Elli loves to collect things. Bits of paper, birthday cards, cardboard tubes, stickers, toys, even food. The latest thing she has decided to cling to is jam packets from the local breakfast joint that we go to. She loves to take them home and gets really upset if we try to prevent her from doing so; in her mind it is a critical thing for her to be able to bring them back from the restaurant. She brought back quite a number over the past while and I began to wonder where they had gotten to since there weren't any in the kitchen and I wasn't finding them in her room when I cleaned it out. Recently I found out the answer. She is taking them to school and giving them away to her friends there.
But I ... no... why... but you shouldn't... but I shouldn't care... argh.
I am caught between my instant reaction which is to tell her to stop taking jam from the restaurant and giving it away at school and my reasoned consideration which says that the restaurant doesn't care and she is doing no harm giving away jam packets. Sure, the jam in the packets isn't exactly good food, but that is hardly grounds for interfering in this strange little practice. I find I constantly have this battle between telling her to stop doing whatever crazy, random thing she has taken a liking to and just letting her do anything she wants. The trouble more than anything is that it is *hard* to sit there and do a rational analysis of her crazy ideas. I normally have a very excited small person cheerleading to be able to do whatever she wants and am distracted by whatever else it is I was already doing when I discovered her doing something bizarre. In the midst of that I have to consider whether my gut reaction of
No! Don't do that. Why are you doing that?
is actually warranted by facts or if I am just reacting emotionally to her forcing me to a decision without the time or space to make it correctly. Sometimes the things she does really are strange but innocuous; just a child experimenting with the world. I want to encourage that and let her try things out for herself rather than just toe the line because the line is there. Unfortunately sometimes her ideas really are bad, either for her health, my sanity, or other people's convenience and I have to stop her. I think you can see a lot about a person by watching their instant reactions to their children doing strange things. Some are hyperprotective, some get angry at any behaviour that isn't 'normal' and some are very permissive. I think I tend a lot towards 'stand in line!' in my instant, reflexive responses but I become extremely permissive once I think about things and consider the long term consequences of her actions. Two days ago I got to watch Wendy go through this exact thing when Elli was running down the sidewalk with a small hard candy in her mouth.
Wendy: "Elli, don't go running with candy in your mouth!"
Me: "I don't think there is any danger. The candy is tiny and dissolves in saliva anyway..."
Wendy: "Oh, ignore me... I was channeling my grandmother there for a minute."
Yeah, I know that feeling. Those instant reactions come out and then we just look at them and wonder where the heck they came from.