I've been watching Jake play and I noticed a while ago that he is more interested in things he can find around the house than his own toys. His latest favourite thing is to play with things he can see in the kitchen. Often these are things on the counter that he can't reach, so he'll ask to be held while he can touch things like the bottles in the spice rack and empty jars and things like that. Today, he wanted to play with the things in a little basket we keep on the counter - it contains some old packets of organix biscuits, some garlic, some used foil, and some boxes of unopened herbs. I put the basket on the floor so I wouldn't get back ache from holding him, and sat down with him as he played.
Soon, he wanted me to open one of the packet of biscuits. I knew he probably wouldn't eat them so I hesitated. I noticed that they were actually out of date so I opened them. As I predicted, he didn't want to eat them, but tipped them out on the floor and played with them. He did chew on one and then took the empty packet, stood up and put it in the recycling bin! He then picked up a second packet and asked me to open that one. Again I hesitated, but opened it anyway. He tipped it out and played with those biscuits too. So the kitchen floor was a mess and two packets of biscuits were wasted. But, did it really matter? The biscuits were out of date so needed throwing out anyway. And mess can always be tidied up. Wasn't it more important to let him play and explore and be happy? Some things just aren't worth struggling over. But it does make me wonder if what I did would be judged by some people as being too lax, or spoiling him.
When we were in the playground yesterday, there was a clearly harrassed Mum there with two children - a toddler and a baby. Every two seconds, I could hear her angry voice shouting at her toddler to NOT do something, DON'T PICK UP THAT LEAF, DON'T TOUCH THAT, DON'T DO THAT, DON'T SHAKE THAT, and most bizarrely, DON'T RUN. Don't run?? In a playground?? While I followed Jake round as he picked up, touched, explored and played with every leaf and bush and bit of dirt he wanted to.
Am I too lax? I don't think so. Parenting isn't just a choice between being lax or being prohibitive.