Stand Back

These are the pumpkins we carved on the weekend. And the costumes. The inherent laziness of my efforts at costumes for the kids aside, I'm here today to talk about something important. So begins my rant against helicopter parenting and nearly as bad, helicopter crafting.

I want to start my clarifying I am not a helicopter parent. My kids run wild at the park, too wild for many, many parents who either feel free to admonish me with looks or not so gentle reminders that my tiny 2 year old is hanging from the monkey bars or standing 20 feet up at the playground. My kids are allowed to scream, run, and explore without me following behind. My kids are encouraged and even pushed to try new things, ask questions, and challenge (even when that creates a challenge for us). My kids are learning that if they want something they have to work for it, or if they ask that they answer is quite possibly no and that is okay. My kids do get punished when they break rules, and yes, there are a number of basic rules to follow. Most importantly, my kids are allowed to be kids.

We all have our parenting styles/philosophies. I have friends who are close to being helicopter parents and they are still very good parents. I have friends even more lax than us, or more strict. I'm not judging anyone.

But this weekend I had to stand back and judge myself. We were carving pumpkins and making the girls' costumes. The Monster decided that she was going as a traffic light and her sister would be the car she would make stop. (Oh, that is definite fodder for therapy later in life.) Up first was the pumpkins.

First, there was the insistence on 5 pumpkins and no less. They were cheap and really they are the only decorations I do for Halloween, so I let her get that one. Next we had to decide what kid of face each one would have. The first one was for a surprised face. No problem. I carved an O for a mouth, eyebrows, and rather bad eyes. After that I surveyed the girls for their direction on the second one.

(See what I'm doing there? Giving them choices on things I don't give a damn about but will matter to them. All part of my parenting philosophy so I can hold that against them when it comes to a choice I actually care about.)

So there I am carving a mean face on pumpkin number 2 when The Monster discovers the Sharpie. She quickly proceeds to draw all over the pumpkin. Hair, another set of eyebrows, freckles, words, and random shapes. My instinct was to snap and give her hell for wrecking the pumpkin. In only a few seconds though, I realized that I was about to lose it over a pumpkin. A pumpkin with a life span of a few days on my front steps.

Why shouldn't she colour it with a Sharpie? Why shouldn't it take on its own life in her hands? She isn't allowed to use the knife, so what else is there for her in pumpkin carving other than facial directions?

Another Sharpie later, a very serious discussion about what can and cannot be coloured with said Sharpie, and I let them go to town on the pumpkins. And we were all happier when I stood back.

By the time we came to costumes I was feeling strong. No problem, I can stand back and let them decorate things. Yeah, not so easy. I fought every instinct to step in and help them paint Smilosaurus' car. Doesn't it need windows? Or complete coverage in one colour? So many times my hands reached out to take a brush. In the end I resorted to sitting on them when not adding paint to the palette. Was I happy with the car? It certainly wasn't what I wanted or expected, but they were happy in the process of creating and the little one was ecstatic to wear it. That makes me happy.

One final challenge came with the traffic light costume. Just felt glued, then sewn, to a yellow t-shirt. Nothing fancy, until the addition of LED lights. And, according to the Monster, not quite finished until she added some completely random marks with a black pen. I'll admit, there was a very sharp name-calling and a lot of internal frustration. Then she said she loved it and thought it was perfect now. Who am I to argue with that?

As parents we need to stand back some time to let our kids be kids, let the mess or the tantrum happen, or let them dress themselves even when they look like a hot mess. As crafters and artists we need to stand back some times to let the piece be or speak. As teachers we need to stand back and let the students' voices ring through. And some times we need to stand back and shut the hell up.