Tuesday, 9 June 2009
A little bit of benign neglect
I like to think that I am a good parent. I mean, I've kept three small people alive and well for six years and counting now, so that's something. We read together, we go places together, they are as well behaved as can be expected in many trying circumstances.
I also shout too much, am always behind on laundry and turn a blind eye when I see my two year old eating a dusty cheerio she found behind the couch.
Our living room wall is covered with childish artwork, both on paper and directly applied to the walls when I wasn't looking. There are toys scattered everywhere and finding a clean cup is often impossible. Sometimes we have cereal and toast for dinner, eaten out of mismatched tupperware dishes with plastic spoons.
I think, in the balance, my children are happy. They feel loved. They are cuddled, kissed, bathed (albeit irregularly) and fed. I try to give them healthy snacks, most of the time. I teach them the importance of a sincere apology - even if it was an accident.
Even more importantly, they love each other. They play together, watch out for each other, and hold hands in the park. They delight in picking flowers and planting seeds. They make messes and are slightly devious.
I'm here for them, I watch out for them, I'm usually always around. However, I fully expect them to entertain themselves for a good portion of the day. I remember my games that I created as a child, how important and fun and secret they were to the world of adults. My kids need to do that for themselves. They need to create their own games and rules of conduct apart from the structure of adult interaction.
I see myself as "home base" as it were. The kids come and check up on me, make sure I'm still here and available, and when they are done interacting, they take off and do their own thing again. This is how it should be. A little benign neglect is important for their growth as people.