Why is it so hard, as a parent, to let go of “the rules”? From the time we burst onto the scene as newborns, slimy and blinking, we’re told the right and wrong way to do things. Brush your teeth, don’t throw food on the floor, sit straight, don’t interrupt. These rules are in place for a reason, and children ought to learn them. But here’s the tricky part: when ought they be ignored? Imagine it’s Thanksgiving and your parents are occupied cleaning the house, preparing food, and getting dressed up. You have on a special party outfit, something to be respected and treated with care.
Option 1: play quietly with non-staining toys like, say, wood blocks or puzzle pieces.
Option 2: change into a Snow White costume, get out the watercolors and go to town painting yourself up like a Maori warrioress.
If you are Toddler Harbat, Option 2 sounds much, much more fun. And really, as an adult, it sounds more fun. If you’re a parent, can you let go of the rules long enough to let your child enjoy the moment?
It’s so hard to shake off the rust, the years of accumulated wisdom on what’s right and wrong, to look at the situation with fresh eyes. When my daughter wants to do something like paint herself right before dinner I have to ask myself, “What does it really hurt?” Maybe it’s not the “proper” thing, maybe it’ll add a few minutes of cleanup before we sit down to eat, but how much do I want to sacrifice freedom, fun, and creativity for The Rules? In the heat of the moment I often revert to my role as Mr. Rule-Man, but just this once I let her paint. And we both loved it.