Sunday, February 27, 2011

"You can't have two fun parents..." ~ Claire Dunphy, "Modern Family"

I'm not a helicopter parent.  I don't spend every second with my child hovering over him, making sure he does absolutely nothing out of line.  Don't get me wrong; I don't let him stand on the furniture, or stick his fingers in the electrical outlets, or play with chemicals under the sink or anything like that.  But when he runs over like he's going to climb up the stairs, I don't immediately chase him.  I normally ignore him for a second, and he comes back on his own, crisis (and tantrum) averted.

And, so far, being a laidback mom has worked pretty well.  My kid's healthy, smart, and has had only a couple ER visits.  One was for a bad ear infection, and the other was when he took a bite out of a glass holiday ornament (but seriously, that really wasn't my fault).  But all in all, my little man has been doing pretty well.

My husband's like me, and most of our extended family takes it pretty chill as well.  The exception is my dad, who cuts the kids' food up so tiny he might as well run it through a blender, and thinks every sneeze warrants a call to the doctor.  We all give him a hard time for being paranoid, and he's convinced we're all dangerously unsafe.

So of course it would be at his poppa's house that my son got his first major booboo.

A bunch of us were at my parents' place for my dad's birthday, and my son was having an awesome time tearing around the house with his older cousin.  Now, my son is 19-months-old, and his cousin is over 2 1/2 years old.  She's built like a ballerina, whereas he's built like an offensive lineman.  So he's already a good bit clumsier and slower than her.  Compound that with his toddler boy's propensity to distraction, and a slick hardwood floor.

While simultaneously running and turning around to laugh at his cousin, my son slipped and went down on his face.  Hard.  He immediately started screaming and crying.  And this kid never cries, usually not even when he gets splinters removed or shots at the doctor.  Anytime he cries, it's a sure sign that he's really hurt.

His daddy immediately scooped him up, and we all started fussing over him.  His adorable little nose was squashed-looking and already starting to swell and turn colors.  Since I babble like an idiot when I'm worried, I asked, "Could he have broken his nose?  Do they have bones in their nose at this age, or are their noses still all squishy inside?"

"They still only have cartilage in their noses at this age," my husband reassured me, examining my son's face.  "Besides, if it was broken it'd be bleeding."  This was the perfect cue for a stream of bloody snot to start its descent from my son's right nostril.

Well, we cleaned up my son's nose and gave him some of my dad's birthday cake.  10 minutes later, he was running around with his cousin again and was perfectly fine.  His poppa still wasn't.

"Don't let him run around anymore!  What's wrong with you; are you crazy?"  We explained that, if we chased after him to stop him from running, he would only think we were playing with him too, and would just run harder from us, be more distracted, and more likely to fall.  His poppa was still paranoid.

"He might have black eyes tomorrow from where the blood vessels in his nose broke.  And you should let him sleep with you tonight, in case he has a concussion."

Anyway, as you would expect, my son's perfectly fine (yes we let him sleep in our bed).  We were all back over at my parents' today, just hanging out in the backyard enjoying the nice weather.  My husband had grabbed a 12-pack of Bud Limes on the way over, and my son made a perfect little bartender, fetching beers for everyone.  (He's even smart enough to bring you another beer before you're completely finished with your current one, an art most professional bartenders haven't mastered.)

Earlier, my dad had been making my son laugh by spraying the outdoor hose in the air for my stepmom's dog to jump at.  My son kept wanting to go play with the hose, and we kept telling him no.  Eventually we got tired of trying to divert him away from it.

My son heads over to the hose.  I say, "Baby, leave that alone.  Come back over here and grab mommy another beer."  My son grins and me, and inches closer to the hose.  I shrug, and go back to nursing my Bud Lime.  My dad says, "He's going to pick that up and spray himself in the face."  I say, "Yes, and he'll learn a lesson."

Everyone gets quiet and still, watching my son to see what he'll do.  Grinning because he's getting his way, he trots his chubby little self over and picks up the hose in triumph.  He picks the sprayer up to look at it, and squirts himself in the face, soaking his whole shirt, and most of his pants.

And his parents and grandparents all burst into laughter.  He runs over to us whining, holdings his arms outstretched for us to help him get his wet shirt off.  We hug him and help him get changed, and everyone enjoys the rest of their afternoon.

And not once did he touch that hose again.

So, yes.  I'm laidback.  But I like to think I'm helping my son.  Maybe I'm more cynical because I've had so many health issues, but I'm very aware of the fact that I won't always be there to tell him what he should or shouldn't be doing.  I figure my best bet now is to guide him and help him learn to figure out things for himself, laying a solid foundation for him to build on later.

And, yes, this style of parenting is easier in some ways.  I ran a pet store for almost three years; I don't want to have to micromanage when I get home.  And it's cool having a little buddy who can tag along at movies or restaurants and handle himself at least as well as the adults there.  If the worst I ever have to put up with is the mom-gestapo turning their noses up at my parenting choices, cool.  I'm doing what works best for my kid and my family.

Plus, seriously, you should have seen his face when that hose sprayed him.

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