From Tami: Learning Through Mischief

Baby pulling toilet paper off the roll
I was cooking with one of my daughters, many years ago, when we heard a nervous giggle behind us. When I turned around, I saw two of my boys standing there with guilty smiles on their faces.

“Hi Ma.” Giggle, shuffle, mumble.

“Hi boys. Is everything ok?” I asked, already knowing the answer.

Cue repeat of giggle, shuffle, mumble.

One of them finally got up his courage, and this is what followed. Please feel free to imagine huge, guilty smiles, and lots of finger pointing:

A: “He flushed a tennis ball down the toilet!”
B: “Well he threw it in!”
A: “Yeah, but you flushed!”
B: “But it was your idea in the first place!”

And then there was silence. Guilty, trying-not-to-laugh-in-case-it-makes-mom-angrier silence.

Me: “Why would you do that?”
Them: “To see what would happen.”
Me: “And what happened?”
Them: “It got stuck…”

Sometimes you have to laugh your way through parenting, even when you want to cry. Or scream.

In this case, I didn’t even really react. I think I was numb. My husband tried to pry it out with a snake coil, which got it more stuck. We ended up calling a plumber, who had to dismantle the toilet and some of the pipes. I never even punished the boys, because once all of the logistics of fixing the toilet were settled, it didn’t seem necessary. The boys were sorry. They weren’t being malicious, just curious.

A lot of their mischief—those two in particular, anyway—was just them trying to understand the limits and mechanisms of the world around them. They are bright, curious, and somewhat impulsive. Raising them was always an adventure.

One of them once took a hammer to his bedroom wall to see what was inside. I asked him what he found. “Empty space,” he replied. I believe he got punished that time—I couldn’t have him smashing up the house.

But so much of the troublemaking that kids do is preliminary physics. They are trying to figure out how things work, whether “A” will cause “B,” and if this will be fun.

I know it can be tough to let your kids learn in these ways, when you worry that it could be dangerous or destructive. It is part of the balancing act I’m always going on about. But I know that you guide your kids, so that they know their limits, and you hope they don’t cross them too often. You already help your kids to balance safety, fun, and learning. And you laugh it off, as often as you can, when they do something crazy with harmless intentions.

That’s why you’re a Super-Mom.


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