A former co-worker of mine told me, I think when I was pregnant, that it was guaranteed that I'd be a hover mother. Well, actually I think he said "helicopter mom" but same thing. I took it with a grain of salt, but I knew he was probably right. I knew it was going to be a major challenge for me to just sit and let my kid play and explore. I'm a nervous person. I hate that trait but I know this about myself. I am always trying to overcome it. This topic and feeling has been on my mind lately as Harv continues to walk more confidently and play more contently. Have I let my own nervousness make me a hover mother? Let me run the following scenarios by you...
1. I took Harv and B to the park one day. This was the first time we were at the park and other kids were there. It was also the first time we were at a park that was more age appropriate for two one-year-olds. B is seven months older than Harv so she was running around with ease. Harv was still only crawling at the time but had mastered going up stairs and still working on the down. Now, I know if you would have spied on me, you would have told me to chill the frick out and sit down. But here's why I didn't so I know this was a completely hover situation. Number one: I couldn't believe I was out with two children (voluntarily!), one of which was not my own and who could have easily ran away from me! I wasn't letting her out of my sight. Number two: Harv loved crawling around but had no concept of how far the edge of the walk ways were and I didn't want him to turn into a bloody mess. The sheer fear of the combination of number one and two made me walk through the playground quite closely to these children. If we were to go back today, I would hope to tell you it would be a different story. Other than now I'd have two kids who would run away from me. Situation one: I'm a hover.
2. Friendsgiving. Ah, the most wonderful start to the holiday season. This year we were blessed with the presence of nine children, ages five and under. It was a mad house. All I wanted was Harv to go and sit with the other kids and play toys. I'd sit him down, walk away, and he'd scream. I'd try again and he'd come find me. In his defense, he had a bit of a cold. Other than that, as a stay at home mom who doesn't arrange many play dates, I craved this evening to plunge him into socialization. Frankly, I was pissed that this was the reaction I was getting from him. I left that evening feeling like a failure, completely overwhelmed, and a bit overstimulated myself. My husband and I didn't say anything the entire ride home. I was exhausted and my mind reeled. I thought, "Do we need to get him back in daycare? or Are we doing him injustice by not having him around people more often?" However, the more I reflected on that night, I came to this conclusion. How can I expect Harv to love a very busy situation like that, when I don't even handle it with the best grace? Don't get me wrong. I love my friends and their kids. I am not judging anyone's parenting because I think all of these kids are going to grow up to be awesome adults. But how could I just expect Harvey to LOVE every kid and want to play when that is 100% out of our routine? As an adult, I don't like being put into awkward social situations with tons of people and have to force myself to do so. Why should I expect my kid to be any different? When this situation arises again, I will sit him down, walk away, and hope for the best. But if he cries and comes to find me, that's ok. Situation two: Not a hover.
3. The Mall Play Place. Yesterday, I met a friend and her 6wk old baby at the mall. We had no agenda other than to walk around and catch up. Since I was at the mall, my hubby told me to take Harv to see Santa (even though we knew he would scream). Here was the result. Poor kid.
I thought for sure we'd have to leave after this. But Harv calmed down and we were able to carry on our merry way. After lunch and a trip to see the pets at the pet store, we went to the play place. I decided that I was going to sit there and just see what happens. I went in with no expectations. After my roller coaster of emotions from Friendsgiving, I wasn't going to push him to do anything. I was going to let him set the tone. I set Harv down and he clinged to me. He didn't cry but he didn't want to move just too far away. Other kids were playing all around us. Harv eventually let go and crawled back and forth under the closest tunnel, playing peek with me. He eventually left my sight. I didn't get up to check where he was and I made sure my butt stayed planted in that seat! As long as I didn't see him run out the front doors or hear him scream, I knew he was ok. He kept playing back and forth through the tunnel and the bigger kids didn't jump on him. I was pleased. I eventually got up to show him over to the ducks in the play place. He walked over all by himself and stayed playing over there even when the play boat filled with kids. I have to admit, I could barely concentrate on my friend talking because I was so proud of him. And of myself really. It was KILLING me to stay in my seat, but I knew I didn't want to hover and that we both needed this. I tried not to look his way too much either. I even showed his dad this picture last night and got a little teary because I was just so darn proud of him! Situation three: Not a hover.
I know these scenarios are first of MANY. I know we could go back to the play place tomorrow and it could be a different story. But what I've realized from these situations is that I have been my biggest critic. I have been beating myself up for my kid not being the social butterfly that I want him to be. Why should I expect that from him? I mean, have you met his dad? ;) No seriously. My husband and I aren't super outgoing people. The fact that I thought my son would be different is silly. But my son has other very strong characteristics. He's kind to other kids when he does actually sit and play. He will give up his toys for you. He likes being goofy. He likes being spooked, which surprises me! He loves being chased and he loves tickling people (which I hope isn't weird). Just because social butterfly isn't currently one of his strengths, doesn't mean that will always be the case either. He's ONE for cryin' in the beer! I've put this crazy expectation on him and I need to cool it. He will figure it out. Just like I'm figuring out this whole parenting thing. We will both take it one situation at a time. I will just make sure I am doing my part to hide my nervousness and let my kid be. So parents, whatever you tend to beat yourself up about, cut yourself some slack. It doesn't mean you love your child any less.