“WHAT UP WITH DAT, DAD?”
Maybe it's me, but there seems to be a lot of uptight parents these days. I see it in playgroups, the playground, at family outings, and on Facebook. People just seem to be so tightly wound when it comes to their kids. I guess some might call it "Helicopter Parenting" but I prefer to call Control Freak Parenting. People, let your kids fucking breathe! You can’t prevent everything. Sooner or later you’re going to have to go to emergency for some stitches, or to set a broken bone, or to remove a peg from your kid’s nose. Now, no one’s telling you not to watch your kids… just stop standing over them like that vein on your forehead is going to explode if they try to put sand in their mouth.
Relax! Sure, we all have our hang ups. I personally have a fear of my daughter choking, but it’s more because I’m afraid I won’t know what to do if it actually occurs (I’m enrolling in refresher classes). But that’s MY hang up. My 2-year-old gags all the time, but you just learn that it’s normal for a child to do that as they learn how to eat solids. Many times she gags herself because she thinks it’s funny. I don’t, but it’s her sense of humor. And I guess we as parents need a little more of that.
All parents have some hang up of some sort. I remember my dad losing his mind if one of us had our glass too close to the edge of the table. I know my brother loses his sh@# when his kids (aged 6 and 9) go out on their Grandmother’s balcony (10 stories up). You’re entitled to your phobias as a parent- you just can’t pass them on to your kids.
You don’t like animals? Well, why can’t your kids like them? You have a fear of heights and throwing up on strangers? Cool, let someone else take your son or daughter on that roller coaster. You think micro-organisms are plotting your death? They might be, but slathering your kids in Purell is only going to kill all the good bacteria that keep them healthy.
Stop over-thinking all aspects of your kid’s lives. Have your one, or two, or three, four, five, six, or seven phobias that force you to bite your lip, many, many times, as you take your child out in public, but don’t freak your kids out with them. And you know what- don’t freak me out with them either. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW.
Yes, kids can get salmonella from raw cookie dough. Well, so can adults, but I seem to have built up an immunity to it over time. Are you going to rob your kid (or your husband) of one of the greatest joys of childhood? Let them lick the freakin’ bowl (and the beaters too). Let them eat some sand or dirt, and play on the monkey bars, and jump off the garage, and use a skateboard, and eat some junk food every now and then, and bloody up a nose. Each and every one of these things is a rite of passage, and when you keep your kid from trying new things you’re robbing them of the joys of childhood… and you’re robbing yourself of all the best parenting stories too (“We spent all night in emergency all because Billy stuck the letter X up his nose and we couldn’t finish our game of Scrabble until it was removed.”)
Let’s stop with the “Helicopter Parenting” and institute “Drive-by Parenting” where we let our kids have their space (in a confined area where no one will abduct them) and pop our heads in occasionally to say “Wuz up? Need a juice box; a diaper change; some forceps to remove that crayon from your nostril?” Let’s go back to that. Let’s be cool again… or as cool as parents can be.
I’ll put down my Slap Chop if you put down your sanitizing wipes, your toddler leash, or your bubble wrap. We can do this. We can be the encouraging parents we set out to be… or at least one step closer to that. Just breathe, and let go of the can of Lysol…
There, isn’t that better now?... for the kids?