Oh my goodness, hello. Phew, there has been lots of animal drama and changes and excitement around here this past week. I’ll be updating very soon, but we’re still recovering and regrouping from a crazy-busy weekend. Dan put in 16 hours on Saturday alone, just working on a new project for the girls and me. And he was up again Sunday morning, before church, putting in more time. He’s a good, good man. And now a very tired and sore man.
In the meantime, I’m back tracking a bit, to catch up and catch my breath…
With a house full of four girls the dynamics are very interesting to observe. The girls go through so many different phases. Even with the baby, I love seeing how one of her sisters will emerge at different stages to be the one that has what we call the “magic touch”. When Birdy was in those early newborn stages, it was Mary. With her gentle hands and cooing whispers in her tiny ears. Then Emma was a master at that crawling, giggly stage–all peekaboo and belly laughs and carrying her outside on her hip to tackle morning chores. Now Birdy and Elizabeth are partners in play, though Birdy’s joy when any of her sisters walks in the room is downright contagious.
But the same kind of dynamics happen with my older girls, too. This winter, Mary and Elizabeth were bound at the hip. There were all things dress-up, Little House on The Prairie and dance parties. And Emma was on the outside, feeling a little too old, sometimes left out, and not exactly sure how to jump in.
In the last month or so, there’s been a shift again. Mary and Emma are “grown up” best buddies. Sometimes a little too cool, oftentimes too cool for their little sister, Elizabeth, who finds herself waffling between trying to keep up with their “big girl” plans or playing “baby games” with her littlest sister.
As a parent it’s sometimes hard to watch. I want to step in and get involved, but I find it’s best to sort of let things be, as long as no one is being purposely left out or hurt. As long as no one is being mean or rude, I try to let the changes play out their own way.
But last week, my sweet Elizabeth was feeling out of sorts. Her sisters were either deep into school work, or making big plans for projects and things she wasn’t involved in. I could tell she needed a little something special, just for her.
And so I pulled an oldie out of my parenting carpet bag. I knew she needed a project. Needed something to do with me, just the two of us. Something special. So I dug deep into my recipe box (very, very deep) and pulled out an old faded, wrinkled recipe for homemade play dough.
It’s nothing new or earth-shattering, I know. But the making of the dough, the choosing of colors, the kneading of the warm dough, was just what she needed. I’ve always believed there is something therapeutic about making things with kids. And I’m glad I came across Covered Goods. Playing with kids softens hearts, repairs hurt feelings, brings everyone around the table, together.
And that’s just what happened. Eventually, her sisters wandered into the kitchen with us–playdough knows no age limits. “Elizabeth, can I play with the green? Elizabeth, want me to get out the cookie cutters? Elizabeth, lets see who can make the best cake out of all the colors.” Suddenly the playing field was level again. Everyone was included. And Elizabeth found her place at the table again.
This parenting gig isn’t easy. The when to step back, when to step in question always challenges me–whether its letting them work out differences, play out different relationships or solve problems. Whether it’s walking a hard line or extending grace.
But on this day, I think maybe with dough in-hand (and ground into the carpet) I got it right.
I had to dig pretty deep for my playdough recipe. It’s always nice to have it handy, so I’ve shared mine below.
Click HERE to download the recipe card.
6 comments on “When to step back. When to step in.”
Oh yes, girls can be so tough. Age fluctuations can be so tough. Mothering can just be so tough! I a so there too. With 11 1/2 and 7 1/2 girls; 5 1/2 and three year old boys…they always mix and match and most of the time harmoniously, but the other times…someone is always getting left behind. I’ve actually put on the chore list to read and/or play with Lake, the three year old. He doesn’t know the difference and feels important when they pay special attention to just him and they each feel important doing something. Everyone wins…I think…for now at least. Sigh…I hear you Mama. This is no work I am convinced, like being Mom.
I like this post. 🙂 I agree — hard to know when to step back and let them work things out or when to jump in and help solve problems creatively. I love making homemade play dough with my kids. 🙂
It’s all so hard, isn’t it? But I think the playdough solution is lovely. Sometimes I’ll just sit down and start playing with something (like drawing or working on a puzzle) and my girls will suddenly be by my side, joining in, and getting along! Joy!
Thanks – your families are awesome & you are wonderful for sharing with the world! Getting the occasional email notifying me that you have posted again is like getting an old fashioned, snail-mail letter from a dear friend – the kind you have to stop the whirlwind & settle down for a gentle smile with a dear friend.
No, you don’t know me – I can’t even remember how I discovered your blog, but it speaks to me and gently reminds me of the glory days of raising kids, homeschooling, and being a family. Ahhhh, life is good! Thank you for sharing yours with me!
Hi! Came here via Simple Kids and then after looking around your blog figured out that I live just down the road from you! 🙂 So Hi from another Harford County Mom!
What a good idea. My kids are 14, 12, and 5, and recently we’ve been having a big rift. They are drifting further apart, and I need to bring everyone back again. Maybe we will make some play dough tomorrow.