For all my free-rangers out there!
This just had to be done, really. In answer to "Dear Mom on the iPhone"...I am not the neglectful mother you believe me to be. There is method to my madness. I allow my children to play without me because that is WHY I take them to the park: To play with OTHER KIDS. They will never learn all the nuances of socializing and making friends from me. They simply do not work that way. They NEED to learn from other children, in uninterrupted free play on a regular basis. They need to fight with each other and learn how to resolve their problems. They need to fall a little bit and learn how their bodies work with gravity. They need to climb up the slide and walk down the ladder because THEY figured that out all on their own and THAT IS AWESOME. No, judgmental moms who give me dirty looks for sitting on the bench while my children fight with yours over a toy; it isn't that I don't care. It's that I care so much that I am willing to put my own fears and worries aside to allow my child the privilege - the right - to grow, unencumbered.
Dear Mom on the Playground,
I see you over there on the play structure,
messing with your child's hair and making sure his shoelace is double-knotted. It feels good to be involved in your child's life every moment of every day, doesn’t it? You feel like a great mom, so engaged, you work hard, you teach them the proper way to do things, you tell them what to say and when to say it.
But Momma, let me tell you what you don’t see right now…..
Your little girl is staring longingly at another little girl on the other side of the playground. She is such a shy little thing, and yet...she wants to know...who is that over there? She keeps glancing her way
to see if she is watching her, too.
She isn't. You are blocking her view.
Your little boy keeps shouting, “Mom, MOM watch this!” as his face beams with pride because he's just discovered that he can climb UP the slide ALL BY HIMSELF - no small feat, for sure! I see you scold him, telling him that that is not the way we play on the slide. The stairs are for climbing.
He sees that too. His shoulders slump, but only for a moment, as he looks for something else to challenge him...something that HE can figure out all on his own...to make you proud, instead of worried.
Now you are pushing your baby in the
swing. She loves it! Cooing and smiling with every push. You don’t
see her legs though, do you? They are kicking and trying to wriggle free. Her head is bent, her eyes on the ground beneath her, as she wonders what it would feel like to crawl around down there.
Take her out. Let her explore her world,
Mommy. The grass, the leaves fallen off the trees. Cheer her on when she comes near
you and enjoy that look of wonder and pride that leaves far too quickly.
Put your eyes back on what's really important…Your kids.
Show them that they are competent and trustworthy. Wherever you go, give them some freedom, some control over their lives, the chance for creativity and growth. I am not saying it’s not
ok to check in with your kids, but it can stifle their growth: Helicopter Beware!
Play time at the park will be over before you know it.
The childhood of your children will be gone before you know it.
They won’t always have the chance to play with other kids, Mommy. They won’t always observe others and try to learn how friends are made, they won’t always call out, "Look what I figured out!”
There will come a point when they stop trying to make friends, stop exploring, stop bothering to try new things and solve problems.
Because they know…
You’ve shown them, all these moments,
that submission, over-cautiousness, fear, and co-dependence is more important than their learning. They see you looking at them at while dropping them off at school, during playtime, at
the dinner table, at bedtime…..
I know that’s not true, Mommy.
I know your heart says differently. But your kids can’t hear your words, Mommy. Your propeller is spinning way too loudly.