I get the feeling other moms at the playground think I’m somewhat indifferent toward my child.
Sure, I spend a lot of time doing my own thing while he plays (because, quite frankly, I probably need to do my own thing to re-collect my cool – he is a two-year-old, after all). But even when I’m scrolling through Pinterest or getting some work done (or getting a workout in, even), I’m still paying attention.
I can see how happy he is to be going down the twirly slide for the 500th time that day. My ears perk up when I hear a disagreement between him and another child, because I have to listen and debate when it’s time for me to step in. And yes, I see when he does things that seem unsafe, and yes, I’m keeping an eye out.
There are times I’ll watch from afar because I think he’ll be okay. Sometimes I’ll step a little closer without saying anything but be prepared to grab him. Other times, I wince and hope for the best because he’s already going full-force and there’s no stopping him.
Sometimes if I think he can’t do something, I’ll warn him he’s going to fall – but if it’s not going to mortally wound him and he chooses not to listen, I’ll tell him he can try it, though I’ll warn him again. Then he gets to learn from experience. And when he inevitably falls, I hold him and explain that that’s why I warned him not to do that thing – not because I wanted to make him miserable, but because I wanted to keep him safe.
Of course, if it would mortally wound him (like running behind other kids swinging. Every single time.), it’s a hard no, and I make sure he’s listening (and have a heart attack when he tries to do it anyway).
But I occasionally see the questioning glances from other moms. I see them step in and help A when he’s perfectly capable of doing something on his own. I get the feeling they don’t understand the reasoning behind me taking a step back from him.
The reason I don’t always help him is because I want him to have confidence in himself.
I want him to have confidence in his own abilities. To do that, he needs to opportunity to test his limits – otherwise he won’t understand them. It’s the same reason he tests his limits with me constantly. It’s because he needs to know where they are.
By allowing him to do things on his own, I’m communicating to him that I believe in him. When he asks for help and I explain what he needs to do rather than stepping in and doing it for him, I’m telling him that I know he’s capable. That I trust him. That I feel he’s smart and strong and incredible – which is 100% accurate.
These lessons go far beyond the playground.
I want A to know that failing isn’t the end of the world. I want him to know making mistakes is not only normal, but necessary to learn how to do things better – even if that thing is just climbing up the rock wall at the playground right now. I want him to know that he’s strong enough to get back up, dust himself off, and try again.
As he grows up, as the mistakes get bigger and the falls get harder, I want him to remember the lessons I’m teaching him now. I want him to always believe in his ability to bounce back from any failure. I want him to know that the mistakes he makes aren’t for nothing – that they’re valuable lessons in what not to do.
Whether it applies to school, work, or relationships, I want him to have the wisdom to see his mistakes in this way. I want him to know the worst thing ever wouldn’t be to fail – but to never try again.
And while I want him to know I always have his back, I also want him to know he doesn’t need me for every little thing.
Don’t get me wrong – as a mom, it breaks my heart a little every time he learns to do something independently from me. Seriously. I might be cheering him on, but a part of me realizes that with every step he takes toward independence, it’s another sign he won’t stay my little boy forever.
But as a mom, it’s important for me to remember that. He’s going to grow up and need to be a productive member of society. He’s going to have to go to school, get a job, have a family, and provide for them. In those things, I don’t want him to feel limited.
The other day, another mom was watching A play at the playground and asked how old he was. I told her he just turned two, and she said incredulously, “He’s fearless!” It made my heart swell with pride.
Because that’s exactly what I want him to be – fearless about pursuing his dreams, and willing to work hard and get a little dirty to make them happen.
And maybe one day, he’ll even learn not to stand behind the swings.
Hopefully sooner than later 🙂