Thursday, March 20, 2014

Not So Self-Actualized

Ten years into this parenting gig, I keep making the same mistakes. Today's repeat offender was my erroneous assumption that a self-directed kid project means a self-actualized kid project.

Have you ever made this mistake? Seen your children happily engaged in a project of their own design and assumed you could get something done? Never works. I always think it will, and I'm always disappointed.

Between cleaning up after them and putting out their (thankfully metaphorical) fires, I accomplished exactly nothing on my list. I did get to climb a tree to retrieve a helicopter, so that was pretty exciting. And when I climbed out on the roof to retrieve the same helicopter, I unclogged the gutters while I was there. Not a total loss.

I encourage my children to be independent. Nothing makes me happier than sending them out into the yard to play unsupervised. Yet they keep summoning me. Am I doing something wrong? Have I created needy children who can't solve their own problems? Do they need me around to direct their play?

I don't think so. My son climbed the tree and was throwing objects at that helicopter, but he couldn't shake the branch hard enough to dislodge it. He absolutely would have climbed out onto the roof if he had figured out how to pop out the screen. Sometimes, dependence is a good thing.

All my daughter wanted to do was sew. She's only seven, and I have ignored every entreaty to teach her, so it's no wonder she needed help. I gave her basic sewing machine instructions and advised her not to stick her finger under the moving needle. Then I left the room and let her try it on her own. It was mostly a disaster, but she only called me in (multiple times) (every couple minutes) to help, so she can claim that she sewed that lop-sided pillow All By Herself. And her fingers are needle-free.

If you were to ask my kids, they would tell you that I didn't play with them at all today. Technically, that is true. I shuttled between the two kids, providing guidance and helping when needed. But they were self-directed. Maybe even substantially independent.

At least I'll tell myself that while I start chipping away at my to-do list at 9 p.m.


  1. I love the "thankfully metaphorical" fires. And of course you cleaned your gutters while you were up there - that's why I love you so.

  2. This sounds way too familiar. Actually, if I really need to get something done, I try to be as specific as possible at the beginning of the day so they know my expectations. "First, we are going here. then we are going there. After that, i need to do blah and you can watch a movie/ play out side/ use your art set...whatever. As soon as I'm done I will let you know." This usually gets me a couple of hours (max) of free time with little interruptions. Oh, and I throw in that any arguing /fighting that I have to interrupt will be punished. And, in all honesty, cleaning the gutters is far more than I would have done. Cynthia for the win! :-)