In recent weeks, with a clear head, I have been spending a lot more time with Little T at our local park. I really love this park because there is a huge wooden fort that as far as parks go, is in my opinion really two year old friendly. So many playgrounds that try to cater for all ages have bits up high where there are gaps for “firemen” poles or other similar that cater for kids who are beyond the toddler stage.
I love how this park amuses Little T for so long and his eyes light up as soon as we pull up in front - as if it’s THE best thing EVER.
I’ve also started taking more notice of the other kids and parents and they varying degrees to which we all let our kids experience the park.
Let me paint a picture of what I am talking about. The past few visits have been after rain, and there are about 4 slides around the fort. It amazes me how many mums and dads as they hover over their kids will stop them from going down the slides because they are a little bit wet. My style is to let Little T go for it. A little bit of a wet bum can always be fixed up by a change in pants when we get home. Same with a bit of dirt from a misjudged descent into the chip bark.
There are also many parents who are literally right behind their kids with every step they take on the fort – actually climbing every section and holding the kids hands each and every step of the way. Personally, I quickly worked out there is one section where he can fall down badly (by that, I mean more than about 40cm) – and when he gets there, I am right down below to make sure it doesn’t happen, but the rest of the time I walk below near to him encouraging him to explore and have fun. If he slips and bumps a limb or trips over, my style is to tell him it’s ok and to get up and have another go. Same if he gets to a tricky bit where there is a big step up or down and he pauses, worried that it’s too hard. I will tell him, “you can do it” or “go on, have a go, just make sure you hold on”.
I guess it comes down to what you know. I want my son to go through life, confident that he can have a go at things within boundaries of what is a safe risk, and to me, that is something that I can start teaching him pretty early on. Being scarred of something that is well with within his capabilities, or getting a wet bum should not come into it.
I read recently about a child care facility that is opening with play options that are designed to challenge and encourage the type of play that many of us were used to growing up, in the days before society became so litigious. Instead of carefully designed safe play options there will be trees to climb.
As parents we are all doing what we believe is best for our kids and that will always be subjective and varied.
It’s a bit of a contradiction for me, as in some ways I am very rigid and set in my ways and quite paranoid, yet other things I take a very relaxed approach to.
Back to the park example…my style is to supervise, but not to helicopter and worry about minor injuries. I think because I am someone who loves to “people watch” it truly does fascinate me to observe those who take a different approach. However, I must admit, I do find it hard to quieten the little voice in my head whose natural reaction is to judge.
Have you ever stopped to think about your parenting style? Are you a wet or dry slide parent?