Just a little bit of cotton wool?
My two year old looks like Mike Tyson. Post-match.
She has a swollen nose, dried blood and scabs all over her upper lip, and a couple of nice shiners coming up. My tough little chic didn’t go three rounds in a boxing ring though – she went head-to-head with the edge of a terracotta pot plant. Face-to-edge actually. But after a made rush to Childcare, a doctor and an x-ray, we have been given the all clear and there’s no broken bones or long-term injuries.
Except for Mummy’s confidence.
Up till now, I have prided myself on being a pretty relaxed Mummy when it comes to physical activity and my children. I don’t hover at the playground. I try desperately to let them ride their bikes or scooters as fast (and wobbly) as they like. And I don’t feel the need to constantly tell them to be careful.
Put simply – I don’t want to be a ‘helicopter parent’, as they are so commonly known these days. Like a hovering helicopter over your child, a helicopter parent is never far from their off-spring, constantly waiting with open arms and a worried look on their face, waiting for the next fall.
As the child grows, so does the parent’s worry. Now it’s not just the potentially-fatal dangers of the see-saw, but concerns now include other children’s homes, being left out at school, and walking or riding alone a short distance.
Actually, when you come to think of it, it’s pretty much everything I was allowed to do as a child. And that’s where this whole issue gets murky. Most parents want their children to have the same freedom to roam, explore and generally ‘just be kids’ that they did, but know all too well that we live in a very different world these days.
I would love for my daughters to ride their bikes through the suburban streets when they get older, heading out in the morning and coming home only when they are hungry. One of my most vivid memories of my childhood is leaving home soon after breakfast with my sister and our trusty BMXs, and we spending the entire day “trying to get lost”. Yes – we would purposely take all the wrongs turns and then try and find our way home!
Would I let my girls do that now? No way. Not only do we live in the Inner-West of Sydney and I am so scared of the traffic even I wouldn’t ride a bike around our streets, but… well, you know the rest.
We just can’t do it anymore.
So how do we, as conscious parents, give our children the experiences of the outdoors, of exploring, and of testing their boundaries, that we had as kids, without putting them in harm’s way?
We stand back and let them fall. We take them to bike parks and watch from a far. We give them other responsibilities, either around the house or in other areas of life, that allows them to test themselves, and find out how strong they are.
Well, that’s what I thought, anyway.
That is, until the recent incident with the terracotta pot.
My youngest daughter is the tom-boy of the family, and an x-ray for a broken nose at the age of two does not surprise me at all. I am quite certain it will not be her last! So when a few days later I see her galloping ahead of me down our street – which happens to be on quite an angle – and her little feet try desperately to keep up with her increasingly forward-moving body, I find myself yelling out ‘Stop!’ ‘You will fall over and hurt yourself again!’
Ah! That’s not the Mum I want to be. But suddenly this little bruised and battered face is making every motherly instinct in my body scream out to SLOW DOWN!
And that’s the thing with parenting. We can be all high and mighty, and say we will never be ‘that’ parent. I will never be the one who stops my child from having fun just out of fear that she may get a bump or too. My sentences will not be constantly peppered with the negative and reminders of all that could go wrong.
I will not wrap my children in cotton wool.
And then I go right ahead and do it.
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