Sunday, March 30, 2008

Markers do not equal Mayhem

One of my favorite t.v. shows is Jon and Kate plus eight, which airs Monday nights at 9pm on TLC. In its second season, the show, which originally began as a special, has become fairly popular and well known, so I take it most moms are familiar. For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to see it, the show is a reality t.v. program which chronicles the lives of the Gosselin family of Pa, which is made up of mom and Dad, a.k.a Jon and Kate, and their twins Mady and Cara, and their sextuplets.

I first stumbled upon their special, one night while watching TLC. At the time, I was pregnant with my fifth, gulp, child, who was a bit of a whoopsee baby. Exhausted and uncertain of whether or not I would be able to handle a fifth child, I began to watch "Surviving Sextuplets and Twins", and immediately I started to feel better about my situation. If this couple, who lived only about forty minutes away from me, could take of six babies and five year old twins, surely I could take of my four, ages 12,8,5,and 31/2 and one baby!!!

The special was rerun many times before another special was produced. I almost ashamed to tell you how many times I watched the first special over and over again. When the second special came out, I was so excited. When I heard they were going to start a series based on these specials, which would be called, Jon and Kate plus eight, I was elated.

You see, I have never really been terrifically good at being organized. I'm a left brainer. I like to create. not clean up. Something about the smooth running of this family inspired me, however, and I began to look to the show for tips on how to do things better. At one point, I began to lament as to why I was so inadequate at being organized.

Since I have been watching the series, however, I have begun to realize, there are some benefits to being a little more laid back and a little less organized. Last week's episode, which featured the Gosselins going to the Crayola factory, was particularly eye opening.

Upon arriving at the Crayola factory, the Gosselins had lunch in a little cafeteria area. Jon was attempting to give the kids their lunch when he was scolded by Kate "you are getting ahead of yourself", she told him. "Vests off, bibs on" she barked to her husband so that he would first remove the children's vests and put bibs on them before giving them their food.

I do not know for certain what public opinion is about bib wearing, but most people that I know, myself included, probably stop using bibs for every meal sometime around age 21/2 to 3. These are kids are about three and a half. Why do they need bibs on to eat lunch?

Kate, their mother, would undoubtedly defend her desire for her children to use bibs during mealtime, with the same rationale she gave when asked by a crew member of the show, why she did not allow the children to use markers at the interactive stations of the Crayola factory?

Kate was unapologetic when she said that the children could not use markers, which Jon said were washable, because it would make for a long day in the laundry room for her. When her husband questioned her as to why she didn't dress the kids in play clothes for an outing to an arts and crafts outlet, she stated plainly, "I want the kids to look nice."

I must say that as much as I admire Kate's organizational abilities, I take issue with the fact that she is so complacent about her inability to let loose. Part of being a good parent is recognizing when to step back, let loose, and let the kids be independant. In this episode, Kate suggested the Crayola factory was not a place for her- "this is for relaxed people" she said. Sometimes, as a parent, you have to step outside of your comfort zone to allow your children to do things that they enjoy.

I think that Kate should be cautious about using her "hang ups" as excuses. Sometimes, kids need to get dirty. Oh and by the way, why would it take her an entire day to stain treat 6 or shirts? At five minutes a shirt, which is a very generous estimate, those shirts could have been sprayed with shout in under forty minutes. On the other hand, the memory of the trip, which ended with many of the kids having meltdowns, which Kate attributed to them having too much, but I would argue were more likely the result of them not being able to do enough, will last a lot longer. There are potentially serious effects of teaching children that they have to be perfect; that they can't get dirty; that things always "should" be a certain way . Read any book on anxiety and or panic disorder, and find out that many mental illnesses stem from being taught to think like perfectionist.

Look, I am not judging. I am far from perfect. If Kate saw my laundry room, she'd probably have a stroke. I confess that my one year old ate yogurt today without a bib on, and consequently, it is all over her white shirt. All I am saying is that while it is important to be organized, it is also important to let kids breathe. And if one shirt gets ruined in the process, life will go on.