On Friday I took Toddler to a park she has never been to before. I fully expected her to play around and try to interact with some older kids who would want nothing to do with her, while I watched or played with my phone.
I am not a helicopter mom for a few of reasons.
1) I want my child to figure things out on her own so she learns how to deal. Learning to climb/fall/balance/fall is all a part of the learning process. If she was never to find out she could fall, her survival instinct would be zero.
2) It causes so much useless anxiety for her and myself. I feel like I can trust my instincts when I know something is unsafe or her abilities are not quite there.
3) I find following my child so she is within arms reach to be the exact opposite of what I want to do. So I don’t. I just don’t want to. End of story. I’m not gonna.
Sure, for the first while in my kid’s lives I try to make sure they don’t kill themselves or eat poison, but once they are showing signs that they want to explore I am totally down with that. Go ahead and check things out kid, I already know what is up, so I will sit here and enjoy my semi-silence and the fact that a little person is not trying to crawl all over me for a change.
Parks, playgrounds, playcafés, jungle gyms etc. – these things are a treasure when you have an energetic and inquisitive child. These places give parents a friggin’ minute of not having to entertain. We can disengage for a minute or two and sometimes that is all we need. We can’t be “on” all the time. We just can’t.
So if you feel the need to sit back and relax, it’s fine. Play on your phone, enjoy your book or stare off into the distance remembering what it was like to have less responsibilities.
Enjoy those moments… because your child will eventually notice the swings.
The swings are the deal breaker.
My child will literally swing for an hour. Husband and I have had to take shifts pushing her in the swing in our own backyard. Most times when we have had enough and want her to get out, it is a battle. I am pretty sure the neighbours have heard the screaming and have seen me carrying her like a football into the house while she wails.
Swings are her favourite. So you can imagine I was trying to avoid the swings as much as possible on Friday and let her explore the other equipment instead. It lasted about four minutes and then I was hauled over to the swings. I set her into the toddler swing and pushed her for a good ten minutes – fully expecting it to be longer – before she pointed to the other swing and said, “Your turn.”
Often the regular swings are a little uncomfortable when you are an adult. My hips have widened and my arse is bigger than it was, but I sat in the swing anyway and began swinging. I would at least try for a moment so I could see the look Toddler gave me as she was so happy to see me “having fun” her way.
I didn’t expect to really enjoy myself. It has been quite a few years since being at the playground was about my own enjoyment. So, you can understand how surprised I was to feel that tight ball of nerves in my belly that trickled its way to my extremities. Then I realized that if I closed my eyes tightly, I was five years old again – flying high on the swing my Dad set up for me on the weeping willow in our front yard.
I haven’t felt adrenaline or butterflies in my stomach for so long that they almost felt foreign to me. It felt like childhood.
Toddler and I looked at each other and we laughed and giggled. I had to get off the swing a few times to push her again, but I hopped right back on and tried to catch up with her rhythm.
She had a good idea that day. Not only did I manage to actually have fun at the playground, but I honestly lost track of time just like I did when I was little.
We weren’t worried about anything. I didn’t feel like I had to disengage in order to relax. We both felt the joy in the moment and let it ride. We were really connected at that moment.
Maybe when Toddler is older and has the chance to swing again, she will close her eyes and remember the time when her Mama joined her on the swingset at the playground – that tight ball of nerves bringing back all those sensations and feelings.
… and if you are wondering… she still totally lost her shit when it was time to leave. I proudly did the football carry to the car as I was watched by the other parents.