Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My urge to helicopter parent is only trumped by my fear of heights.

I think that the last thing that anyone would ever describe me as is "laid back".  I've spent my entire life wound tighter than an LA facelift and promising myself that eventually I will try yoga or something to help me relax but I've never really gotten around to it.  That is why it is so surprising that when I decided to gift myself to the gene pool I learned just how crazy the parenting world can be.  Don't get me wrong, my priorities are to keep my children safe and healthy and happy and hope that they grow up to be semi-adjusted adults with just enough quirk to make them interesting, but I also refuse to keep them in a bubble. I want them to learn and explore and make mistakes and get dirty, and I find that this approach is extremely disturbing to people who are not the sole keepers of my babies' development. It really scares the hell out of people that I let my kids be kids, and I really can't understand why.

For example, the other day my mom and I took my kids to a backyard birthday party where there was plenty of grass and cake and a keg. My mom and I were enjoying a beer and watching the kids play in the grass when an older woman came up to me and said "Your baby is playing with rocks." To which I chuckled and said "Yeah, that's Lils for ya."  Clearly miffed, the woman said "Well, I just don't want her to choke on a rock."  Like I do? Of course not. I made a feeble attempt to explain to the lady that I didn't think she would put the rocks in her mouth - and if she did, well, her father is a geologist and I've seen him put more rocks and dirt in his mouth than I'd like to admit because apparently you can tell what a rock is if you taste it or something. I don't know, I majored in English.  I'll just trust that he's right and he doesn't have pica or something. Either way, I know my child, I know that rocks are a "thing" in our house, and I know that she's not going to start cramming them down her esophagus, mostly because they don't taste like cake. What she will do is take the rocks to me and expect me to identify them, and I will tell her that they are "volcano rocks" because I feel like all rocks come from volcanos at some point and so that way I am sort of right.  What I'm not going to do is freak out and cause a scene and scare the heck out of her by screaming "LILY NO ROCKS!!!! NO ROCKS LILY!!!!" Which is apparently what this woman expected me to do, as she walked off telling me "Well she looks petite for her age." I don't even know what that was supposed to imply but I guess I was supposed to be shamed.  That said, am I going to fill her crib with gravel and just let her have at it unsupervised for hours at a time? Of course not, I'm not an idiot.

For whatever reason, I'm part of a facebook group that is about 500 moms who all had babies in January of 2013.  Mostly it's just swapping advice about tantrums and diaper rash and coupon codes, but at least once a day there is a post like this:  "Look at this picture of a baby that my facebook friend posted, she can't be more than 18 months old and she is in a car seat FORWARD FACING." And this will be followed by a slew of comments about how CPS should come in and take the child away, and how just plain ignorant other parents are. These women are obsessed with with the forward/backward facing car seat issue, and are convinced that you should keep your kids rear facing until they are 18 or until they invent car in which everyone can sit rear facing. This picture is often used as an example as to how even older kids can sit comfortably in a rear-facing car seat:


Am I missing something here or is this totally ridiculous?  The thing is, I'm totally paranoid about driving around with my kids in the car. Last summer I was in a pretty terrible wreck in which I pulled out in front of an oncoming car and was t-boned. The force of the impact and the side airbags were actually enough that the baby's (rear-facing) car seat base actually dislodged and pushed her to the other side of the car. Although I had a full on meltdown in the middle of Main Street (I'm sure many of you Los Lunians remember) my kids were 100% ok. When the mechanic looked at the car all he could do is shake his head and tell me "This is why I love Subarus. Any other car and this would be a different situation but this car did exactly what it was supposed to do in a wreck - it performed beautifully." So ok, I'll never drive anything but a Subaru and I lose it every time I see the "They lived" commercial. Aside from the free advertising is at that point it didn't matter which direction my kid was facing, she would've been crushed in a different car. Driving is scary and unpredictable and anything can happen, so the need for precautions is not lost on me. And I get why tiny babies are need to face backwards and I don't have a problem with that.  But I'm also not going to cram my three-year-old into a rear facing car seat in an attempt to prevent the randomness of the universe from getting us. Plus, when he turned one, the recommendation was to turn him to the front, so in the 3 years that he's been alive maybe things have changed, but someone please tell me how you explain that kind of logic to a toddler? "I used to let you see out the window and sit like a big boy, but now the internet says I can't do that anymore so I'm gonna turn you around and if we get rear-ended the only risk is snapping both of your femurs." Things are safer now than they ever have been, we are long gone from the days of strapping and infant into a laundry basket in the back seat and hoping for the best,  and really, what's next, should I put my kids in motorcycle helmets every time we head to the grocery store?  

This doesn't even cover the things that I'm not supposed to give my kids to eat (heyyy high fructose corn syrup), the toys that they shouldn't be playing with (ok, no lawn darts), the TV they shouldn't be watching (but Breaking Bad was shot in New Mexico!), the iPads they shouldn't be looking at, the SPF 1000 swim shirts I'm supposed to force them to wear, the ever changing percent of fat in the milk that I'm supposed to be giving them, the hand sanitizer that they need to be slathered in after every human interaction, the dangerous flip-flops they shouldn't be wearing, and the myriad other things that I'm sure I'm doing wrong. I'm just going to continue doing the best that I can and hope to god that I don't end up a cautionary tale. And, oh god, yes, I am scared, but we just have to keep on living. 


Anonymous said...

Kids are remarkably resilient . I wish I could find the article I read a few months ago about the "hovering" parent (the crazies you are describing who freak out about everything) and how their children are less adapted to the real world when the time comes for them to leave the nest. I also want to make a note that children to roll in and potentially eat dirt have less of a chance of developing asthma. People need to chill out about parenting - within reason. I applaud this entry.

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