There are so many articles about the evils of ignoring your kids and scrolling on your phone, or how to be a constantly engaged, involved mom. But, there is a flip-side to that. Sometimes, tuning your kids out can be a good thing. See, I tend to be a micro-manager mom. The elementary teacher in me has more eyes in the back of my head than is fair and ears that hear it all. I am incapable of ignoring misbehavior, and my kids have no question about who is in charge. There are great things about this. I can think and react quickly on my feet and know how to nip things in the bud before they get out of hand. As a result, my kids are generally very well-behaved and pleasant to be around. The downside is hyper-awareness and difficulty letting my kids be kids. I know intellectually from my years of training in early childhood education what is normal and to be expected, but that doesn't mean I'm good at letting it happen.
I am an introvert by nature. I prefer lots of quiet and long stretches of time alone to think and work. One of the hardest parts for me of instantly becoming the mom of two little ones is the change in noise and activity level in our house. While they are very young, and still need plenty of close supervision, it dawned on me the other day that tuning out and ignoring certain things actually would be a good thing. I've found that working on the ability to tune my kids out has a few benefits:
It allows them to just be kids without an overly-critical mom hovering around. I tend to have many (ahem) suggestions about how things should be done when not everything needs to be a rule. I'm learning to let them do things their way and make mistakes, which sometimes requires me to look away and consciously turn off the side of me that wants to guide and manage everything. Kids are also just weird and annoying at times, and that's OK.
It lets them have fun and be themselves in their own home. I tend to be the type of mom who hears laughter in the other room and assumes an evil plot is being hatched and much naughtiness will soon follow. I don't want to be that way. I hugely value laughter and humor and want our house filled with both, yet I tend to shut it down real quick. Going from being a teacher to a mom, I've had to adjust from the level of control necessary to manage a classroom versus a home. I have to remind myself that the goals are not the same here at home with my own kids as they were at school with my students. Things that would have turned into mass chaos in a classroom of 25 are actually OK with just 2 at home. I do think it is perfectly acceptable and even necessary to have rules and expectations in place so that you enjoy living with these little people as much as possible and they learn to respect their home. But, I have to remember that it is their home too, their safe resting place, the place where they kick off their shoes, relax, and have fun.
They establish and work on their own sibling relationship. My girls were sisters before they were my daughters, and they will continue to be sisters for longer than any other relationship in their lives. They need to be able to tell secrets without me asking, "What are you whispering about?" or make memories together that don't necessarily include their parents. They need to fight, cry, hug, laugh together without interruption to build those bonds, and sometimes it requires me tuning it out and letting them be.
Dad gets to be in charge too. Mr. Ladd and I joked before we even had the girls about how I would definitely be bad cop, and he would be good cop. Now we have them, and I've found it hard to hand over the reigns and let him do things his way at times (even though he's an amazing dad). I've found sometimes I just need to physically remove myself from the situation, go up in my room, turn on all the fans for white noise, and leave them alone. Tuning out actually helps their relationship with him and gives me a break.
They can solve problems and entertain themselves. Developmentally, kids need free play. It is being taken away in formal educational settings at an alarming rate, so it is important for me to allow them long stretches of time at home to imagine, create, and play together without my intervention. They need to be able to get messy, make some noise, and settle arguments on their own to grow.
Their emotions don't have to be my emotions. Crying and tantrums were very jarring for me at first. Starting parenting at toddlerhood is not easy, and it is very hard for me to just let them have their moment and walk away without wanting to throw a mini tantrum of my own. I'm learning the extremely hard way, that I don't have to be upset just because they are upset and to be comfortable with the discomfort of irrational crying or fits. Tuning it out for a few minutes usually means it ends sooner, and we are able to move on faster.
It keeps me calm and able to focus on other things. It is taking me a while to adjust to the constant background noise at home. I felt paralyzed by it at first, unable to carry on a conversation or complete a thought with all the kid activity in the background. I do insist on inside voices in the house, but I'm learning I can still function if I tune things out a little bit and carry on. I don't need to get all worked up over every squabble or annoying noise. This week I turned on some music, and organized half my kitchen cabinets while my girls played in the living room for an hour and a half, and everyone was better for it.