I come up against this quite a lot, especially when I’m out with the kids. My family get how we parent, Mr C’s family get how we parent, our friends get how we parent. Not only do they get it, almost all of them agree that for the most part, the way we parent seems to work. I’m by no stretch of the imagination saying that we are amazing parents; far from it! I’m also not suggesting that ours is the only way – every single one of us, every family, every child, every person’s needs, is different. But the way that we choose to parent works for us, and it works for our kids. I suppose you could call it relaxed parenting, but there are many ways in which it is not relaxed at all.
Like a lot of mums, I feel judged quite often when I’m out in public with the kids. I think in general a lot of that comes from ourselves, and worrying that we are being judged rather than there actually being much judging going on. But there are definite occasions when I know for a fact that I am being judged for my style of parenting.
Letting Them Run Wild
When I say ‘relaxed parenting’ I don’t mean that in the sense of rules or boundaries. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m quite strict when it comes to the rules, boundaries, and expectations, and sometimes the odd wobble has me wondering whether maybe I’m too strict. Honestly though, I don’t think I am. Its these rules and boundaries which allow me to be relaxed in other ways.
What I mean by relaxed parenting is that I’m not all over the kids. I leave them to it. At our local soft play I close the childproof gate and I sit down with a cup of coffee. No judging to be had there as far as Amelia is concerned, she’s 3 and is perfectly able to play, rarely falls over, and is way past any biting or hitting stages.
Wills on the other hand isn’t yet 1, and I regularly get ‘the look’ from other parents as I close the gate and *gasp* take my eyes off him. His most recent pursuit there is to climb up to the top of the foamy soft play style slide and then let himself slide back down again. It’s quite high for a small one, I guess, and just last week I noted a few tuts and glances here and there. This was mainly because he found it hilarious to get almost to the bottom before letting himself fall backwards and land on his back.
But What If They Get Hurt?
I totally get that there are always elements of safety which should be considered in public play spaces. Don’t get me wrong, like most parents, no matter how much I’m ‘relaxed’ I always have one eye on my children. All the while he is laughing and enjoying himself, why would I step in and ruin his fun? He’s unlikely to hurt himself landing on the very well padded soft play floor, falling no more than about half a foot. If I felt that he was getting a bit too adventurous and trying to drop from half way up the slide, than naturally I would step in. If I felt that he was in the way of other children wanting to use the slide then I would (and did) step in.
Lessons For Life
Then there’s Amelia. I must admit I am judged less often these days when it comes to Amelia, because she is at an age where her independence is seen as a positive character trait rather than my neglectful-ness. It hasn’t always been that way though. I remember being sternly told off by a concerned chap who was utterly horrified that I should allow Amelia to tell me when the green man appeared and it was safe to cross the road.
Most recently we have been working on understanding the concept of queuing for, and ordering, things in restaurants, cafes, and our fave – coffee shops. I have a very handy app which allows me to order my drink before we even get there and have it ready and waiting for me. So our routine is this; Amelia joins the queue and waits her turn while I collect my pre-ordered drink. When she gets to the front of the queue she uses a loud voice so that she can be heard and orders exactly this (her words, not mine)
“Can I have a babyccino please, in a cup that has a lid with a hole so that I can drink it, but can I put my own sprinkles on please?”
If I’ve agreed that she can have a chocolate coin, she scans an app on my phone to pay for it, other than that, warm milk is free so she’s set.
The Cute Factor
Most people find her ordering skills adorable, and she’s had lots of lovely positive comments. But there have been too many not so positive comments for me to ignore. One woman asked me why I wouldn’t stand with her in the queue, and told me that I seemed detached from my child and maybe I should worry less about drinking coffee and more about spending time with my daughter. Cheers.
The reason that I stand away from her while she queues is because I believe that knowing how to handle these situations semi-alone is going to be a valuable life lesson for her – one of many it’s my job to teach her. I am never more than a few steps away, and always on hand with an encouraging smile, thumbs up, and silent mouthed “you’re doing great pickle”.
Mistakes Are A Part Of Life
I let my kids make mistakes. I let them do things that I think might not end well (within reason) as long as I have made sure to fully explain the risk that they’re taking. I believe that we are creatures who learn best from our own mistakes, and I guess I base my parenting style around that. It’s not without its flaws, and we have just as many hiccups along the way as any other family. But I’d like to think that (so far) it seems to be working out for us.
Amelia is a very capable little girl, able to hold her own in a conversation (and a coffee shop). She knows what she wants, but also knows the value of sometimes having to wait for it. She understands that actions have consequences, both positive and negative. She knows that throwing a tantrum will result in a negative consequence, and while it doesn’t always stop her from throwing a tantrum, it does help her to accept the consequence.
But It’s My Job To Protect Them
Actually, I guess what I’m saying is that, no, I don’t believe it always is. My instinct, like most parents, is to always protect and shield my children from harm, physical or otherwise. But actually I think that a huge part of my role as their mum is to teach them how to protect themselves. If that means they have to make a few mistakes long the way, then so be it.
I love my kids more than anything else on this planet – no words could ever truly describe a mother’s love. I would take a bullet for them, ten times over. But do I want them to always believe that someone else will take the fall for them? No, because that isn’t real life.
My kids enjoy pure, unadulterated, and uninterrupted fun throughout most of their days. They are hilarious to watch and to play with, and they’re great company. Will I ever stop taking every opportunity to teach them something valuable about life? No, probably not. Do I feel they’re too young to have to know these things, or that I’m taking away a part of their childhood? No, not really. If anything, I firmly believe that I’m enhancing it, by giving them the tools and knowledge to have that uninterrupted fun safely.