Ever wonder why you are so different from your sibling when your parents swear you were raised exactly the same?
I have some ideas.
I'll refer to my children as baby 1, 2 or 3 for simplicities sake.
I'm in the playroom in my house with baby 3 today playing with play dough. When he announces he is done and starts to walk away, I look at him like he lost his mind. Hey baby 3, "Who is going to clean this up?" He laughs and says, “You!” He laughs some more and turns around and comes back. I sit there watching him slowly pick up the play dough in small pieces and put quarter size bits into the little play dough container. This is a very tidious process. Taking way, way more time than any other adult human would take putting away play dough. I watch as he fills it beyond the rim, pushes it down with his little hand and then shoves more in. He then starts the same process on the next two containers. When he is done two containers are beyond full and one mostly empty.
At this point he has spent more time cleaning up the play dough than actually playing with it. These are the moments with baby 1 I didn't realize were still part of the play time. I could easily have picked it up and been done with the activity as I would have with baby 1. I would have seen baby 1 struggling and thought about how it was my job to help him. By the time baby 3 came around, I had learned so much more about parenting. I had been a mom for over three years by the time baby 3 was born.
I have learned the process is just as important as the play. Even if it takes a half hour. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I'm in a rush or just being plain lazy. But when I have the time and we don't need to be somewhere in five minutes, I try to take my time to do it right. To not help. Not at all. Just to observe and encourage. I really got that mixed up with the first. I thought I was showing my first child I was going to help with anything he needed. Nope, that was definitely not what I taught him. I showed him you don't have to do anything for yourself. Not the best idea!
So I ask baby 3 what needs to happen so he can close the playdough lids and the process begins again. He very slowly rips off rice size pieces of the overflowing container until the lids can finally fit on and close again. I would say maybe fifteen minutes of this. And I just sat there. Which in all honesty is not a big deal for baby 3 because he is used to doing it all himself with no one on top of his play. I just don't get much one on one time with him and I thought it would be fun to hang close today. Baby 1 had a whole different environment. If he was awake my face was two inches from his. I didn't want to miss a single thing or breath. Lessons we as parents learn with experience.
I just didn't get "parenting" like I do now. The struggle and figuring it out is the most important part of the play. Not having mom do it for you. My kids know I'm there for them because I make myself available to guide them. But working stuff out even when it is challenging is an important lifeskill. I figure if I let them practice on things that don't really matter now like the play dough, maybe they will be more patient when things don't go as planned as an adult.
I could literally write a list twenty pages long of the things I do differently between baby 1 and 3. Baby 1 was clever and worked his magic all around me and had me wrapped around his finger. I guess baby 2 got a little of each. A mom on top of every activity and a mom who started to recognize I'm teaching a bad lesson by doing this.
If baby 1 was eating and he started spitting out food or coughing, I would literally jump out of my seat scared he was choking. But with Baby 3, I just looked at him and let him figure it out. I've learned kids make all kinds of crazy noises to avoid eating. So I don't even flinch. Baby 1 learned all sorts of tricks to get out of consuming the foods he didn't want. He out smarted me one too many times!! (Obviously I responded to true choking signs).
Live and learn!! As Oprah always said, "When you know better, you do better." That is the biggest truth of life!!