I did note that I was glad it didn’t bother me to toss them and did think that I could save them for my kids to play with, but I knew if I saved them, I would find them all over the house used in any wide range of new ways.  Today, Russ put them in the recycling bin as a part of our regular Saturday “trash roundup”.

Now my children love to save and create stuff. It really starts in preschool where they make any wide range of “recycling art” and it comes home for Mama to admire their trash creations of the day.  In elementary school it continues. The kindergarten teacher requests parents to bring in small recycling objects.  My youngest, Katie, is so well behaved that while each child has only one official day at the “creation station” she gets to go almost every day.  The result of course is that I am greeted by someone’s trash repurposed as art at least three days a week.

Don’t get me wrong. I really do appreciate the creative exercise my children get from this. And I love that they get to play and be imaginative without it costing more than my annual costco purchase of scotch tape.    What I do mind is how these recycling art projects result in little bits of everything everywhere.  There are typically two results of all this creativity:

Situation #1:  “Mom, I “gave” you that! You can’t throw it away!” Ah yes, so what am I to do with this “parking garage” constructed of someone’s d’animals yogurt container (not recyclable, btw), a coffee filter (clean), a toothpaste box (mine that I had donated now returned to me), and random small pieces of string.  So, I save it. I display it for as long as I can tolerate.  About four days.  Then it disappears.

Situation #2:  “Mom, I’m still using that!” The “creations” that are not gifted are co-opted into play.  So, the d’animals container (YUCK, btw) taped to a cereal box with mini-champagne flutes (like from a party favor) become part of a game with stuffed animals.  Now, the trash project, is in my family room with the animals, the blocks and the car garage (made of recyled boxes).  Or the bedroom walls are decorated with their “art”.

Today  my children have been playing so nicely together.  I love it when they are in that good groove where they play imaginative games.  They started with matchbox cars before I awoke and then took it outside and then came back in with a handful of recycling from the bins in the garage.

What did they come in with? My business cards!  They are now being used as “credit cards” for their game of shopping.  Strewn across the breakfast bar is all the cardboard contents of my recycling bin, tape, scissors, and my business cards.  The really great news is that I no longer have any emotional attachment to those cards, so at least I don’t have an emotional response to them. It’s all the same clutter to me.

I haven’t been up in their bedrooms yet, but I can almost guarantee you there are at least 2 cartons of eggs in at least 4 pieces.  The business cards might be up there too.  I think I’ll go check!

Alas…

Why?

I started a blog earlier this year entitled “Tales of a Flatlander” about my experiences living in Vermont as a southern ex-pat.  I’ve so enjoyed writing that blog I decided to start another, in part because I found many of my posts were drifting toward life as a mother and the challenges and humor associated with parenting and I didn’t want them to dilute the focus of my other blog.

So today is day one of Are We There Yet?  I figure the title covers the familiar refrain of children worldwide as they travel with family to one place or another.  For my family, we travel enough that they don’t often ask that question, however, as parents, we often wonder if we are there yet, where “there” is either the next phase in our child’s development or the next phase in our adult life as parents.

I often write of our life as a great adventure.  Parenting is the greatest adventure of all. Where yesterday is no particular indicator of today and today cannot accurately predict where tomorrow will go.

Together, we can travel on this journey and decide “are we there yet?” at each turn!