Last fall our small family of three grew to a family of five. The addition of two busy boys added volume, laundry, and crazy activity to our days while subtracting sleep and sanity.
For those that know Kaitlyn, (our sweet almost seven-year-old daughter,) you understand what a culture shock this was for us. Our quiet, orderly, predictable life hurled out of control for months as we all struggled to find our sea legs in this wavy transition.
I read books, one of my favorites being Wild Things, the Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas. I discovered that the crazy, energy filled, always curious and often-destructive children who stole my heart were normal. Adventurous toddlers explore their world with an intense need to touch, taste, or dismantle everything around them.
I’ve worked hard these past few months to adjust my expectations. I desire an orderly home and well-behaved children but I also want curious, brave, and energetic children. Yes, they need boundaries, but they also need a safe place to express aggression, curiosity, and determination. My stress level decreased as I learned to say things like, “It is not okay to hammer the light switch (chandelier, china plates, the glass pane in the door etc), but you can hammer and pound away at the tool bench downstairs,” rather than yelling, “Stop hammering!”
I’m finding I’ve become fairly flexible at home but I still struggle with expectations when we are out in public. When we were recently out to dinner, I spent the entire meal monitoring table manners like some kind of secret police. Jon, who shouts rather than speaks, was frequently corrected, and we redirected Nick to express his excitement without squeals and screams. The dinner went well but I felt tense and focused on them.
Then a patron from another table walked over and complimented us on our well-behaved children. Her words were like a salve to my soul. My shoulders relaxed and I looked at my wild things with blue ice cream dripping off their chin and spilled chocolate milk soaking into their shorts and staining the chair seat and carpet. They beamed with pride. Less than five minutes later, a young man came and said much the same about our wonderful children.
It felt like a great weight lifted. Until tonight, I never understood how much a few simple words could mean to a parent of busy pre-schoolers.
I’m still working with them on table manners but I’m also working on relaxing and letting them be boys. They are little boys with different needs and different urges and they constantly seek adventure. I may never fully understand what motivates my son to belch at the dinner table, randomly bark like a dog, or shout “poop” in the middle of a sentence, but I love him with my whole heart exactly the way he is.