Saturday, October 20, 2012

You've got to know when to hold 'em... and when to walk away

Dear Boy tried to pull himself up onto his feet this morning. His little hands slipped from armchair cushion he was grasping and he fell onto his bum, the momentum flinging the back of his head onto the rug... which covers a hardwood floor. There was a loud bang. There was a screaming wail. There were cuddles. There was a distraction and a tear-stained smile.

Not long after I watched him crawl across concrete for the first time, watched the frown crease his face as he tried to lift his knees off the rasping surface.

Later, I heard the squeal as he shuffled into the pointed corner of Lovely Husband's desk.

Already, I'm seeing I may come to be on a first-name basis from the Emergency Department staff.

The more skilled that boy becomes, the more things he learns to do and the more control he gains over his body, the more bumps and bruises and scratches I'm seeing bloom over the surface of his skin. He whinges with frustration and screams in long open-mouthed cries when he hurts himself.

So lately, I've been thinking a lot about about how I can protect him and how much I should try. I've been thinking about how much I should let him discover for himself and how many mistakes I should help him avoid. About  when I should cuddle him and kiss the bits he's injured and when I should encourage him to get back up and carry on. About how much of my attention is enough to satisfy and stimulate him and how much would hold him back from developmentally necessary discoveries.

I get the feeling that in all of this wondering, there isn't really a fine line. Rather there's a wide swathe of grey area where for some it's too much and for others not enough. There's a hell of a lot of territory between neglectful and smothering.

I try to be open to how he wants me to parent him. When he cries but flings away my comforting hands, I take a step back. When he turns his body towards mine and raises his arms, I pick him up. When he's interacting with other people but reaches behind him to check that I'm there, I stay. When he is intent on a toy, a shoelace, a tissue box or the remote control, I leave him be. When he swats at the spoon and sprays food across the kitchen, I try and accept that he's done.

But there are also times when I have to parent him the way he needs to be parented. When I have to distract him from putting small, pointy or poisonous things in his mouth, when I have to stop him from playing with his seat belt, when I hold him tight and restrain his arms while the doctor's examine him.

He doesn't need me all day every day but he does need me. But he also needs a range of people to interact with and an array of experiences, some solitary and some with his hand held and some with his legs and arms clinging to me like a little limpet. I just need to figure out when to let him go and take risks and when to rein him in and keep him safe from harm. 

I don't want him to be wrapped in cotton wool but I will insist on a helmet when he learns to ride a bike. 

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