It seems there’s been a lot of chatter on YMC about Free-Range parenting.
Hailey wants to be a free-range parent but can’t let go.
Jen Warman is leaning towards the free-range-ish side.
Jackie wants to get rid of all the labels and for all of us simply to “parent.”
I’m like Jackie and personally hate labels but if I were to have one for my parenting skills, it wouldn’t be Helicopter Parent or Free-Range Parent. No, I am a Common Sense Parent.
When I read that out loud I feel like I should be wearing a cape and tights. Maybe with a big CSP on the front.
To me, Common Sense Parenting (and I’m totally taking credit for making up this new term) is just that–having a little common sense mixed in with knowing your kids abilities and even *gasp* helping to push them beyond those abilities every once in awhile.
The key phrase here is "knowing your child's abilities" whether it is his own individual abilities or a general age-related ability.
Individual Ability: I let my older son do his homework in his bedroom by himself because I know he is organized and will get it done. My younger son has to do his homework at the kitchen table because if I let him do it in his bedroom all that would be accomplished is ten pages of doodling scary monster faces and the word poop, and/or a major meltdown.
General Age-Related Ability: Expecting your five-year-old to get dressed in the morning is reasonable. Expecting your five-year-old to be responsible for returning a library book on time is ridiculous.
Recently we were at a cottage and there was this swing in the backyard. I dubbed it the Scary Swing. My boys were attracted to it right away because they seem to be drawn to:
(a) Anything that is dangerous
(b) Anything I may have played with or on as a child.
This swing was both. It was old, rickety, and not set far enough into the ground so each time they would swing in sync, the legs of the swing set would lift off the ground to the point of the entire thing “almost” falling over.
I knew they would have a blast on Scary Swing but I also remember having a similar swing as a child, only one time I did swing too high and the entire swing set toppled over on me. While there was no ER trip needed, I do recall a large box of band-aids and a Freezie being involved. Common sense told me that letting them swing on the swing as is was going to result in my vacation being ruined due to one or both of my kids having a broken arm. I didn't want to ban them from the swing because swings are fun so instead we rigged it up so it wouldn’t fall over and put a rule in place that only one could swing at a time. This worked because:
(a) My husband is a structural engineer, and
(b) My boys are old enough to listen when I set a rule in place, especially when said rule is accompanied by my scary face which is much scarier than any swing set.
If they had been 6 and 4, I never would have allowed it because I know the second my back was turned they would have jumped on that swing set at the same time resulting in me sitting in an ER instead of lazing on the beach.
Listen, I get it. You're probably thinking, "I would never have let my kids go on the Scary Swing." When my kids were younger there were a million things I never thought I would let them do. But now?
My youngest is allowed to ride his bike with no hands (a feat he learned and perfected last summer) but he always has to wear a helmet.
The same with scootering. I will drive him to the skateboard park so he can jump large ramps that make me cringe and say "Holy sh*t" on the inside while on the outside I’m all smiley and “Way to go, bud!” but he needs to have his helmet on.
My boys go on bike rides without me and I will send the two of them alone to the store three blocks away from our house with a list. For the record, kids old enough to run errands but young enough to still think it's fun are awesome. Ironically enough, the first time I sent the kids to the store by themselves the cashier questioned them as to where their mom was.
They’ve created a fort in the rafters of our garage and the only way to access it is by a ladder. They typically get down by jumping.
They’ve gone to the park without me where I’m sure they climbed up the slide instead of using the steps and broken other unwritten adult rules of the park.
My oldest son can build a kick-ass backyard fire by himself and my youngest just learned how to use the gas stove.
I have let my older son go to a friend's house where I didn't *really* know the parents (and if you're a relatively new parent you probably just gasped in horror but I'm telling you now, it's going to happen).
Both of my kids equally capable of cutting up their own apples using a sharp knife.
If you are a parent who has younger children and you're thinking to yourself “I’ll never let my kids do these things” here's what you need to know. Read this next line very carefully.
These things didn’t happen all at once.
Before I sent them off to the store by themselves, I made sure they knew things like how to cross the road safely and that they always need to stick together.
Before my son learned how to use a gas stove, I taught him how to use it and simple rules like always turning pot handles inward and not to wear loose clothing while cooking.
Before they went on bike rides by themselves, they learned bike safety rules and the first time they went off by themselves, they had a time limit.
Years from now you ARE going to let your kid ride off on a bike for that first time while you sit on your porch and worry every single second they are gone. You will send them off on their own to let them do things you swore you would never let them do because all along the way they’ve taken the smaller steps needed to get there.
And I promise you this…it will get easier each and every time they do it.
Because you’ve had all these years to teach them.
And because you have common sense.
p.s. I still cut grapes in half for both my boys.
p.p.s. Nothing will convince me that sparklers are not scary dangerous. Those things reach 400 degrees, yo.
People are always writing letters to their 60-year-old self, or things they would tell their 16-year-old self. But you know what? 60-year-old me would be very pissed off that she had to wait 16 years for information she could utilize in her life right now. 60-year-old me doesn’t need that many regrets, 46-year-old me already knows about regret and it involves a bottle of wine, a forehead pimple, scissors, and a new set of bangs. And quite frankly, 16-year-old me is never coming back, nor is her purple eyeliner.
Instead, this is a letter to 24-hours-from-now Sharon. 24-hours-from-now Sharon can actually use this information, because sometimes Sharon-right-this-very-second can be an asshole and could probably use a few reminders.
Dear '24 Hours From Now' Me,
If you are about to say something negative, wait ten seconds before you let it come out of your mouth.
Don’t get involved in unimportant internet squabbles.
Don’t get involved in unimportant squabbles period.
Go for that run. You’ll feel better.
Dude, marshmallows are going to fall in the dirt at the campfire and your kids will step on them every single time. Get over it.
Get away from the computer.
Go for a walk.
Put on sunscreen, Magda.
Be true to yourself.
It’s a good idea to let your kids create a Sprite and gummy bear popsicle. It is not a good idea to let them eat it while they walk around the house.
Snuggle with your kids every chance you have.
Those kids you're snuggling with? Don’t give them the password to your iTunes account.
Give someone a compliment.
Be a cheerleader for those you love.
The words you put online reflect who you are in real life.
You still haven’t gone for that run. Get off your ass.
p.s. Read this again tomorrow.
p.p.s. You're out of wine again.
Now that my kids are older, I have the ability to look back and realize there are a few things I completely stressed out about when they were younger that, in retrospect, I probably shouldn't have. These are the things that pretty much every new parent stresses about. Things that you may be stressing about right this very second.
Thankfully, along with older children, I now have this wonderful thing called perspective. I also have a whole new slew of problems that aren't covered in parenting books. Like where to buy the most band-aids at the cheapest price, because my son has decided he wants to be a pro scooter rider when he grows up. This makes me laugh, as I remember all the time I spent putting protective covers on the corners of coffee tables when he was a baby.
So, new parents who are just starting your journey in parenthood, these next few posts are for you.
From the time your baby is born, your life revolves around sleep. How many hours should my newborn sleep? When will he sleep through the night? Is my baby sleeping too much? Why is she giving up her nap so soon? I need her to nap!
Now that my older son is almost a teen, these questions have turned into, When will he ever wake up? Is he going to sleep his whole life away? and Will you please change out of that robe? It’s 1:00pm. Who do you think you are, Hugh Hefner?
In the early days, right after my son was born, my husband and I used to fight over who would nap with him. This sounds like we were incredibly devoted parents, but it was mostly due to the fact that it meant one of us got to lie down and sleep while the other person had to do chores around the house.
But as time moved on and our son got older, his sleep at night got better, which meant my sleep at night also got better, which meant that during the day I was more awake and wanted to do stuff while he napped instead of napping with him. Stuff that wasn’t laundry or dishes or cleaning. Stuff like talking to my friends or showering or reading a book that didn’t have the words “What To Expect” in the title.
I remember one time in particular, he was 10 months old and simply wouldn’t nap. Each time I put him in his little crib he would cry. So then I tried putting him on my chest because that always worked, except apparently not, because each time he would lay his head down like he was snuggling in for the long haul, seconds later it would pop up again, a big grin on his face, his giggles almost contagious. Almost, but not quite, because I was so stressed out about getting him to take his nap so I could do STUFF, I wouldn’t allow myself to enjoy this moment with my happy, giggling baby. What I should have been doing was smelling his sweet head and taking it all in. You know what my son does now when I try to smell the top of his head? He pulls it away. These are the things they don't tell you in parenting books. You need to take advantage of the time when your child has no control over his neck muscles.
I get it. You’re sleep-deprived and sleep deprivation makes a person crazy. Like hallucinating-wearing-two-different-coloured-shoes-can’t-find-your-glasses-that-are-on-your-head crazy. It’s hard to step back and look at the big picture when you’re looking at the clock wondering WHEN IS SHE GOING TO SLEEP OMG I HAVEN’T HAD A SHOWER IN 13 DAYS? But if you can, try to enjoy those little moments.
As someone who has been through this, believe me when I say sleep will eventually come and there will be a time when you won't be living on coffee and hope. So take the time now to smell the sweet smell of your baby’s head or nibble those cute baby toes, because trust me, if you try it when you go into your 12-year-old son’s room to wake him up at noon on a Saturday, he’s going to think you’re certifiable.
More Things For New Parents: Five Things You Won't Learn In A Parenting Book.