Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thing 3: Playing in the mud

The thing about having kids is that it increases paranoia by about ten fold, nervousness by about twenty, neurotism by about fifty and fear by about a hundred. Mothers worry about everything. When the kids don't eat, when the kids eat too much; they worry when they hear of other kids being a certain way because it means their kid may be that way too. When they hear of something tragic happening to some child, be it a child of their friend, a child of a complete stranger, a child from the newspaper or even a child in an advertisement who is pretending to be a child who has been affected by something physical, emotional or otherwise, they burst into tears because they think it may happen to their child. It's a major case of transference and all mothers are afflicted by it to some degree.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that between the distance between that sort of worry and going completely berserk is not that great and it's very easily bridged by a nervous enough mommy. I find myself sometimes falling into the trap of wanting to protect them from everything I can and some of the things I can't. I am constantly reminded that even if I went to the post office and bought the biggest roll of bubble wrap to wrap them up, things can still happen and it would be beyond my control. That affects me in conflicting ways. A) It makes me realise that I have to trust God when it comes to my children because I could hire an army to watch their every move and they could still get hurt or get some germ and no one, not even the bio warfare unit would be able to stop that flu bug from infecting my kid if it was going to do so. Much less anything else. B) It makes me want to set them free and let them discover, unrestrained insofar as I'm not purposely putting them in harm's way. B) works better for me because I'm predisposed to driving myself insane with worry and if I even allow myself down that slippery slope of paranoid worry, it'll screw up the kids very nicely by the time they're ready to go to school, if they dare by that point.

I'm surrounded by some mothers who are of the 'bubble wrap' school of thought. And their kids' first words are "No" and "cannot". Packrat and I decided that the "No/Cannot" type of parenting gets old very quickly. Plus the kids learn to obey out of fear and they don't learn very much outside of that. It's not wrong. I don't think it's wrong to want to protect one's kid. I think it's just the amount of protection and at the same time, the amount of independence one is willing to allow.

So yesterday, I made a decision between allowing them to discover a different type of texture and play or preventing them from possibly getting some soil borne disease. I chose the former. I thought to myself of all those times I ran barefoot in my garden, wrestled with neighbours on the grass and came home with grass stains. I thought of how I learnt that running up a grassy slope barefoot and running up the same slope with shoes one was a different experience and I thought, the kids should be as acquainted with the outdoors as much as I was. As a result, they got to muck in the soil at the Botanic Gardens. Throw it about, grab handfuls of it, pat it down, let it run through your fingers, roll your face in it when you fall; anything the kid fancies. Unsanitized play. I relished in the fact that they were getting dirtied and their faces muddied. I relished in the fact that they had grass stains all over their clothes and had dirt in their hair. I felt liberated by it.

Although some nut might try and quantify it by asking me what I thought they learnt from it except to get their hands and faces so dirty it required almost an entire of wet wipes to clear off the gunk. But they seemed to have a lot of fun and were extremely focussed on the task at hand. And I am proud to say I didn't stop them even though the neurotic mommy was inside me hurling threats of illnesses that I was allowing them to be exposed to. As I laughed and chuckled at their antics, that voice became more and more ignored.

Of course, if I let myself think about it, that voice berates me for choosing to putting my children in harm's way. But the cool rational Mommy argues back that if I wasn't throwing them in front of moving traffic in order to teach them how not to be a deer in headlights and on principle and if I kept worrying about what was going to happen to them if I let them try something new, my children would never learn anything. On top of that, my children would become fearful of everything not be the children Packrat and I dream of bringing up. And that voice was louder yesterday as I kept quiet, watched my kids play in the mud and used the opportunity to video the episode.

My apologies for the need to watch the video with the head tilted 90 degrees to the left. Youtube needs a rotate screen button for goons like me. .

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