Monday, November 22, 2010

I Need The Mommy Manual

Alternate Title: Everything I Learned About Parenting I Got Off The Internet

Not really, but close.

So, I was in love with the idea of Attachment Parenting.  They made it sound so easy.  You tune into your child, meet his/her every need without delay, and they end up growing up to be confident and secure.  Because you anticipate their needs, you help them to know what their needs are, you can help them name their needs, and then one day they wake up saying "I'd like to have a cup of juice, please, mommy."

Somehow I failed at Attachment Parenting 101 if that was the goal, because our reality doesn't really look anything like that. 

So, back to the internet I go to learn more about how to mostly-but-not-totally-crazily Attachment Parent.

I don't want to be an overprotective, burdensome, overbearing, smothering mother.  Just a concerned, involved, attached mother.  How hard is that?  Where is the balance?

We go to music class most Saturdays, when we don't have one Plague or another.  After music class the children all play on the playground equipment which is right outside the door.  I haven't been on a playground in many years.  My daughter plays on a playground at daycare daily, with caregivers standing by but not hovering.  How bad can it be to let your kid go down the slide?

Oh. My. Gawd.  You know the caricature of the mother who won't let her kid do anything because she's afraid of him getting a boo-boo?  Me, totally.  I admit it.

Then, when I think to myself, "you have to relax, V, and let her play", she falls off a swing,  "SEE!" I practically hissed to myself, "THIS is why I don't RELAX, because she will FALL."

Very large slide.  Very slippery slide.  Very fast slide.  Very tall slide.  ALL characteristics that make it the Awesome Slide if you are a small child.   ALL characteristics that make it the Very Scary Slide if you are a parent.

So I'm simultaneously trying to protect my child from falling off the swing/top of the structure/slide, catching her as she shoots off the end of the slippery slide onto the sidewalk (who designed this playground layout anyway?), and also trying NOT to be the overprotective, crazy mother that everyone laughs at.

How do you do that?

My daughter doesn't do steps well.  She doesn't do anything well that involves motor skills yet.  She has chronic ear infections that affect her balance.  And she's 18 months old.  So I decide to go ahead and stay close to her, and fuck whatever the other parents were thinking.

While trying to help her down the steps on another piece of playground equipment, a dad told his daughter she had to wait a minute to go up.  I a very snide tone I hear him say "we have to wait for Wee One to come down..."

Seasoned mommies and daddies, more capable than I am apparently, write on their blogs about the crazy overprotective mother on the playground.  I am her, I know that.

What am I supposed to do? 

I didn't get the Mommy Manual, I don't know.  If you got a copy, and you know all the answers about how Mommies are supposed to behave, please, fax me a copy. 


Funky Mama Bird said...

You turn to the other parent and say in a overly sweet tone, "Thank you both for your patience!" And then you keep helping your daughter.

My son will not walk 12 feet on a playground without me there. Not even at gymnastics where he goes every week. I have to hold one of his hands as he climbs the stairs and go down the slide with him even though he is capable of doing it himself. He's 17 months old, and we get a lot of looks. I just smile, ignore them and parent my kid the way he needs to be parented and the way I need to parent.

Also, remember that the dad could have just been teaching his daughter to wait. I make Gunnar wait at the bottom, not cut, not climb up slides, etc in a loud voice to make sure he understands. Admittedly, sometimes I do this for the benefit of the other parents standing by so they will make their kids wait as well, but I digress.

Hang in there, I'm sure you're doing a great job.

Laraf123 said...

The dad was right, his child did need to wait until Wee One was finished using the slide. That's just good playground etiquette (whether he meant it that way or not). Once, a child closely followed my son up the slide ladder. She got kicked in the mouth as he was climbing. Blood everywhere. I though she had lost a front tooth. It was horrible BUT my son hadn't seen her, he was just trying to get to the top--HER mouth was behind his feet. My point is, screw the other parents. Do what you need to do to keep your child SAFE.
(I actuallly feel guilty that I stand too far away from my kids on the playground--I think all the parents are judging me for that!)

MommieV said...

I think we are judged whether we stand "too" close or "too" far away. In a cognitive way I understand that I need to ignore other parents and do what I think is best. But in the back of my mind I know there are mommies (like the single mother's blog I linked to in the post) who write about me on the internet in a judgy tone of voice, and that bugs me.

It shouldnt. And it's not going to change my actions. But it still bugs me.

Serifm said...

This is the dark side of having imaginary friendships with other mothers on the internet. Yes, we have the wonderful communal shared knowledge and we can support each other in very real ways...on the other hand, we think everyone is judging us and blogging about us. (And maybe they are, but screw 'em.) Nobody knows your daughter like you do. And when she's able to do things on her own, I know you'll let her. Cause we're not just imaginary internet friends. ;-)

Jet Harrington said...

The balance is in your gut.

Fall does not equal fail.

Kids learn to dust themselves off and go back at it. You do, too. That builds resilience for each of you. It is the kind of thing that will allow you to - one day - let your daughter drive off in a car.

There is no one way to "do" attachment parenting anymore than there is one kind of child. You just trust yourself and your child to be ready when you are, and notice when that readiness happens.

It is TOTALLY APPROPRIATE (as other commenters have noted) to wait at the bottom of the stairs when someone unsteady is coming down - regardless of age - that's just good manners.

You are doing a great job. You will know when you are both ready for what comes next. Just listen to your gut. Unless you are hungry and it's rumbling. Then listen to your heart.