That’s a question I ask myself daily when it comes to something my son is doing.
Today he was standing on his fire truck ride-on toy (as he’s done numerous times before) holding onto the steering wheel. Suddenly, he decided to stand without any hands. I laughed, pulled out my phone and hoped to catch the fall on video.
Yes, I am an awful parent.
But really, what was the worst that would have happened? He’d fall 8 inches onto the hardwood floor. Maybe bonk himself. Maybe land on his bum onto the seat. Maybe he’d manage to step off onto his feet in time and laughed about his awesome landing.
Sure, there’s potential for him to fall and hit his head. But there’s potential for that from just walking and I still let him do that.
There’s so many times that I have assessed a situation and have to decide if there’s really a need to stop him from doing something. My son is a natural climber. He’s a natural stuntman. And he’s a natural klutz.
He takes after Mommy.
Last week, we went to the park with a friend. After setting him free from the stroller and turning my back on him to chat for a second, I looked back at him to find him about four feet high on a curved ladder, climbing happily onto the playground.
Yes, I ran over immediately. There was potential for injury at that height – the bars are decently far apart and change angles. He’s only 21 months old so I don’t fully expect him to make adjustments to his climbing for that kind of apparatus. But did I grab onto him? Nope. I kept my hands ready to catch him if he slipped. And you know what? He didn’t! And the look of pride when he got to the top, smiled at me and said “DEAN DID!” was totally worth holding back my fears and letting him climb it on his own, while still keeping him safe.
Sometimes when we are out and about I find I try to protect him from things that he doesn’t need protection from. He knows to follow a sidewalk. He can run ahead, within reason. I can take this as a chance to teach him road safety. I can show him how he can run ahead but still stay close to Mommy. That he can have freedom but still be limited to how far he’s running ahead.
Yes, there is a time and place that “What’s the worst that could happen?” is unimaginable… A car backing out of a parking spot, a tumble down a set of cement stairs, a fall into water. And that is when I don’t sit back.
In a parking lot, there’s no room for freedom. It’s hold my hand or I will carry you. I don’t tell him that it’s because he could get hit by a car. I don’t want him to develop a fear of cars, but I want him to be aware of them. I explain that cars can’t see us very easily and we need to stay together so we are safe.
At the Quay, one of our favourite hang-outs, he’s tried climbing the railing that separates the boardwalk from the river a few times. I’ve told him that it’s a big drop, it’s not safe and that the water is yucky and not for swimming. He doesn’t need to be told about falling into the water, drowning or any aspect of that. I don’t want a fear of water. And I don’t think a 21 month old would really understand why water in the bathtub is safe, water in a pool is safe but water in a river isn’t. When he’s older I might explain to him about the dangers of it (there’s a lot of undercurrents in the river and many people have drowned even though they were strong swimmers) but not in a way that would cause any nightmares or nervousness around water.
There are times that I don’t go to a certain park because I don’t want to need to stay right beside him and I know that he’s fighting for independence that day. So instead we go to the park that he can manoeuvre without a helping hand. That he can have a tumble from, but not injure himself in a steep drop off a high platform.
This, I’ve decided, is why parenting leads to grey hairs. I would prefer to keep him wrapped in bubble wrap and put in a padded room, but it’s just not possible! Instead, I prefer to take the more laid back approach.
Check back soon and I will tell you why I don’t tell my son “no” very often…