One would think that I spend my days lazing about, as much as I write about it. But the truth is that I do often spend some of my time trying to figure out how to do a little less; around the house, for my kids, etc. And while having more kids seems only to increase the demands put on you by them and their need for food and clean clothes, it also gives me a really good excuse to step back from the little moments in their lives and let them experience things themselves.
Because my hands usually seem “pretty full,” as passers-by like to yell at me when they see our gaggle.
When we’re out, I often have a baby sleeping on me in the carrier. Or I’m helping my 19 month old up some stairs. Whatever the circumstance, folks want to do one of two things: a) help me out by holding a door or some other neighborly gesture or b) give me a wiiiiiiiide berth.
As my brood has grown, I have to prioritize need between the 3 of them nearly all of the time. So often, when I say no to one of them or need them to help me in some way, there is a kind adult (read: stranger) who is willing to lend them a hand. They have lifted my kids into highchairs for me, helped them reach the trash can to dispose of something, offered to carry something when I didn’t have enough hands. One very kind man even “rescued” my middle kiddo as she balked at the top of an escalator, watching the rest of us sail away from her. He picked her right up and scrambled her down to stand beside me. Phew! Thank you sir!
Now I’m not saying that I just want to rely on the kindness of other folks when I’m out with my kids somewhere. I have to be ready to do everything that is required, but since these friendly adults do often help out, my kids are learning what community really means. If I were able, I would help someone if they needed it, so why should we not accept help when it is offered? Besides learning (slowly) to wait until I’m free to tend to them, they are also learning that their immediate family members are not the only people who they can trust. In that same vein, I have never said that they shouldn’t talk to strangers, or to be wary of them. That conversation will come in some form when they venture out on their own, but for now I talk to strangers, so why shouldn’t they when we’re together?
My occasional “unavailability” also gives my kids opportunities to be more self-reliant and to actually start to grow their own relationships with other adults. When I’m around, I try hard to keep my mouth shut, but since we adults are quick to make sure that our kids are understood, I inevitably intervene and then it becomes “my relationship” with the other person rather than my kids’.
If I were just sitting idly by (without apparent reason) while my kids struggled with things, then I would have to imagine that other folks would wonder why I wasn’t more helpful. But once they see me with a baby and another kid, they tend to excuse this very real, hands-off parenting choice. I like the freedom that these kids give me to parent the way I want to. “Nope, I cannot go down the slide with you, I’m holding your brother.” It gives me the excuse to bow out of things that I don’t want to do and to encourage my kids to do things on their own when they’ll feeling unsure.
So while having a little crew of kiddos doesn’t make life easier per se, it can be the perfect excuse for doing just as I please.