Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This week it was a hatchet.

This week it was a hatchet. When my now 5 year old was about 2 it was knives. I would wake up after nursing the baby and come out to find my then 2 year old chasing my then 8 year old around the house with a sharp knife way too often. Recently, the baby (now 3) has developed a fascination with scissors. Not the kid scissors, but the very sharp adult ones. We have holes in sheets and a few of the tabs in my 12 year old's notebook are snipped off. I don't even know what important documents have been cut up to bits. The 5 year old even got in on that fun and snipped off the erasers of about twenty pencils. Their plastic swords spend a lot of time on the top shelf of a closet as a result of their pirate play getting a bit too, well piratey. And their time wrestling always ends in yelling, yet they beg me to let them wrestle. I have 3 boys and this is my life. 

On most days I feel like I'm going to have a stroke soon. But every now and then I have a moment to sit back and watch my boys be boys, and I love it. Like the day that they found a hatchet that was left in the yard (thank you 12 year old).  I was hanging clothes while my two little ones were out by the back fence digging and exploring. I looked up and saw the youngest hitting something, as if he was cutting up firewood with an ax. I had no idea what he was hitting or what he was using, so I squinted until I made out the shiny head of the hatchet. No, I did not throw my laundry down and bolt to him. This is the third boy after all. Instead I hollered "Stop playing with that hatchet!" And of course the reply was not obedience, but "Why?" So I replied "Bring me that hatchet or I'm going to spank you!" So my chubby little 3 year old comes running to me with a hatchet. I told him to walk and when he handed me the hatchet he still had no idea why he could not play with this fun toy. I explained that it was sharp and hard and heavy and that he would have to wait a few years to use tools like that. He said ok and ran off to go dig and explore some more. As I continued to hang laundry and watch them, I thought about how uninhibited they are. I watched them dig and find bugs and build with twigs and pictured them as farmers or builders or scientists or just men who work hard. I know this exploring and chopping things and getting dirty will help them become strong men one day. 

Our wall art
But this was not the case with my oldest. He was an only child for 6 years. I was right by his side. He would not have been by our back fence playing with I don't know what and he certainly would not have found a hatchet and started swinging it around a bit before I realized what he was doing. The result? I have a 12 year old who micromanages his brothers (he learned from the best), does not like picnics because the flies land on his food and they eat poop (that one came from my sister but was heavily reinforced by me), and cringes at the idea of camping because it's hot and there are bugs. Don't get me wrong, he can be tough. He is amazing on the soccer field. He does drills and work outs almost every day at home without me prompting him. And maybe he just naturally is not my outdoors-man. But my hovering over him armed with wet wipes and band aids probably did not help. And I'm fairly certain I stifled his creativity years ago. He's not ruined or anything. He creates some superb drawings. But I'll never know if he could have been a painter or a sculpture. He certainly would not have been able to reach the scissors, or any other art supplies for that matter. Before we had our youngest two, we never had the alphabet scrawled across our dining room nor did any of my eldest's drawings stay on the wall for years - I don't mean hung on the wall but literally drawn on the wall. I kept a tight reign on anything that could be messy. The play dough, paint, and even markers were up out of his reach. 
ABC's written in pencil on our wall. :) 

As I grow as a parent I'm learning to be controlled less by fear and "what
ifs" and an irrational need to have everything be a certain way. I'm learning there aren't as many absolutes in parenting as i thought there were. My sanity, my personality, my kids' varying personalities, their unique ways of exploring and taking in the world all contribute to how I raise them. When I had just one child, I became obsessed with everything - should I co-sleep or let him cry himself to sleep? Should I wear my baby or let him get used to spending time in the pack n play or excersaucer? Should I spank or do time out? Those are all important questions, but instead of relaxing and listening to my own intuition while seeking the Holy Spirit's guidance, I sought "experts" and kept flip flopping my parenting style. Of course all kids need love, nurturing, and discipline. But the varying ways to do that seem, in my experience, to deal more with the individuals involved (usually mom, dad, and kids) and less with some scientific study. Yes, there are some things that science and history teaches us and sure, some people have found the magic recipe to get their child to sleep through the night at 3 months old while my 5 year old still comes to our bed (sigh). But as I raise these three wild boys of mine I become more and more convinced that there aren't as many absolutes. (Just a quick admission - I too feel like I'm right in the way I parent and everyone who does it differently is wrong. This is why I'm making these statements public - for accountability!) And the more I talk with other parents and hear their stories of extreme joy and gut wrenching disappointment and uncontainable love and unexplainable frustration, I become more and more convinced that we need to hold a lot of our personal convictions a lot looser (and realize that some of them are just that - personal) and listen and encourage each other a lot more. See, during this time of my boys growing to hopefully one day become strong, caring men, I am growing into a mom, wife, and woman who is learning to listen to the Holy Spirit's guidance and lean on faith more and fear less. And, sometimes, it is hard! So, instead of judging me for letting my son run with a hatchet or judging me for taking it away, maybe just stop and laugh with me? Because, Lord knows, I need a good laugh during this season of growing pains, cut up sheets, and a 12 year old!