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I've heard of "buying time," but the term seems to have taken on a very literal meaning in my life lately. It's dawned on me that I mindlessly hand my kid anything within reach—from Band-Aids to food to Play-Doh—just to occupy him for just a few seconds longer.
All parents have challenges that lead us to slack off a little. For me, it started when I had the third kid a few months ago. Let's blame it on a lack of sleep and an excess of clutter. We'd be out and about running errands and the toddler and preschooler would decide to act up at the precise moment when I was occupied changing or feeding the baby, and my mom skills faltered. Too tied down to chase them around a store, I'd lure them back in instead. "Hey, kids, look what I have over here!"
Most people's mom bag includes some snacks and a book. Mine has inadvertently become a clown car of preschooler attractions. Need to occupy the kid for a few minutes at the doctor's office? I have an iPad for that! That moment when they're ogling ALL the candy? Hold them off with the promise of a lollipop if they can just make it through this store without a meltdown.
The real problem was when this started occurring at home, too. I've always believed that kids need a steady stream of learning opportunities, but it turned into an ongoing shuffle from TV to coloring book to outside play, lunch and nap and then a book. I see other parents falling into this constant parade of entertainment. The consequences can be dire when you finally run out of objects and activities.
Children need open, unfilled time. They need to feel a certain level of discomfort in order to learn to troubleshoot their feelings.
Children need open, unfilled time. They need to feel a certain level of discomfort in order to learn to troubleshoot their feelings. That's what teaches them to function in society.
My 4-year-old brushed up against our front door the other day, resulting in a minor scratch. "I need a Band-Aid!" he immediately cried. Even for something minor like this, it's become standard for me to offer a bandage as a magical fix-all. A peace offering. A welcome distraction so we can both just gloss over an unpleasant moment.
I started walking to the cabinet like some sort of autopilot medic, and then thought better of it. "Sweetie, that's not even bleeding. You're fine. Let's wash it and it'll be all healed by tonight."
He threw a fit, and I resisted the knee-jerk reaction to present a toy for appeasement. After a few moments, he pulled his tear-streaked face up to my chest and laid there for a long moment. I realized that he was back to finding comfort in a more healthy place.
I guess, for now, my days of placating with Band-Aids are on pause. I'd like to say they're over, but I know it's just a matter of time until a new set of converging factors throws our rhythm out of whack.