I speak to the baby in Spanish, and C speaks to him in English, so he’s learning words in both languages. He recently learned the word “no,” and when he shakes his chubby finger back and forth saying “nonononono,” he says it with a heavily Spanish accent. Guess we know which parent I am.
There are ways I want to be as a mother that don’t come naturally to me. In particular, I don’t want to hover. I want to let him learn and explore and make mistakes without trying to protect him from every disappointment or frustration. I check myself every day, a hundred times a day. Let him play alone, it doesn’t mean you’re ignoring him. Let him cry a little, he’s fine. Let him try to put the sock on his foot four thousand times (dude–you have to OPEN IT) and don’t intervene until he gets frustrated. Think before you say “no.”
To be clear: I do not intend to be all hippie-permissive. I don’t think a baby needs to make his own decisions based on what his soul tells him. No, you may not slap mommy in the boob because you think the sound is awesome. No, you may not throw all your lovingly cut-up food on the floor because it makes the dogs like you (even the one that REALLY doesn’t like you). No you may not stick that spoon/toothbrush/pipe cleaner in that outlet because the allure of putting a thing into another thing is too strong to resist.
If there’s no real risk, though, I’m trying to let things play out. Yes, you may put that playdough in your mouth–tastes like crap, right? Yes, you may walk a little further from me than is totally comfortable for either of us, because you will look back and I will be there (and I’m faster than you are). Yes, you may open and close cabinet doors, even though you mooshed your finger once, because now you know that mooshing is a possibility and you are careful. I read a great article recently about kids crawling up the tube slide. Yeah, they are going to take it in the chest once or twice, but after that they will know to look before they go in. Remember see-saws? They don’t exist anymore, because kids get hurt and their parents sue. I remember vividly (as I’m sure we all do), the day I thought it would be a good idea to put my feet up on the see-saw. And then the rat bastard on the other end jumped off, and I broke my ass. Happens to us all. But you know how many times it happens? ONCE. Because after that, you learn to keep your feet down, and more importantly, to watch out for rat bastards. These are important life lessons.
On the playground the other day, I was reading the rules posted on the fence. Pick up your trash, don’t leave kids unattended, the usual. And there it was at the bottom: “No Running.” ON THE PLAYGROUND. Yes, little boy, you may run. Because you are learning. And if you fall on your face, it will hurt, but you will be fine. I will applaud you if it’s a minor tumble and hold you if it’s a big spill. And I will try not to laugh, because let’s be real. Falling down is hilarious.