Lately, I’ve been noticing people are way more concerned about the safety of my 18 month old than I am. They see her walking toward a flight of stairs or heading up the ladder of a swing set and immediately they run to pull her away before she hurts herself.
I always run a few beats later for appearances sake. I don’t want to be accused of negligence and I assume they think I’m not paying close enough attention, which is why they feel the need to step in.
I don’t blame them. She’s a baby. Instinct tells you to save her. I’m glad that is most people’s instinct, just in case it’s ever necessary.
But please understand— I am paying attention.
I just like to see what my baby can do before I rush to her aid.
Remember the video of Harlow walking down the stairs for the first time? Everyone was amazed that I didn’t lunge for her when she stumbled. I was sort of alarmed at myself that I didn’t either. But because I didn’t, she recovered without falling and made it down all on her own.
I’m honestly not sure whether my laid back parenting style is due to recklessness or laziness. It seems exhausting to hover over your children and worry they will injure themselves at every turn.
Or perhaps there’s some desire to prove my babies are wiser than their years. “Look how Harlow knows to stay away from the edge of the pool! She’s so advanced!”
I like to get a feel for Harlow’s instincts too. I would never know she understands a pool is something to walk around instead of walk through, if I kept her tethered to my lap the entire time. And it’s not like I leave her by the pool while I run off to make myself a drink inside the house. I’m right there. Maybe not in arm’s length but close enough so I can dive in if something goes awry.
I am always watching.
At the new house, I was really nervous about Harlow having access to a flight of stairs for the first time. Her room is upstairs and I imagined my baby flinging herself over the side of her crib, wandering out of her room and falling down the steps in the middle of the night.
The first weekend, we put a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs when we were downstairs and then moved it to the top of the stairs after we put the girls to bed. We were diligent about making sure their access was restricted at all times.
I’m not going to lie, constantly opening, closing and moving that baby gate was a pain.
Our plan was to purchase two baby gates for the top and the bottom, but the following weekend, two seconds after entering the front door, I heard “Momma! Momma!” from above. I realized Harlow had already climbed to the top of the stairs before we had a chance to put up the baby gate, and was asking me to help her come back down.
I actually took it as a good sign that Harlow knew when to ask for my help.
I held her hand lightly, to let Harlow figure out how to balance without relying on me too much. When she pulled her hand away to try it on her own, I let her.
By the end of the day, she seemed pretty competent. I would stand at the top as she worked her way up and stand at the bottom as she worked her way down. I could see that she was cautious and thoughtful about each step.
As her confidence grew, so did mine.
Ultimately, Mike and I decided we don’t need the baby gates. Is this the right call? I guess we will find out, but we survived the weekend without incident.
Mike has always been a tough love kind of guy. He’s very sweet with the girls, but he also tests them. If they fall, his immediate reaction is “Shake it off, shake it off! You are fine.” All without rising from his seat.
Nine times out of ten, he is right.
When Mazzy was a baby, this was not my instinct, but I watched my husband’s hands-off approach and saw that it worked. There are way less tears if I wait to see if Mazzy is hurt, than if I inform her reaction with my own.
Now that Harlow is running around at full speed, I always notice people looking around concerned, wondering why her mother isn’t immediately by her side.
I’m there. I’m just not hovering. I’m curious where she will go and what she will do without me guiding her. And I’m never too far that I can’t stop her from getting into any real danger.
When Harlow stumbles, people gasp and rush to help her, certain their quick reflexes are what stopped a horrible situation from getting worse.
But, they are wrong.
Harlow would pick herself back up, brush her hands off and keep running without their interference too.
My girls, they are tough.
I don’t know whether they were born that way or Mike and I somehow stumbled upon a parenting philosophy that works for us. God knows we fail in so many other ways.
But I do know, that if you stop my baby from stumbling toward a staircase, that’s great. I wouldn’t want you to act otherwise.
But don’t assume I’m not paying attention.
I might just know my baby a little better than you do.
And I might actually be doing something right.
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