Wednesday, 5 March 2008

(Over)Parenting?

In the next town over from us there is a children's museum. We have an annual pass that gives us the opportunity to go as many times as we'd like for free. Now that is worth cheering about so.....Hooray!! We regularly frequent 'Eureka' particularly in Winter when I would actually rather chew my arm off than play outside. The boys love it and it often kills a few hours when they're stir crazy, thus saving my sanity. Plus it's all educational so I can feel smug about my parenting choices. It really is win-win!

On our last visit we went on a Saturday which I generally try to avoid due to the fact that a three and one year old are generally treated like skittles by the much older children. Fortunately this Saturday they were having a 'Bollywood dance event' so most of the older kids were engrossed in that, as were most of the fathers who were happily watching the scantily clad ladies gyrate on stage. Pah!

Somehow during this visit we came into close proximity with a lady and her daughter. She was immediately annoying to me and try as I might wherever we went there she was. Without even speaking to her I came to the knowledge that she was an older parent visiting her even older parents with her only child, five year old Emily. (I did mention we were in close proximity plus I'm what I like to call inquisitive!)

Anyhow the museum is educational and I personally think kids learn best when they're having fun. My boys favourite part is the real world part where they get to play in a kid size bank, post office, garage and supermarket. They love it. We don't generally do things in the right order I let them take the lead and should a teaching opportunity arise I take it with both hands. My number one objective is that they have a good time. (With a little dash of sanity saving thrown in just for me!)

My number one objective and Emily's mum's number one objective were clearly poles apart. We met them first in the kids size 'Mark's and Spencer's' they had already been to the bank to get a 'reasonable' amount of money to go to the supermarket. On arrival Emily went straight to get a trolley and attempted to start piling her trolley high with goodies. (Plastic vegetables weren't an option as Eli already had every single one in his own trolley!) Her mum intervened. Explained that hey weren't there to play and that shopping is a serious task and Emily needed to choose five items to make a healthy meal. Emily looked disheartened and appealed to her mother who insisted she get on with the task in hand. So she did. She came back to her mum with five items, her mum looked at what she had and told her that those five items were far too expensive. They only had five Eureka pounds from the Eureka bank. She then went on to explain at great length about budgeting and the downward debt spiral that results if we spend over our designated budget. The whole speech got me panicked it was so brutal. The whole time my boys were happily filling and emptying their trolleys and I was happy to see them happy. Thoroughly depressed about the 'downward debt spiral' I moved on.

We next went to the garage. The boys were happily playing in a car each. Thomas was changing a tyre and Eli was filling his car with petrol. Then Emily's mum arrived. Emily went straight to the cash counter to play with the till. She was immediately redirected because it's not realistic to go to a garage and pay before you have even bought anything. So her mum set her another mundane task that took all the fun from playing. Eli had filled his car with petrol and instead of going straight to pay (gasp!) he went off and left the garage (Clearly a future life as a criminal awaits). Emily saw the pump was free and asked if she could go buy petrol. Her mum declined and explained that people that don't follow tasks through to the very end don't do very well in life and end up disappointed eventually. So Emily carried on with her task to the very end. (Obviously I rolled my eyes at my mum every time the Nazi mother spoke. Little things like that make me feel better.)

Next was the Post Office. Emily came in and said she wanted to 'PLAY' in the Post office. Not to worry though her mum was on hand to explain how life isn't about playing. It's about learning and learning isn't supposed to be fun. Learning is serious.

Soon after we left. I couldn't help feeling she was seriously wrong. I actually came away feeling much better about how I parent my children. Downward debt spiral and future life disappointment obviously pending I'm just happy my kids are happy.

3 lovely comments:

Jill said...

You are an amazing parent! I love the way you write-and I love reading all about your (oh so handsome) little boys! Well done on being observant and realizing what a good job you're doing. Even if your boys sometimes make other kids cry....welcome to being a parent!

A M Y said...

That's so crazy! I feel sorry for that poor little girl! Kids have to grow up way too fast these days as it is, I say let them be little and carfree as long as possible.

Heidi said...

Poor Emily has a life full of therapy ahead of her.

I love children's museums. I hardly have to watch my children at all!