There are two playgrounds near my house. My kids tend to prefer "the big playground," named for its very tall, very large jungle gym. It has no fewer than three climbing walls, two firehouse poles, and at least three spring-loaded platforms my children enjoy launching themselves off of on the regular. The "big playground," plainly put, is freakin' awesome, according to my kids. At 4 and 2, my children are usually among the youngest on the larger equipment, which understandably makes some of the other parents nervous. While their concern is understandable, it has led to things this parent of adventurous children hates hearing.
There's much discussion and debate in the parenting world about how much freedom, supervision, and attention should be given to children, which often boils down to the idea of "helicopter parents vs. free range parents." If we're being honest, I think this is generally just a thinly-veiled way of giving one another permission to scrutinize and judge women under the guise of "thinking about what's best for the children." Look, every parent wants to raise happy, healthy, safe children. As their loving guardians, parents constantly weigh the risks and rewards of how much we should allow our children to spread their wings. Some parents are more cautious in the things they allow their children to do: that's fine! Some parents are less cautious than the more cautious parents: that's fine, too! It's almost like there are innumerable ways to parent happy, healthy, safe children!
Based on my experiences at the playground (most of them completely lovely), I find myself falling into the "less cautious" camp, at least when compared to the parents around me. The words of child welfare advocate and overall badass Lady Allen of Hurtwood resonate with me: "Better a broken bone than a broken spirit." So, my children tend to look like they're training for careers as stunt doubles when we're out and about. I don't know if their daredevil attitudes are due to my permissiveness or some inborn, adrenaline junkie tendencies harbored deep inside of them, but here we are: they're daring thrill-seekers and I encourage that. Do I worry about them? Duh: I'm a mom and, as such, I keep a vigilant eye on them and am ready to spring into action when needed. But, on the whole, I try to keep a distance and give them opportunities to figure out their own limits before intervening. This is my personal style. It's not everyone else's and that's absolutely fine, but it works for me and my family. In other words, I've got this.
So please, on behalf of other mothers who are liberal with their adventurous littles, I would be much obliged to never have to hear any of the following, ever again:
If we're hearing this from another parent: we were looking. We allowed this to happen. You saw me looking. It's okay. No. Really. Don't worry about it. Just let them do their thing.
If we're hearing ourselves say it: Damnit kid, there's a goddamn limit, okay? Scale it back just a little.
"They're Going To Hurt Themselves!"
Sigh. Look, yeah, that could happen. In some cases, it very well might happen. But it's not like I'm letting my kid walk over hot coals or play in a puddle of toxic sludge leaking from the nearby nuclear plant or handle poisonous snakes. A scraped knee isn't going to kill them, and I'm trying to let them experience trying and succeeding and trying and failing.
Also: don't remind me! Of course I don't want my babies to get hurt, but this is part of a bigger philosophy! Stop making me second guess myself!
It's jarring AF. It's also especially irksome when it's over something that really isn't a big deal at all, as it gets my adrenaline going for no reason. I know you can't always help it, but please try.
"You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!"
Not these words exactly (mainly because we're a no guns household), but I dislike when adults threaten that something outlandishly awful will befall a child, especially when the chances of it actually happen are pretty miniscule. So please, if you see my child climbing a tree (and you often will), don't tell him he's going to fall and break his arm and we'll have to amputate.
"Mommy, Watch Me!"
If my children had their way I would never look at anything other than them, literally anything, for the next 10 or so years... at which point they will be entering their teen years and will insist I never look at them, no doubt.
"You're Not Watching!"
I'M SORRY, I HAD TO BLINK!
"I Would Never Let My Kid Do That"
Okay, great! That's totally fine! You know your child better than anyone and I'm sure you're making the best choices for them. But when you declare this, unsolicited, in the face of someone making a different choice, it comes across as super judgmental.
"You're Going To Be In Trouble When They're A Teenager"
I do not need reminding, thank you...
"I Could Never Be As Laid Back As You"
I don't think this has ever come across in a way that doesn't simply reek of shade, am I right? It's the reigning queen of backhanded compliments, no matter what it's in reference to: personal grooming, household cleanliness standards, parenting, food choices. Seriously, it's like saying "It's just that I care so much more and have higher standards than you!"
Some Horrible Accident That Befell Your Uncle's Friend's Cousin's College Roommate
Please do not regale me with horror stories in an attempt to change how I parent. Parenting is scary enough without you going on about horrific and tragic events that may or may not have befallen some person you've never met. I welcome things like car seat safety tips or important Zika precautions and other such helpful tips. But I don't need George Bluth "lessons."
"You Let Them Do That?"
Yup. You just saw me allow them to do that one thing you clearly don't approve of. You saw me not say anything after they'd done it. You saw me not try to stop them when they went to do it again. Why are you asking, exactly?
"Aren't You Going To Help?"
When my kids need my help they let me know, or I let them know by running up and helping. Look, I really do appreciate your concern for my child (that wasn't sarcastic, I really, really mean it), but please trust that even if it's not your style, it works for our family.
Because yes, sometimes your kid's adventurousness backfires. It sucks, not only to see your baby hurt, but to feel the smug "told you so" looks of less permissive parents searing a hole in the back of your head. But it's okay. For one, a little bump or bruise here and there helps kids learn their limits. Besides: bumps, bruises, and even bones heal, but an adventurous spirit can't be broken.