Freedom!

If you’ve ever thought about participating in Pamplona’s famous bull run, come on over. We have a daily running of the bulls in our kitchen. The twins have been banned from the kitchen since birth, except when being carried to and from their high chairs by a responsible grownup. That worked until they reached the observant age of 19 months, and realized that their Big Sister was allowed to roam in the kitchen and get her own snacks, while they were not. This was deemed highly unfair. These twins are resourceful, and chose the most convenient and successful method of breaking down their grownups: Screaming.

Daddy and I held out as long as possible, but as they’re nearing age 2, we realize that we would someday like them to get their own string cheese and sit successfully in regular chairs, so we did the irrevocable deed. We lifted the baby gate.

At first, they stood frozen, dumbfounded by the vista spread out before them. They both reached a toe out to touch the forbidden hardwood floor, and then snatched it back, as though expecting the gate to come crashing down. I gritted my teeth and smiled in encouragement.

The next 3.5 seconds are a blur in my memory. I believe two Tasmanian devils spun through my kitchen, and by the time I turned around to look, every cupboard door stood open, all the cookie sheets and baking pans had clattered onto the floor, the pasta scoop was swinging from the silverware drawer, every cracker in the cupboard was crushed on the table, and two babes had been baptized by the refrigerator’s water dispenser.

We updated our babyproofing before letting them in again.

The next time we lifted the gate, they knew what to expect. They stomped and snorted, irritated by the delay while I secured the necessary cupboard locks and my sense of control. The gate went up and Mr. Twin led the charge with a cry of, “Crackers!” They ripped open the snack cupboard and paused, overwhelmed by the freedom to choose, then sampled everything. They learned that cookie sheets and cupcake tins make excellent cymbals, and that a dozen serving utensils can become drumsticks. They clambered over the kitchen chairs; sitting, standing, surfing, sliding. They fell off the chairs and cried. They drank water out of big kid cups and drenched their clothes and my floor. They dipped their fingertips in ketchup and accented my kitchen walls with fingerpainting. It really was like a running of the bulls, although I’m not sure if I ran in front, fleeing for my life, or behind, desperate to limit the damage.

We’ve repeated this exercise every day for the past three weeks. Today during snack time, I realized that three kids were sitting quietly at the table. We had our chosen snacks out, no more, no less. I watched Mr. and Miss Twin drink from big kid cups without spilling. Miss Twin got down from her chair, but it was to throw something in the garbage and come right back. Have they progressed THIS much in just a few short weeks? Yes, I think they have. And then I realized how quickly the time will go until we’re sitting around this table drinking soda and wine and coffee, and talking about college and weddings and babies. Their babies.

Perhaps our kitchen could be a metaphor for parenting. It’s so easy to keep our children safe behind a gate, either for their wellbeing or our convenience. It’s harder to let them charge in and make a mess, and harder still to let them clean up the mess. But if we secure life’s dangerous cupboard locks and bite our tongues over the rest, how quickly they will learn! And how confident and capable they’ll become. We warned the twins not to stand on their chairs until we were sick of saying it (okay, still are), but it wasn’t until they fell a few times that they believed us.

I’ve long thought that children are capable of more greatness than adults give them credit for. Miss Twin proved it at 23 months, when she so capably threw away her garbage and returned to sit at the table. It’s a small step, but it proves that our cavemen have begun their ascent into refined human beings!

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Unca Phil
    Mar 09, 2011 @ 14:28:11

    They grow far to fast!!!

    Reply

  2. Angie Webster
    May 19, 2011 @ 13:35:34

    Abby,

    You let the twins have freedom quicker than I did with Jacob! He has been SUCH a tornado but he is getting to be less and less of a disaster around here. I have normally had him buckled in the “eat seat” for a while in the mornings – long enough to eat breakfast and then watch a Veggie Tales movie. Lately he’s been going crazy over puzzles so he’ll sit and do those as well. However just this past week or so he’s been demanding to “sit down” which means, to sit on a normal chair without being tied down as he has been. It’s a learning curve for sure. But we’ll give it a try with coloring and puzzles. I’m not sure that I’m ready for it at meals yet! So funny how I haven’t read your blog for months and now that I finally do, your most recent one parallels our lives here! 🙂

    Reply

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