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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I'm not that kind of mom

Network Administrator Friend has some of the most independent kids I've ever met. Toddler in Chief and I stayed with her while we were on the east coast in February.

Her four-year-old son wandered from project to project, toy to toy, room to room entertaining himself. He'd play with Thomas the train. Then he'd dance along with the super energetic Discovery Kids television show, Hi-5. Then he'd move to a stickers project, then to markers, and so on. Her one-year-old son was nearly as independent. He'd crawl up the stairs to read some books. He'd jump on the bed, and then head back downstairs to see what the big kids were doing. Once in a while, he would try to tackle Older Brother. If that didn't have the desired results, he would go for Toddler in Chief, which TIC hated.

It was amazing how much Network Administrator Friend could do without distraction while her kids kept themselves busy. The dishes, the laundry, email, telephone calls. Her only distraction was when the kids wanted to switch to a new project...from stickers to markers, for example. Put one box away and get out a different box of activities. I had a hard time eating an entire bowl of Cheerios without distraction. And I could see NAF cringe when TIC would get upset and holler for "help" yet again.

It was so interesting to see how well her kids did on their own. How did that happen? She's happy to set up the tracks so that they can play. She's happy to get them started on a project. She's didn't sit on the floor and read books all day. She didn't get down and play with blocks or letters or Thomas. "I'm not that kind of mom," she said.

There it is. There was no guilt. There was no apology. That's just the way it is. And her kids are great. Loving. Gentle (except for the occasionally tackle). Creative. Independent.

This trip happened right after Judith Warner's piece appeared in Newsweek (still can't seem to get away from that). Her life, her parenting was just so opposite everything that article talked about. Everyone was content. No one was stressed out. Not NAF, not the kids, except for TIC, that is. TIC was stressed out. They weren't his toys, it wasn't his house. He was whiny, clingy, and over all an unpleasant kid to be around--very unusual for my mild-mannered toddler.

She wasn't aching for child care or a break from the kids. She wasn't missing work or anxious to head back. She was at ease, happy, harmonious. Maybe she wasn't stressed out because her kids' independence allowed her time to herself to read, to do email, to make phone calls, to work on household projects, to be herself. She gets to be with them, they get to be with her, but neither overshadows the other.


  1. Network Admin Friend used to live near us, so I've watched her kids grow. They've always been rather independent. I suppose some of this could be personality, but I bet that a lot of it is parenting style.

  2. My oldest was very easy-going and I was home with him for a year during what was supposed to be the terrible two's. He played very happily by himself. I set things up for him--legos, trains, stuffed animals--and he'd play away. He also took really, really long naps. I got bored. I did start doing some things. I learned how to build a web site. I chatted online with other parents, but I didn't have anything pressing. I had moved to a new place, thinking I would devote my time to raising my child and it turned out--he didn't need me all that much. Sure, he needed me to feed him, change him, occasionally entertain him, but still, there was lots of time when he didn't.

    At the same time, we had friends with a very needy child--and I guess that's what I expected. That I would need to be there in some way all the time. By the way, the kid is 10 now, not needy at all and perhaps even a little "too" independent (an early teenager). :)

  3. Anonymous7:28 AM

    I'm almost embarassed to admit that I've been sitting at the computer for 20 minutes, drinking coffee and catching up on email while my kids (5 and 2.5) have been playing independently with their dinosaurs in the next room.

    I don't know how it happened - but right now, I seem to have 2 very independent children. They will often disappear for over an hour, amusing themselves and playing together.

    I did everything possible to foster dependence. They slept in our bed. I nursed each one for 2 years. I'm a "sit on the floor and play" mom. I limit TV. I work - but only part time. Both were very "needy" infants and toddlers...but have somehow evolved into very independent preschoolers.

    I know this stage won't last. Soon, they'll be fighting instead of playing. Or one will be in a new and different "needy" stage. Or sick. Or something.

    But, for now. It is wonderful.

  4. Well one thing's for sure, it's really difficult to foresee what your children will be like when they get older. Sometimes my kids will play quietly together. But since my daughter is the dainty one who likes to keep her hands clean and my son is so rough-and-tumble and could care less if his hands and face are covered with food, it doesn't take very long for them to bicker. But then they are still young. I'm hoping (REALLY hoping) that their bond will develop and they'll find something in common that they can play together without getting into a tug-of-war with me as the constant referee.

    But each day is different. There are days when I can prepare elaborate dinners because for some reason the kids are perfectly fine doing their own thing. Currently, however, it's been a HUGE challenge, with my son wanting to copy everything my daughter does. So if he sees her quietly coloring at kitchen table, he insists upon doing the same thing, and that of course requires my intervention because he would literally try to pull her off her chair so he could get to that crayon in her hand. Unfortunately there aren't a whole lot of activities they can do together just yet because he WILL eat that crayon, which I know would drive my daughter to fits because she doesn't want slobbery crayons, not to mention broken ones. But I'll give him a few months because I do remember how much these kids can change in a matter of months. Hopefully by then they will sit peacefully together, sharing nicely, saying 'please' and 'thank you' to one another... Right now that is wishful thinking.