Picking your battles is a fine art that must be mastered in order to parent a toddler without going completey insane. Obviously, there are certain non-negotiables – brushing teeth properly, for instance – but there are many ‘misbehaviours’ that many parents (myself included) find themselves getting worked up over when, really, there is no need.
Take today, for example. I’m cleaning out the fridge. My preschool-age child spots two peppers – yellow and green, in case you were wondering – on the kitchen counter and immediately decides that they are the best things ever. He reached his little hands up to the peppers, looked at me and said very sweetly, “a-me have peppers?”
My first instinct was to say No, they’re for eating, not playing with. But then I thought – hang on, who cares if he wants to play with them? Who cares if they get bashed around a little? As long as I keep an eye on how rough he is being with them, they’ll still be in a fit state to have with our honey & mustard chicken this evening.
This led me to thinking just how many other things we automatically deny, or scold for, without really giving it a second thought. So what if he draws all over himself? So what if he makes a mess with his watercolours because he thought that painting his toy hammer would be much more fun than painting on paper? Who cares if play-doh gets squished into the carpet? Who gives a monkeys if he draws on himself, or me, or his daddy? Does it really matter if he wants to take the entire contents of the saucepan cupboard out, and put them back in again? All of these things can be fixed, tidied up, sorted out later on.
In the grand scheme of things, none of these things matter. What matters is that our children are allowed to explore the world around them without parents and caregivers hanging over their shoulders and correcting them, lest they make a mess of the carpet/the walls/themselves. How will our offspring ever learn to trust themselves, if they are not trusted by us? How will they learn to love themselves if they are constantly being reprimanded for their completely age-appropriate behaviour?
If we, as parents, make an effort to loosen up every once in a while and try to see the world through the eyes of our children, we might all end up having a lot more fun.