Monday, January 21, 2013

lowering the bar

This is the scene that brought two screaming mothers racing up the path.


Two boys, alone and obviously in danger, playing perilously along the edge of the pond, mere moments from... what exactly?

(This pond is about 6 inches deep here.  I know because L has fallen in it before*.)

I thought the mothers would laugh and realize their mistake when they saw me sitting on the bench right there, but on the contrary they rushed right over and pulled the boys away from the edge.  "No, no!" they yelled.  "It's dangerous!  You can't play here." And then, looking at me, repeated: "It's dangerous!"

I reassured them that the boys knew what they were doing, and I was right there, but they were not to be deterred.  Their constant refrain? "Something could happen!"

Like my favorite movie heroine, I can never think of the right thing to say at the right moment.  Later that evening, I was still thinking about their words: "Something could happen."  I thought and thought and, hours later, I finally came up with the perfectly-worded response.  "So what?!"

I wish I would have said that at the time. So what!?  Since when is our goal as parents to make sure nothing happens to our kids?  Parents are charging themselves with the task of foreseeing and then eliminating and avoiding every possible injury or negative experience that might happen to their kids.  I want to lower the bar. 

Basically, I want my boys to survive childhood and avoid life-altering injuries if possible.  I don't want them to be paralyzed, lose any limbs, or get any third-degree burns, or gouge out their eyes.  But tumbles and skinned knees and accidental falls into the pond when I'm standing a few feet away?  I'm not going to worry about those.  I don't even want to sweat the possibility of broken arms from falling off the jungle gym or out of a tree.

The thing is, kids learn from those injuries and mishaps.

*The very next time we went to the pond, after L fell in that day, he headed straight for the edge again. "Be careful!" I warned.   "I am be carefuling!" he answered indignantly, as he lowered himself on to his belly and scooted toward the edge.  He hasn't fallen in since.

28 comments:

  1. Oh gosh. YES. YES. YES!!! I completely agree with you!

    With my first child, I hovered her every move. I was SO paranoid about anything happening. I didn't want her dirty, EVER.
    Second child, lightened up a BIT, but still pretty paranoid. Then, that little baby turned into a CRAZY, adventurous toddler boy that had minor bumps/bruises/scrapes from head to toe from all of his little adventures and harmless antics - and, get this - HE WAS OK! He had fun. He was never badly hurt. He NEVER cried when he would fall or anything.
    So, by the time my third rolled around, I had a new outlook and haven't done any hovering.

    Let them be kids! Let them fall down. Let them have fun. Let them be crazy!

    P.S. Seriously in love with your little boy's curls!!

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    1. Thanks!! You sound like my kind of mom. I had a look around your blog today. :)

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  2. Very true :) I think these little mishaps just make them stronger on step at a time. And of course he is being 'carefuling' so what's to worry about? I'm going to steal that word by the way ;)

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  3. Good for you! I follow the free-range parenting method - I too don't want my kids paralyzed with fear at every moment!

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  4. I'm so with you! Do those mothers not remember their own childhoods? I guarantee there was less minute-to-minute supervision, and here they are to have children of their own.

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    1. I know! Why is it that it was normal for us to play on our own, walk to school, and everything else, but when it comes time for our kids to do those same things, everyone acts like it's negligence?

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  5. Something happening is the only way to learn about life!

    That sucks you didn't think of your response sooner, it would've been hilarious to see the looks on their faces!!

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  6. I am completely with you on this. I saw that picture and my only thought was "how cute!" and not "how dangerous!" at all. Letting kids explore and be kids is SO important.

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    1. Thanks, Meredith! I know I can't be the only mom out there who parents this way, but it sure feels like it sometimes. ;)

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  7. This.is. AWESOME.
    Yes, Yes, Yes...and Yes some more. I love this post and the parenting behind it. You rock, mom!

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    1. Aw shucks! Thanks :) Whoever thought I'd get such nice comments about not caring that much if my kids fall in a pond :)

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  8. One word, "wow"! I just can't believe how presumptuous people are! What gives them ANY RIGHT to have any say about how you parent? I love that you are letting your children discover the world and experiment.

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    1. Thanks, Rachel! I know it comes from a place of worry, not necessarily judgement, but still. It feels good to backed up here. And it gives me the confidence to give my "So what?" answer next time. :)

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  9. I love this post. You are so right! My daughter's father is that way...helicopter. She can't play outside if its under a certain temperature, can't jump or climb on things. She is 4 and still takes stairs one at a time, placing both feet on each tred before moving down to the next one...she might fall. *sigh* I've been working with her. It drives me nuts. Live, laugh, have fun, make mistakes and learn. Its how we grow.

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    1. Thanks! It's hard enough battling my own temptation to hover... I wouldn't want to have to fight my spouse on it, too. Hang in there. :)

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  10. There's nothing like a kid learning a lesson to make him/her be careful!! My youngest son burnt his hand on a woodstove when he was a toddler--I was completely freaked out because his skin blistered immediately and he was crying and crying. But he was okay. I called my sister, who is a doctor, and we treated it with cold, running water. He never went near the stove again.

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    1. Isn't that how it is? I knocked a pan of hot soup over myself as an elementary schooler (not even a toddler, I don't know what I was thinking) and learned not to mess with the stove when someone was cooking. And the thing is, I think every person in our parent's generation would feel sad that their kid was hurt, but wouldn't feel like a bad parent the way that we do every time something happens. If that same thing happened to one of my boys, I would have trouble not blaming myself. It's so hard to fight the tendency to hover and take the blame myself, but I'm learning. :)

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    1. Thanks. I was going to say thanks beej, but I guess I can't say beej anymore. Beew? beamer? What is your nickname now??

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  12. They do learn from their mistakes. But I'm with the girls. I wouldn't want something to happen. My son is cautious. I guess he takes that after me. For me that's a good thing. #TALU

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    1. Well it takes all kinds, so it's ok that there are plenty of cautious people out there. But I still feel confident that even if 'something happened' it would be ok. Don't we want things to happen for our kids- their childhoods would be so drab if nothing ever did!

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  13. We had zero supervision growing up...literally leaving the house after breakfast and arriving home for dinner. Totally a different time, and not something I entertain as even a possibility w/my own, but we did live. ;) #TALU

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    1. It doesn't have to be zero.... But I bet there's room for a little middle-ground. :) it's nice to look back and see that some of the things our parents did would be seen as 'bad parenting'. We don't have to feel bad about not being perfect.

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  14. I am SO those two mothers and I SO wish I was you. You're absolutely right. I know I'm repeating my mother's patterns but it's so engrained in me. I should bookmark this page and come back to it every once in a while. Great post! TALU.

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    1. Thanks! I'm helicoptery in some ways, too. But when I catch myself, I stop. I am trying to retrain myself. :)

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