On a day when all four of my kids were out of school for some random holiday, it was warm enough to be outside. So we went for a walk to the playground and stayed until my youngest pooped, and we had to go home because I’d forgotten diapers. After changing him and getting everyone a snack and drink, we went out to enjoy the sunshine in the backyard. And I sat in a chair on our back deck. Until 1:30 p.m. For about four hours my kids played in the backyard, and I watched from my shady perch.
Sure, I intervened when my oldest boy started throwing rocks at the house (seriously?!), and also when my youngest boy turned the hose full force on his sister’s face, but other than that I sat back, drank a sparkling water, and did not move from my chair.
Magically, they entertained themselves.
Amazingly, no one once said, “Mama, I’m booooooored…”
Shockingly, there were only a few squabbles that they worked out without me.
My toddler twins pushed rocks around in the big yellow dump truck and dug with beach toys in the sandy dirt by the fence. My big kids played house with the flower pots, timed themselves on their scooters and colored on the bricks with chalk. All four of them climbed on a little tricycle like a clown car and together worked to push themselves around on the path that borders our yard. They rode our plastic Thomas the Train and Dusty the Airplane down the little backyard hill into the side of the house, over and over, shrieking with giggles. They played on the swings and threw the football. They planted a “garden” out of flowers they yanked off the bushes. Eventually, all four got into the hose and the streams of water created puddles to jump in. They had a car wash for all the ride-on toys.
I did get up to make them all lunch, which I served outside on paper plates, and I put their soaking wet shoes in the sun to dry. But other than that, I let them be. It made me wonder, do I parent too much? Should I really just stop trying to stop them from doing all the things and just let them do whatever and if there’s a mess or a fight or someone gets hurt, deal with it when and if it happens? If I sit quietly in a chair and blend in with the surroundings, do I stop being this beaming streak of light that they all flock to like bugs with a million complaints about snacks and who is hitting who?
Honestly, I had been dreading being home with all four for the fourth day in a row. But the day I just let them do whatever was the easiest day. The toddlers wore themselves out and napped. My big kids didn’t fight. Everyone ate their lunch because they were too busy playing to whine about a snack every 30 seconds.
Maybe I’ve been doing it all wrong, all along, I thought to myself later that night as I poured myself a second glass of wine.
Because I deserved it. Chair-enting* is hard work.
*Thanks to my cousin, Molly, for coining the phrase.