I'll admit it: I'm somewhat of a Type A personality.
Things - especially in regard to parenting - are very black and white for me. I don't do halvesies when it comes to my parenting.
Mostly, this is because of my desire to be consistent. I truly feel as though consistency is the most important aspect of successful parenting - how else can a child learn if the consequences and rules are not always the same? It's why I strive to always keep my word, to keep consistent expectations regardless of location or situation.
But... something I've learned since becoming a parent... every once in a while, rules were meant to be broken.
Last week, Cole dumped out his entire box of train tracks on the living room floor. Totally not a big deal - when it comes to Cole playing, I'm super easy going about him being messy. Creative play takes messiness, you know? But we were going on Day 3 of having train tracks all over the floor and Cole hadn't played with them all day, so I politely asked him to pick them up.
Sidenote: I totally lucked out, you guys - Cole is the BEST cleaner upper ever. I ask once, he does it, every time, without complaining or cajoling. Not sure how that happened...
Five minutes later, he was STILL patiently putting each train track back into the box. "WOW, THIS IS A LOT OF TRAIN TRACKS, MAMA! SO MANY!" he sighed once.
As I watched him work so hard, I had a little thought war inside my head. "I warned him when he asked to dump them out that he would be responsible for putting them all back...maybe he won't dump them all out next time." "But there's so many of them...would it really hurt for me to help just a little?" "He has to learn to be responsible for taking care of his own messes and mistakes."
But I went over and knelt down next to him. "Would you like some help, son?"
"OH! YES PLEASE, MAMA!" - with the biggest, sunniest smile on his face.
"It will be much faster if we both clean them up, won't it?"
"YES! ALMOST DONE NOW, MAMA!"
A few minutes later, the mess was cleaned up.
Cole surveyed the room with a proud smile on his face, then threw his arms around me in a completely unprompted hug. "THANK YOU FOR HELPING ME CLEAN UP MY TRAIN TRACKS, MAMA! THANK YOU!"
"You are so welcome, darling. You are so very welcome."
Afterward, I thought about all the times Cole helps ME out, even when it's not "his" mess - unloading the dishwasher, cooking dinner, taking care of the dogs, watering the plants, taking out garbage and recycling, sorting laundry. Cole is always, ALWAYS a willing (if not always able) helper. If I want him to stay that way, such a cheerful and willing helpful spirit, sometimes I need to break my rules a little.
And I'm positive I got the better end of that deal...the look on his face as he hugged and thanked me, the slobbery kiss of gratitude - those little moments will stay with me far longer than a lesson in clean up would have stayed with Cole.