When is the last time you heard the saying, “Let your kids be kids?”
I would venture to guess that if you haven’t uttered it yourself recently, then you have certainly received this wonderful nugget of advice at some point.
Whether you listen to Dr. Phil, Dr. Spock, or Dr. Dobson, this seems to be a pretty consistent message.
Before fatherhood however, this saying never carried much weight for me. Sure it made sense…at least from an intellectual standpoint. But, without the experience of being a dad, there was little chance of it resonating.
So when I became a father, this piece of advice spoke very clearly to me. It told me, very vividly, to find the person that coined the term and harm them physically.
At least that’s what I wanted to do whenever I heard someone regurgitate the phrase.
You see, what you aren’t told is that in order for a “kid to be a kid,” your nerves must undergo years of “deadening”. Without this, you would likely take on the role of a territorial lion and start consuming your offspring.
Obviously, inter-family cannibalism is not a desired outcome…so you need to start developing a failsafe.
The Pitfalls of a Missing Reality
Most of the time the issue we (and by we, I mean me) face is not an unruly child, but more so an issue of unrealistic parenting.
You see, I grew up as the youngest of four kids, with the closest sibling being eight years older. As a result, I was raised around adults.
While this wasn’t always a bad thing, it did build in me an expectation of behavior that is borderline anal retentive. And when you add in some exhaustion and self-focus, a firm grasp on reality is an unfortunate casualty.
This means that the grating sound of little girls screams, or the incoherent babbling of a 2-year old, transforms you from a level-headed dad into a raving imbecile. As if a 2-year old can do anything but babble!
The Benefits of Insanity
So, besides therapy, what can a dad do to cope with the normal irritations of childhood? I say you need to start acting insane right along with them!
For instance, a few nights ago I was on my way home with my three daughters. It was late…I was tired, and they had just fallen into the grips of a fresh sugar high.
In practical terms, this means that they had lost the ability to hear amidst their laughing and screeching.
Knowing that my usual tactic of stern instruction rarely worked at times like this, I decided to crank up the radio and screech right along with them. I called for them to scream at the top of their lungs when the music got rowdy…and then to sing along when the lyrics returned.
I must admit, apart from the ringing in my ears, it felt great to simply let them be kids. In fact, the extreme nature of our experience nearly induced vomiting in my oldest, which is obviously a very proud moment for me.
A Lesson Learned
What have I learned from this?
Well…I found that some of the best lessons come from being part of their craziness from time to time. I learned that if I help them purge a little now and then, I can still get the behavior I seek, while building some unbelievable bonds in the process.
But more than that, I learned that I can actually help them be kids. Without the burden of unrealistic expectations, I can give them the freedom to be insane now and then.
Let’s face it…we all need a little insanity in our lives!