How I lowered my expectations for "Fun" Mommy-hood

When my twins were babies, I couldn’t wait for them to be old enough to do mommy-kid activities. I wanted to finger paint, cook, play Memory and Candyland, snuggle and read for hours, and make happy, rosy memories with my boys.
When they were around 2 years old, inspired by the success of my mommy friends and the parenting blogs I adored, I excitedly laid out paper and paints, prepared elaborate craft projects, bought games, and borrowed books from the library. We were going to have FUN and be happy and laugh and I would take pictures and make photo albums of my happy kids and my happy motherhood.
Here’s what really happened:
The paints were a mess. The paper got soaked and ripped. The colors were mixed into a color that resembled a really bad poopy diaper. The art project took longer to clean up than the boys spent "painting."
My boys played “Ants in my pants” instead of moving their gingerbread men through Candyland. The colored cards flew all over the living room, joining the tiny demon-cherries from “Hi-Ho! Cherrio!” The homemade Memory cards were ripped and crumpled.
Cooking was a circus. Cups of flour were dumped on the counter instead of in the bowl. Eggs slipped and smashed on the floor. And one of my sons was so afraid of the hand-mixer that he ran screaming out of the room before it was even turned on.
There was no snuggling and reading for hours. My two year olds could barely sit still for one picture book. “Green Eggs and Ham”? WAY too long! I learned to flip through books at the library and throw back the ones that had more than 15 pages or 10 words per page.
This was supposed to be a "Two hours of FUN" box! not "10 minutes and I'm done" box
I was discouraged, depressed even. I was failing at Mommy-hood. Most days I thought: “Well, that was a fun 5 minutes. What am I going to do for the rest of the day? I guess I could start by cleaning up this mess.”
We made snakes with beads for 3 minutes one day. Then I cleaned up beads for the next 3 months
I wanted to make those special memories with my kids but every activity was either a failure or over before I could even snap a picture.
Plus I was going nuts and yelling things like “THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN! We are GOING to have FUN, OK???”
I was a real Fun Mom.
I eventually gave up. I lowered my expectations for Fun Mommy-hood.
We didn’t do messy craft projects anymore. I threw “Hi-Ho Cherrio” and the memory cards in the trash. I made cookies while my boys napped. We read “The Foot Book” instead of “Green Eggs and Ham.”
And this was the best thing I could have ever done.
I discovered that the things I liked to do were not the things that my kids liked to do. The happy memories I had of coloring, playing board games, cooking sweets and treats, and reading on the couch with my mom for hours were not the same things that made my boys happy.
I had to accept that they loved running and wrestling, not sitting still playing board games.
I swallowed the fact that they weren’t interested in coloring or “making things.” And I realized that any craft that took longer to prepare or clean up than it did to make and play with was way overrated.
I still made them sit and read with me but we would read one board book instead of three picture books.
And when I did tackle that Pintrest Project from my “Fun Activities for Kids!” board, I learned to say “Well, that was fun!” after 3.5 minutes and really mean it.
So glad I have this picture because I think this is the only time they wore these adorable pirate costumes 
 Most importantly, I discovered that my kids are different from me and that is ok. And I learned that the best memories I could make with my children was not “doing things” together: it was seeing my boys happy, grins that lasted for seconds, not the “activities” that lasted for hours.

Chicken and Children: My Thoughts on Free-Range

So what do chickens and children have in common, you ask?  Well, simply put, I want to allow my egg-laying friends and boundary-pushing offspring the freedom to roam.  That is the simple answer to that question. The complex answer involves:

- What freedoms do I give?

- At what ages are those freedoms given?

- How much do I assist?

- How much frustration do I allow?

- Where do I allow my children to roam about freely?

Free-range parenting is actually quite a complex parenting philosophy.  It goes well beyond the area of play in our household.  The idea of free-range parenting involves A LOT of trust and respect on the shoulders of both parents and children.  My children are two years old and seven months old.  Their freedoms and boundaries may look very different than what you offer to your children, but the idea is the same.  Other things that may cause variations besides ages are: the area in which you live, access to outside spaces, child safe zones in your house and your child’s physical ability.


Here is what free-range may involve in our house on any given day:

- allowing my 2 year old to play by himself in a designated area outside

- allowing my 7 month old a safe area in the floor with toys within reach, but not directly in his hands so that he discover the way his own body moves

- not helping my 2 year old cross the monkeybars at a playground before he is physically capable to accomplish this task on his own

- not placing my 7 month old in assisted sitting devices such as a Bumbo seat

- allowing my 2 year old to go out of my sight when in a safe outside area for short periods of time

- respecting as many “noes” as I can when safety is not an issue

- asking my children if they want my help before jumping in when they are frustrated with learning a new task


These are just a few scenarios where we try to allow our children freedom to discover their own personal capabilities, teach respect for boundaries and learn to trust.

Each of us has a small voice inside our heads that tells us if we are capable of accomplishing a task.  Sometimes, we may be fearful of the task ahead or excited by it; but we are the only ones who can determine our capability to do the task.  That little voice is the voice that we learn to trust.  As an adult, I call this my instinct.  If we, as parents, continually hover over our children, extinguish their “attempts” by telling them they can’t do something or even give them a false sense of security by helping them do a task that they are not physically ready for; then we suppress their ability to trust that instinct.  Once we lose the connection with what we can and cannot accomplish, our performance declines and our built-in safety net disappears.

Now, I am like every other mother.  I want to protect my children from all things harmful.  I can guarantee if you do some of these things, your children will incur a few bumps and bruises.  There will be some minor accidents.  I feel as long as the risk is small and the bumps are minor, then the lesson learned is a valuable experience.  This has been something that has taken time for me to become comfortable with.  If I can build this trust early on, I will be able to trust my children's decision-making later on in life.  They will also be more confident in to make their decisions!  After all, who doesn’t want a confident child that you can trust?