Monday, March 2, 2009
Teachers.....Students........and a big rat.
I think sometimes I interfere in the children's lives, even as young as they are. It comes from a place of love, that I-love-you-so-much-I-never-want-you-to-feel-an-ounce-of-discomfort-and-you-know-I-know-whats-best-for-you love, which is not always the healthiest kind a mom can offer. Its my job to recognize that these children who have been entrusted to me are not my little clones, they are individuals completely seperate from me. So I have been making an effort to be a little more hands off, let them make their own choices without my helpful "suggestions".
We made the trip to Chuck E Cheese's today in honor of Chloe's official birthday. I'd scored some good coupons and ended up with a pirates booty worth of "tokens". My usual strategy is stockpiling the booty at the table my book and I are enjoying and handing the kids about five coins at a time. This ensures that I will be able to check on them often, and that they don't leave 10 bucks worth of coins laying around to fund some other kids enjoyment.
I noticed that Chloe was burning through the coins at an alarming rate. I asked her about it, and she was using those machines that are like a preschooler lottery, you enter your coins, and if you are lucky and it falls in the right slot, it spits out a bunch of tickets at you. She understands about tickets being transformed into "toys".
At first, I was tempted to make rules about not using those machines, but I stopped. I mean, first of all, there is no better way to learn a lesson about wasting money than to waste it. But secondly, what if she and I define waste differently. I mean look at all the different criteria people have for success? Some people measure it in $$$, some in power or status, some in intangible things like family, or love, doing the right thing. So I let this play out.......
As I would have predicted, Chloe was out of tokens in no time. But she wasn't bothered by it in the least. As a matter of fact, she had a great time drooling over all the fun chinese toy cast offs she was going to be able to buy with her money. She counted and recounted her tickets.
Suddenly, John, who had plenty of coins left enjoyed all of her attentions, and didn't seem to notice it might be mercenary. He shared with her, and they had a great time riding the rides two at a time. Emma kicked in a few coins to Chloe too.
She flitted from one sibling to the other, to me and my plate of oranges and grapes. There was never that moment of regret. She was perfectly happy. When we left she was so proud of her toys she earned. and I learned a lesson..... Had I forced her to do things my way, they way the other two kids naturally are about the tokens, she wouldn't have had nearly as much fun.
When John was sad that he didn't have any tickets to buy a lollipop and a plastic slinky, whom did he turn to for help? Chloe was able to show him how to work the system to get the most tickets with what he had left, and she got him what he wanted. I know we homeschool and that implies that I am the teacher and the kids are the students. But just as frequently, the tables are turned and they are my teachers.