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Life with a smile: How much crazy is too much crazy?

By KATE SNYDER

Contributing writer

I’m pretty sure that 85-percent of parenting is trying to answer the question “How much crazy is too much crazy?”

My son came back from a craft festival with a rough-hewn wooden mallet, a gift from a woodworker who was demonstrating how to carve. It was basically just a hunk of wood, one end of which had been whittled down to a handle while the other remained chunky. To my son, it was the hammer of Thor.

Recognizing that he desperately needed to whack something with his mallet — and preferring strongly that it not be one of his sisters — I gave him a giant zucchini (‘tis the season) and sent him to the backyard with orders to destroy it. It didn’t stand a chance.

I can handle that level of crazy. Zucchini innards splattered across the yard, accompanied by the enthusiastic war whoops of a 7-year-old with a mohawk? That’s average, run-of-the-mill crazy.

Last weekend, my kids spent an hour fully immersed in an extremely rambunctious game wherein they portrayed various members of the Avengers. The nuances of the plot escaped me; mostly they just ran up and down the driveway shrieking and waving sticks while shouting things like “Let’s go, Spiderman!” at the top of their lungs.

No problem at all. My only intervention in the game was to insist that they all wear pants. Shirts were optional.

It can, however, at times be difficult to gauge exactly where the tipping point is, from “normal crazy” to “too much crazy.” Jumping on the couch while singing karaoke at astonishingly-high decibels? Normal crazy. Add a Halloween costume and a bit of interpretive dance? Still fine. Moving the dance party to the top of the coffee table? Ummm — maybe? Front flips off said coffee table onto the couch? Abort! Abort!

As a parent, I try to say “yes” as much as I can. I can’t give my blessing to everything, obviously. (Sorry, kids, the ruling against eating Nutella straight from the jar for breakfast stands. Except on special occasions.) But I try hard to look at the real impact of their requests before I say no. Sure, the cleanup is substantial when your 5-year-old decides to grind her sidewalk chalk into powder and apply it like war paint to her entire body, but it’s nothing that can’t be solved with the proper application of a garden hose.

The same child regularly wears taffeta dresses to school, because what’s the point in saving them just for church? I’d much rather see her get some good wear out of them. If she’s comfortable climbing on the jungle gym in formalwear, who am I to say no? If we’ve bought a fancy outfit for a special occasion, I try to keep it safe until said occasion, but it doesn’t always work.

My youngest fell desperately in love with her first-day-of-school dress this year and begged to wear it to a friend’s house the weekend before school began. She returned with bright blue eye shadow on her eyelids and bright pink blush on her cheeks — and all over the front of her dress, which resulted in tears, heartbreak and remorse. But stain-remover to the rescue and it was good as new for the big day.

The fact is, life is better when you say yes, even when it leads to a bit of chaos. And I think we can all agree that sometimes you just need to pummel vegetables with wooden tools. It’s good for the soul.