I have had this post sitting in my drafts for a long time, since I’ve read One Classy Motha’s “Parasite parenting” post. As she explained how she had such a relaxing time, while her kids played with another (host) family’s kids, I thought I am the other parent who welcomes others’ kids to play with mine in my own territory, while I relinquish the obligations to entertain them because they are keeping themselves busy under my protective arms.
As my children grow bigger and gain independence, I’ve been observing myself practicing this “scarecrow parenting” – a term I coined – for most of the time we spent together. I think my kids are also used to that kind of independence now that I only have to be there and do my thing in parallel, while they keep themselves busy. I just hang around like a scarecrow, watching over and making sure I am protecting my crops. I admit I still have to answer a zillion questions and moderate few conflicts here and there but still, I can do whatever I want – except for snoozing.
They are big enough to dress themselves, take bath and also help with the heavier chores of the house when instructed clearly. So our duty revolves more around feeding them, chauffeuring them to extracurricular activities and entertaining them. I love spending time with my children. However, it’s mentally exhausting to be their play date from 8 am to 8 pm over the weekend or on vacation. They entertain each other up to a point, but then they start to get on each other’s nerves.
Over the years, we had this “daily schedule” to make sure they stayed engaged and active without getting bored on the days that they had to stay at home all day either due to a sickness or snow days or breaks and I had to work at home. The schedule was a mere structure which could be tweaked based on the flow of the day. It gave them an idea what to expect or to look for next and moderate pace of change in order not to let them get bored.
That schedule must have been ingrained in them so much that, few weeks ago, they created their own daily schedule for the weekend (both Saturdays and Sundays to the minute detail to make sure they did everything they wanted to do over a weekend. I was impressed. The schedule included everything from “cleaning up after every play” to “getting ready for bed” exactly at the time we tell them to start getting ready.
The whole weekend, they complied with their schedule so much that apparently my son woke up at 7:00 am on Saturday. They are trained to shut our bedroom door (even though we can still hear them) and let us sleep in. They prepared their own breakfast, and then started playing afterwards.
On Saturday, my friends came over, along with one of their daughters for a play date with my daughter. My husband went out with his friend to drop my son to a birthday party. So practically, everyone hung out with their own friends, while supervising our kids hanging out with their friends.
That’s why I wholeheartedly welcome play dates in my own house or on the beach. I can read my book instead of digging a pool or a tunnel. I can scroll through my Instagram feed without guilt instead of sorting through LEGO pieces. (Did I mention I am not a player/entertainer parent?) I don’t mind drop off play dates if parents need to run their errands either. I sit nearby while they play, make sure they are playing safely and enjoy their fun chatters and my own company.
I am really glad we are at this stage, because even though I can read a book or a magazine – or unfortunately tend house chores most of the time -, while they do whatever they want to do, they are still within my reach of control. I will enjoy this phase as much as I can until they ask to go out alone with their friends.