Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Free Ranging It.

I read an article today about Lenore Skenazy's Free Range childrearing ideas. She's kinda out there, but for the most part I agree with her. She kinda has me scared that people are going to call CPS on us.

A couple of weeks ago I answered the door for a neighbor. She had locked herself out, so she buzzed me to let her in. I did. She asked, where's the baby?

Playing in the living room.

I'm pretty sure I heard her jaw bone shattering when it hit floor. I was out there for what... 2 minutes, tops? I didn't say that he was in his playpen, which he was. At that time, he couldn't even move. But.. still. I do admit to leaving him alone for a few minutes at a time, either on the floor or in a playpen.

Now, don't get me wrong. I want him to be safe. I look around for anything he could topple over onto himself or put into his mouth and choke on. BUT. If he tries to pull up on the couch arm, and I hear a big thunk.. Well, I'm not too alarmed. I'll glance at him, see that he's fine, and go back to whatever I was doing. For the most part his falls don't bother him one bit, and he's yet to sustain any visible damage.

Does this mean that he's never done anything he shouldn't? No. Frequently he manages to get a dirty nasty shoe in his mouth or he ends up stuck underneath the armchair. Yesterday morning he was trying to eat a dead ladybug. Big deal. I take away the offending object, distract him with a new soup ladle or some other equally fascinating thing and finish my sandwich.

I realize this isn't how all parents are. Jared worries way more than I do. Jared is the first one to rush over when Oliver takes a bit of a dive on the carpet.  He is the last one to let Oliver play in the grass, touch any dirt, lick the shopping cart, etc. Don't get me wrong, he is a great dad but he worries a lot. I know he worries because he cares. I get that, really I do. But.

What I don't get is how people can sustain that mentality of worry and constant vigilance. How do people watch their kids 24/7? Even What to Expect: The First Years states that a baby should never be left out of sight unless he is sleeping in his crib. What the hell!? I would go crazy. Sometimes, I just need to pee and I'm not going to try and hold it until he goes down for a nap. Sometimes, I would like to make myself lunch. And, let's face it, sometimes I don't want to play with animal train anymore and I just want to check my email. I am crazy enough already without having to worry about whether or not Oliver is going to develop some rare disease from licking the couch cushions.

And besides my own sanity, what about Oliver's? He's already been affected by our worries. If Jared is around, Oliver cries when he falls over and looks to Jared to pick him up. He knows Jared worries when he falls down and responds accordingly. When we first started taking real baths, I used to brace myself for rinsing his hair. I would get out the rinsing cup and sort of clench my teeth for the task at hand. I know I don't like water in my face, so I assumed he wouldn't like it too. I was wrong. As it turns out, what he doesn't like is me making a big deal out of it. The water itself is no problem. If I just dump a cup of water over his head while he's playing, he shivers and laughs about it. We both have to be careful about how we react and what we do, because whether we realize it or not, Oliver picks up on wayy more than we give him credit for.

SO. I don't want to teach Oliver to worry about everything. I don't want him thinking the world is an evil place. Most people out there are good. Most things aren't dangerous, if you keep your head about you. Eating food that has fallen on the floor, while it may not be proper etiquette, does not invite hosts of flesh-eating germs into your body. Taking risks means having more fun and enjoying your life more.  I want him to know that.

There is a reason you don't read articles about a big-deal CEO whose life motto is to "Play it safe." They don't write movies about The Man That Didn't Risk It All For Love. Storylines never say anything like, "One time, a little boy lived near a big scary forest. He lived near that big scary forest for his whole life. He never went in there.  Because. Could've been bears or something scary, who knows."

1 comment:

  1. oliver is lucky to have you.

    hovering, over-worrying parents raise helpless children...who become incompetent adults. i have seen it in many of my college students. people don't learn how to think or strategize, and need explicit instructions for every step of a project, because they've always been overprotected and have never had to take responsibility for themselves. you can hold oliver's hand every time he crosses a street for the rest of your life, but i think you're doing him a much greater service by teaching him to look both ways and be careful, then letting him do it himself.