Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Be Careful

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This morning the boys and I walked down to the park to meet up with my friend Lauren and her daughter Brooke, toy cars and a bag to collect rocks and leaves in tow. We've had the most beautiful weather lately, those kind of days that start out really cold but then slowly, slowly warm up ever so gently as noon rolls around; the kind where you begin the day bundled up but by afternoon you're in a t-shirt and jeans. Pretty perfect.

And today we walked down to the park in this gorgeous weather, and ran into another friend and her boys. I always find it fascinating to watch Henry interact with other kids, and even more fascinating to hear a lot of the things I say to him come out of his mouth. One of the boys had a toy car Henry so badly wanted to play with and I was curious how he would handle the situation with an unfamiliar playmate- we work on sharing all day, everyday, but with each other and our familiar friends, like Max and Brinley- not always with people we don't know. So I stood back and watched. I heard him say so politely, "hi, may I have a turn? I'd really like to try out your toy." And this very sentence just so happens to be what I say to him when we're playing, almost verbatim. It was wild to realize that yes, this parenting thing is working, and also crazy to think about how much he is taking in, even when I don't always notice.

So the morning went on and the kids kept playing, and soon the boys ventured away from the climbing equipment and onto the hiking trail that's directly behind the larger playground. My first instinct was to tell Henry not to go (what if there were snakes in the grass! or sharp, thorny bushes! or...something!) but I held back my immediate urge to yell "Henny, be CAREFUL!" and instead thought about my own childhood. I grew up in the forest, trees on all sides, deep, deep woods for acres and acres. My sister and I would spend hours exploring- turning over rocks, collecting leaves and acorns, digging in the dirt and taking the trails behind our home when we got a bit older. I remember so much of that, and I remember feeling safe and protected. But what I don't remember is my Mom yelling, "Danielle! Be CAREFUL!" every two minutes, or anytime she may have felt like we could get dirty or hurt.

Parenting, in a nutshell, is letting go of your child a little more everyday. It's growing together while growing apart, and giving them enough room to become who they will be. I'm learning this. And although it's hard for me to embrace my laid-back side, the side that doesn't mind when Henry jumps into a mud puddle with his "good" shoes on, or wants to venture into uncharted territory without holding my hand, I'm realizing that all of this is important in Henry's growth. Outside of normal situations that are just plain unsafe, he needs to be free to explore and learn and figure out things on his own. At almost three my baby boy is truly turning into his own person, and the only way he will ever fully become that person is for me to let go of my own tendencies to hold on maybe a little too tight.

So today when I held back my "be careful" and instead watched Henry run through the fields of thorny bushes and yellow flowers, I got to see my little boy grow a little older and gain a little more confidence. And guess what? He was careful, without me even saying a word. And when playtime was over and it was time to pack up and walk home, my wild-child dug a half-crushed flower out of the pocket of his gray jeans and said, "for you, Mommy."

This parenting stuff is tricky, but I'm learning a little more everyday, right alongside Henry and Charlie. And this yellow flower is sitting here on my desk, to remind me that it's okay to let kids be kids. I don't have to control every moment, hold Henry back because of my own fears. We work on building him up, and everyday we need to teach him to fly, little by little, until one day, he can do it all on his own.


21 comments:

  1. Sometimes I see and hear teenagers and think what is the world coming to. Then I hear stories like this. Very sweet.

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  2. Awww, I loved this! I had the type of childhood where we ran barefoot across the street to play in the creek on my grandpas acre. Not once did my mom tell us to put shoes on or to be careful. Im a new Mother, and I know this will be hard!

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  3. really loved reading this. you are an excellent mama!

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  4. I really like you're thoughts on parenting and motherhood. It reminds me what a universal experience it is.So often I read your words and think, "yeah, me too. I think that." It's reassuring and encouraging.

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  5. Yes! You are so awesome! It's okay to let them get dirty and to let them explore. It's also totally okay for them to get hurt every once in a while. Lessons to learn and all that. I don't mind one or two "be careful" comments, but I have seen parents hover like their lives depended on it. It makes for anxious (and possibly rebellious) children.

    The Rambling Fangirl

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  6. I love this! I see so many parents who freak out over the tiniest things with their kids and I think back to my childhood and while in some ways, the world is different from then, things like running around and playing in the dirt should never be restricted! Those are the childhood memories I cherish and when I have children of my own, those are the memories I want for them!

    Jamie @
    The Growing Up Diaries

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  7. Holy shiiiiiit Danielle. I just cried my eyes out haha. I loved this and you're awesome.

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  8. You are such a good person and mother (and writer!), I had a couple of tears in my eyes reading this :')

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  9. this is so true, i feel like i say 'careful!' all the time...i'm such a lame-o :)

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  10. Nice post meh, I learnt something from this post and I'm working on making it useful. The blog reminds me of an equally interesting blog on my reading list http://danieluyi.com Dating and Personal Development Blog .
    keep up the good work.

    Regards

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  11. This is such a beautiful post. I am an aunt, an aunt who loves her little nieces and nephews so thoroughly I actively try and convince them that I am their momma. lol. My mom was telling me the same thing this weekend. She held me back from being overly careful with them. (I was babysitting with my mom) She said its the only way children learn.

    Allegedly she was overly cautious with us, but I remember running around like a wild thing growing up. But I am the last born, so I think by then she had done a lot of letting go.

    I know I'm not a momma, but I thought what a really true sentence you had there in "Parenting, in a nutshell, is letting go of your child a little more everyday" and its a bit like true love - you know, if it comes back its yours.

    Very beautifully written post.

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  12. I love that he brought you back a crushed flower! So hard to take a step back and let them handle things for themselves but you must be so proud when it goes right x

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  13. I absolutely love this post. I think it's so important to allow kids to play naturally like we were able to. And, I'm so glad to hear that Henry is picking up your language about sharing! It encourages me as I begin to guide my own "little wild child." :)

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  14. Blagh! Now I'm crying at my desk. I don't have a three year old but I did have baby recently (a c-section,around the same time you did) and can't help but think to the future and the sad approaching days when my baby won't be a baby anymore. This was very touching!

    Leah

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  15. What a good lesson for everyone, about letting kids explore and not constantly telling them no and be careful. I also love that he is using your language, kids pick up on everything!

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  16. High five on the sharing thing! I need a new approach to it, so I might start with what you've been doing. My daughter (nearly three) is nice to her little brother (14 months) for about three minutes every day and the rest of it is yelling at him and snatching toys from him...

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  17. Henry and Charlie are lucky to have you.

    And by the way, you are perfectly eloquent.

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  18. Danielle-
    I had tears reading this! Everyday I feel like I'm failing at this mom job....and this was a nice reminder that they learn from us, even when we don't realize. I'm printing this out to read, to remember to let her grow and fly! Thank you :)
    Aimee Burton (Curzio)

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  19. You nailed it on the head. Let children be children. They are very smart and most times will pick the right option. And if they don't? That's what we are there for.

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