Thursday, December 31, 2009

Not Every Independent Act Turns out Well

Giving our children the freedom to do things on their own (age-appropriate things!), doesn't always turn out as well as we would like. As much as I would like to believe that I have the ability to shield my children from all danger, I do not. Sometimes they do things on their own that don't turn out quite as expected. They might even be hurt. I have no desire to put my children in a position to be hurt, but I also try not to freak out when it happens. So, here's my story.

Not long ago I was on a trip with my girls. On the way home, I stopped to get gasoline. The pump was running very slowly for some reason and I needed something from the convenience store. I told my girls to stay in the car (this is important – I did not give my youngest permission to get out of the car) and that I would be right back. When I returned about 5 minutes later, there was a smell of gasoline on the car and my six-year-old daughter was screaming in the car. I opened the door and saw her throwing water in her face from a water bottle in the car. She was completely soaked.

After I left the car, she had decided to finish pumping the gasoline for me. My husband had been letting her help him a couple of times, which she loved. So, she decided that she could help me out. Unfortunately, pumping gas is a little beyond her ability to do alone and she ended up spraying herself with gasoline and her eyes were burning. We were lucky enough that an ambulance was getting gas at our same pump, so I asked them for assistance and they were quickly able to flush her eyes. She changed her clothes and we were on our way – being careful to stay away from any lit matches or anyone smoking.

Did I freak? No. Did I have a moment of panic? Yes. But, my moment of panic quickly turned into a moment of pride realizing that even though my daughter had made a terrible mistake, she had also reacted completely appropriately by getting the water into her eyes. I was really amazed that at six, she had the presence of mind to take the most appropriate next step to wash the gasoline from her eyes.

Don't get me wrong, we were incredibly lucky that the ambulance was there and this incident was over quickly without anything worse happening. My daughter exercised poor judgment and disobeyed me, but she did it in a spirit of trying to be helpful and she suffered the consequences. She hasn't asked lately to even help pump gas and it will probably be a long time before she is interested in doing it again. And, she will think twice the next time she tries something a little bit dangerous.

My Daughter Cooks

My oldest daughter did the most amazing thing the other day. I had taken my youngest daughter to ride horses and left my older two at home and on the way back I called them and asked what they wanted for dinner. We had a church activity to attend and were going to have to fix and eat dinner rather quickly. My eight-year-old said, "I can do dinner, Mom." I responded that she could certainly help when I got home. That was the end of the conversation and I was then thinking of the things I could cook that she could help with.

Imagine my surprise when I walked in the door and she announced that dinner was ready. The table was set, cooked scrambled eggs and ramen were on the table and she had a pot on to boil to cook green peas. She had done it all on her own. I'll admit that my first thought was worry about her doing it all unsupervised, but I looked at the table and the kitchen and was just proud that she had done it all on her own. The truly amazing part was that the table was completely set. Do you think she will set the table without complaint if I ask her and I'm cooking dinner? No way! But, when she was in charge, she did it all willingly.

In my experience, every new task my children undertake alone makes my heart skip a little beat as I imagine all the "what ifs". But, I truly believe that my job as a parent is to facilitate independence. And, I feel a great deal of pride in my children every time they are successful as doing something new on their own. This was a good day and she has since cooked even more.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Fun

This picture illustrates Christmas fun for me. This is my family on Christmas Eve. My children, their cousins, my sister, brother, and brother-in-law in the water. There were 30 of us together for Christmas in Texas and about half (and all the kids over 5) decided to get into the pool and hot tub despite the snowy weather. The water was heated, but not too terribly much because the previous day it had been 75 degrees and the heater hadn't been on.

As a mom, this is also how I love to parent. Our kids were dying to swim in my sister's pool. We weren't at all sure it was a good idea, especially when we lost electricity for an hour and the pool heater stopped heating. But the water warmed to a reasonable temperature and we let them all go. Thank goodness a few adults were willing to get wet with them (not me this time)!

How many years from now do you think they'll remember and talk about this Christmas Eve? It was definitely not traditional, but my sister has already moved out of this house with the pool, so we knew getting in the pool wouldn't be an option again.

Being together as family is about building relationships and creating memories. The relationship part my kids have to do on their own, but I can help create some fun memories. It doesn't always mean anything way out there, but it does mean looking for opportunities for things different from the normal routine.

There are a few family memories we still talk about. What does your family remember when you get together?