It’s one of those moments frozen in my mommy memory bank: The time I realized my two-year old had just guzzled hummingbird juice straight from the feeder.
I can still picture his chubby little fingers clutching the container as he bustled around on the deck, dumping the remains into my flowerpots. I recall the delight in his eyes when he turned and grinned at me, red liquid dribbling down his chin and splashed all over the front of his bare chest.
There was no doubt he’d enjoyed his sugary treat. As for the ants on the container, I can’t really say.
Believe it or not, I didn’t panic. He is my fourth child and my other kids had survived worse. His brother once ate a rotten robin’s egg straight up. Hummingbird juice seemed benign in comparison.
I didn’t call poison control, either. I was too worried they were starting to track my calls. I imagined our conversation going something like this:
“Poison Control. Oh hi, Tammie. Your kid did what? Wait … didn’t your other kid eat a robin’s egg? And it says here your daughter sucked down an entire tube of toothpaste once. Do you even watch these kids?”
While not overly concerned with his health, I did make sure to keep him off my brand new rug just in case the red juicy goodness decided to come back up. After all, a mom has to protect what’s important.
One might guess that I wasn’t exactly supervising him, which isn’t exactly true. It’s just that he was a fast mover and a lot can happen while mom goes to grab another load of laundry. And even more can happen when mom becomes engrossed in a good cat fight on The Real Housewives of Orange County while she folds and leaves her toddler to his own devices.
Actually, the whole incident was a failure of my efforts to keep that boy entertained.
I had parked him with a cup and small bucket of water on the deck and left him to play. I sat just inside where I could still see him, hoping the activity would buy me enough time to fold that laundry. Obviously, I wasn’t watching too closely and he helped himself to some juice. It happens.
It’s hard to keep kids happy and occupied all the time. And the majority of activities designed to keep kids busy and engaged last mere minutes any time I try them.
Plus I’m obviously no good at the part where you supervise the kids during the activity. But I figure if I have to sit there supervising then what is the point?
After going through a similar pattern with all four kids, I gradually abandoned trying to entertain them. I decided kids survived for centuries without moms setting up play experiences for them all day long. Why should my kids be any different?
Sure, I set out paint or play dough from time to time. I might do the odd craft. I read lots of stories and I interact with my kids. But the main directive they get from me is to go play. Preferably outside. Then I get back to folding laundry and making dinner without guilt or shame.
Some moms find great joy in creating enriching experiences for their kids. One of my best friends has an uncanny ability to craft ridiculously fun educational games and activities for her kids. She loves doing it. If that is you – carry on. I admire your creative spirit. And please send me your contact information because I want to send my kids over to your house for some fun.
But a lot of moms feel pressure to turn their home into Maria Montessori’s dream world simply because they fear their child won’t develop properly without it. Some feel guilty if they aren’t tripling up as mom, preschool teacher and activities director.
Moms, I hereby give you permission to dial it back a bit. Or ditch the effort altogether.
We don’t need to make our children’s entire existence enriching and engaging. Your kids’ development won’t suffer one iota if their little hands never dive into a sensory bin. They can still be successful in school if they don’t sort pasta shapes or finger paint their letters with shaving cream.
It’s ok to shoo the little bunchkins off to play without any prescribed activity whatsoever. In fact, it’s actually good for their creativity and ability to self-direct.
Hummingbird juice snacks notwithstanding, my kids are all doing just fine without me chasing my tail to keep them entertained. They are on target developmentally, well-adjusted, and successful academically. And I am a saner mama for absolving myself of any guilt for not Pinteresting activities for them all day. Its a win – win.
Your children will thrive on snuggles, stories, and lots and lots of independent play. I promise. It’s all they really need.