End of Rope Found

Today was a day to go with the flow. I’m down to one client project, Butter has spent so long resisting nap that I just give up, and all the things I need to do are “wait until after bedtime” things. So I vowed to follow Butter and just be with him all day. No timing naps or tasks or emails. I don’t even pull out my phone for most of the day.

After we drop off Peanut at school, Butter asks to go see the construction site. Sure. It’s a block past the coffee I like and the cheese rolls we both like. So we grab a cuppa, a muffin, and a cheese roll and head to…oh, he wants to get down.


He then proceeds to walk all over the neighborhood, closely supervised, touching every single rock and leaf and dog and flower and bee. (Yes, bee; he has this uncanny ability to pick them up and have them walk all over his arm and blow them off and they never sting him. Weird.) We traveled every inch of a one block radius several times. We used the bathroom in CheeseBoard Pizza five times. We got water from CheeseBoard seven times. We watched construction for what might have been two million years. He dug in the dirt and put rocks in his cup and carried them ten feet and dumped them out and started over. All unmolested but safe and loved. Awesome sauce.

For three hours. For the record, I started getting a little twitchy at two and a half.

He finally asked to be held and fell instantly asleep on my back. And I knew I couldn’t take him out or he’d refuse a nap. So I took him home and edited with him asleep on my back.

And when he woke just as Peanut got out of school, I willingly followed them both as they giggled off toward home.

It took two hours to travel one mile. I let them do their thing except for safety and kindness issues. For the first 90 minutes. And then I found my limit.

Children, I cannot go slower than 1/3 mile an hour. I can’t do it. I know I hurried you along a bit toward the end, and kept saying, “I know their yard looks fun but we have to go home.” I was cold. And tired. And Type A. Yes, we can sort through all these rocks and choose our favorites and compare them and leave them for the homeowners who paid for them. Yes, we can crunch through leaves. Yes, we can throw them and laugh and play and rake them all back in a pile with a big stick to start all over again. But we have to get moving after 30 minutes because…because…well, because I guess I just don’t love you enough. I know play is important. I know unfettered and undirected and spontaneous is great. I know adult pace isn’t right for kids.

But I will stab myself in the eye if I ever again spend 5 hours moving at tiny scientist pace.

So. Lesson learned. Never, ever, ever, ever spend more than four hours doing what the children want. Ever. Ever.



13 thoughts on “End of Rope Found

  1. I attempt this daily. I wake up and vow to put no demands on the day and allow for child-led learning and exploration. And, daily…it ends just as you described. Although, I believe you made it about 3 hours longer than I ever have. The truth is, things need to get done, and things need to happen…at “adult pace.” And 99.9 percent of these things are in fact for our children. There has to be a happy medium. When you find it, please let me know. Or, better yet…write a book. I’ll buy it.

  2. I’m convinced Butter boy and Unicorn girl are related cosmicly. Bees land on me and don’t sting, and yes, I talk to them. The bees attack the hornets for me. Hornets are the rat bastards of the bug world. Butter is gonna be a geologist. No doubt. He’s got Rocks 101 down pat already.

  3. @Emily I have decided that my life, as I define it, is easier if I do all the boring grownup stuff while they sleep. It sucks, because I get almost no human adult time, but I cook at 10pm and I grocery shop at 9pm and I pay bills and clean up and do all that at midnight. It would be better for them to see me doing chores and running errands. But I get stabby with them bickering while I try to do a crummy job at sweeping.

    @unicorn BEES! I love ’em and I’m glad you and Butter share that spirit animal. I work hard not to stop him when he pets them. My small child pets bees. And I’m *supposed* to stop him, but why? They seem to like him. And if they do ever sting him, maybe we’ll have a talk about not touching bees. Maybe.
    Yay for geology! Or any -ology. Except crazymamaology. Hope they notice the 4.9 hours during which I let them follow their bliss. Probably not. The last ten minutes are pretty vocal…

  4. Five hours? Yikes. I can’t really think what my longest stretch of completely child-led activity might be, but I’m guessing certainly not longer than two hours. Mommy has to pee and eat sometimes. Sorry, kid.

  5. @kristen He encourages me to pee when he pees and eat when he eats. It’s like newborn advice to nap when they nap, only better. ;-)

    @Yasmin twins are a whole different thing. With two very different aged kids I just wait until the oldest is willing to go along with the youngest, or vice versa. If it’s just me and Butterbean, there’s none of the three-way dynamics that you live every breathing minute of your day.
    And there was a break in my five-hour child-led festival of exploration. Two hours, break, three hours. Does that make it seem more reasonable? Felt easier that way.

  6. You’re way too nice. After a half hour of that, I probably would have just thrown myself in front of BART.

  7. Ha! Fie, whatever will you do without BART’s third rail to give you a quick out? Maybe you need to move back so you can look longingly at the underground entries “Ah, if I have to do this one more minute, at least there’s a stairway to sanity…” ;-)

  8. I have one day a week when I have mijo the whole day and I try to do things at his pace, but after two and a half hours of walking at the park, I’m usually beat. I’m impressed you didn’t take a nap with youngest.

  9. ABDMama I would have LOVED to nap, but he was asleep in the backpack and I know from experience that if I shift even slightly from vertical he wakes and boycotts a resumption of nap regardless of the other circumstances.

  10. When I was a kid, I used to confine bees (with a supply of clover) inside my ballerina jewelry box. Lord knows what gave me the idea!? After a little while, they became much “calmer,” and would stay on my hand without stinging me. They’d eventually fly away. I hope the confinement didn’t hurt them because that was never my intention but I sure thought tame bees were cool! Sounds like your kiddos had a lovely day for themselves. : )

    • Stephane, isn’t it painful when cuteness from childhood seems harsh to our adult selves. I tried so hard to keep horned toads alive when I was little. Those suckers die quickly when kept in *open* boxes. Shame.
      Yes, though, the kids had fun. Good for them. ;-)

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