Today's Image
Hands Off

Thinking today. Sam's been playing outside almost the whole day. We started out for a bike ride earlier, but it lasted for about half a block, at which point Sam rode full-tilt into the back of my heel, skinning it royally with his tire. I couldn't walk well, so we returned amidst loud sobbing and "Nooooo! Mommeeeeeee!"-ing. Once back in the driveway, he cried for a few minutes before agreeing to ride around there and declaring, "I'm very happy now! It's fun to ride in the driveway! It's not fun to run into people!"

He rode, and then we played on the screened porch for a while until Gabe fell asleep on the futon out there and Sam decided he'd rather be outside instead of inside and quiet. Here's where my musing comes into play: I had no problem with this at all. I could see him very well from the porch, no matter where in the yard he went. We could talk through the screen windows. Our street is very quiet, so there were no cars ripping up and down in front of our house. All said, I was perfectly comfortable with Sam playing in the front yard by himself while I knitted on the porch next to Gabe.

I'm well aware that I probably give Sam a lot more freedom than other mothers of kids of comparable ages. Sam regularly plays by himself not only in other rooms of the house, but on other floors; he's done that since he was two. He can get his own food out of the fridge, and he gets his own cutlery with which to eat it. So long as I remember to fill cups with drinks in the morning and put the in the fridge for him, he doesn't need help with that, either; if I forget, he's just as likely to go to the bathroom and draw himself a cup of water in a paper cup. Along those lines, I staved off the whole bedtime "I need a drink of water!" procrastination technique by reminding him that he was capable of getting said drink, and that he wasn't confined to his bed if at any time he got thirsty or needed the toilet. He accepted that, and he helps himself as needed.

Our backyard is fenced, and he routinely goes out there all by himself to play. When we first moved here, I used to at the very least sit at the table and watch him play, but now I have no problem with doing other household chores should they need to be done in the meantime. I do play with him out there often, but he doesn't need me to, you know? He pulls on his own shoes, unlocks the door, lets himself out, plays as long as he wants, then comes back in and hangs up his jacket, all without help.

He didn't need me for anything for today's play, either. He pushed construction equipment around in the dirt by my garden, wrote in chalk on the sidewalk, then asked if he could ride his trike again. "In front of the house only," I told him, so he came inside, used the garage door opener to open the garage, ran back out to the garage, came running to me to get his helmet fastened, then pushed his trike to the sidewalk and happily rode until his legs were tired. He did have a little difficulty remembering to stop when he got to the neighbor's driveway, so we brainstormed and decided to use his chalk to make lines at the points where he needed to stop and turn around.

The boy is independent; anybody who ever thought that attachment parenting turns kids into whining balls of clingy introversion needs to have an eye-opening conversation with my son. That's not what this is about right now, though, and frankly, I think that Sam's temperament is way less about nurture and far more about his own nature. What's got me thinking today is just how much freedom I'm giving him and the question of what would be "too much." Note: I don't believe I'm close. Where would it be, though?

Now that I posit it, the answer is obvious. "Too much freedom" would probably be an amount that either child or parent didn't feel comfortable having or giving. Not that simple, though; what about the child who runs wild and neglected through the neighborhood and whose parents are so wrapped up in themselves that they have no idea what he's doing at any given time? Obviously, that's an extreme scenario, but it's not a rare one, unfortunately. In our case, I may not be with Sam at all times, but I always know what he's doing and where he's doing it. Maybe that's the key.

Back in Ohio, there was a woman at whom I looked as my "parenting icon." She had the most relaxed attitude about what her boys wanted to do, and as a result they all seemed to have the most fun with life and as a family. The boys would make breakfast for the family (with the stove!), scale the garage to hang out on the roof, spontaneously get dressed to the nines for an impromptu tea, ride their bikes to the local flea market and come home with rare coins for which they'd bargained and compiled their money to buy. My friend loved it all and took it all in stride. I remember one occasion where the two older boys hit upon the idea, as many kids do, to sled down their staircase in a laundry basket. It was great fun - of course, it was! - and, naturally, the youngest kid wanted to go for a spin as well. My friend's response, and the words that made me love her all the more, was, "Make sure the baby's wearing a helmet."

I may never be that calm about my own boys' escapades, but I try my darndest not to be a "hoverer," and I think it's working very well for all of us. Sam knows that I trust him, and particularly that I trust him to be safe and come to me if things get out of his comfort zone, and that trust seems to instill in him an increased confidence in his own abilities. We all win.

Whatever will I do with myself when Gabe breaks out on his own as well?

previous one year ago:
When I was writing art songs in college, I found incredibly moving poems, and I used music to unlock them and show the soul hidden behind the words themselves.
two years ago:
As he approaches his second birthday, I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'll soon be nursing a much bigger kid than I ever imagined when I was young.
three years ago:
I've never been a crusader, and the ability to reach an audience of listeners doesn't obligate me to become something I'm not - quite the contrary.
four years ago:
Everyone around me is on pins and needles, which is fun to watch; the library's secretary wanted to know whether I'd taped the midwives' telephone numbers to my office wall in case staff members had to call them for me.
five years ago:
Now she was her mother, reading to her husband the stories he remembered from her childhood, as well as new ones that she'd discovered in the meantime - science fiction stories, mostly, with a few longer novels, as well.
In the ears:
Dragon Tales

On the Bookshelf:
Life of Pi

Gratuitous Sam


Mouth wipe

Big eyes

Extra Gabe


Toy box



©1999-2003 C. Richmond.