Oh, hi there, stranger silently judging my parenting from across the park. Why yes, that was my 3-year-old son who just ran full speed into a lamp post for no apparent reason. And yup, guilty as charged, I’m his mom — standing over here, not tripping over myself to try to stop him, and not scraping him off of the sidewalk.
I know you think I’m not paying attention to my child, and you probably think that I’m a horrible mom. Who knows? You might even be right. I guess we’ll find out in 16 years or so. Be sure to give me your email address before you leave the park, so I can shoot you a few lines if he turns out to be an axe murderer.
Here’s the thing, I know my son pretty well. He spent nine long months stowed away in my lady parts, and I’ve been with him every day since. I used to panic every time he fell down — which was all the time. When he was learning to walk, he once got three split lips in a single day. He was 10 months old. It was a goddamned bloodbath. I freaked out every time and texted gory pictures to my sister-in-law.
“Do you think he needs stitches?!”
“Nah, dude, he’s good. Split lips heal up. No problem.” (She has two wonderful grown kids of her own, so she’s my black-belt mom sensei).
After months of anxiety over every injury, I started to read my son a little better. Now I can almost always tell if he’s going to be able to shake it off on his own, need a good snuggle, or if we should just pull stakes right there and head straight to the emergency room.
Despite what you may think, I’ve been watching his every move. I’m tracking him like a hawk tracks a field mouse. In fact, it takes a lot of restraint to keep myself from stepping in when I know he’s going to do something that is, let’s say, a questionable life choice. If he’s in a situation where his toddler intuition is going to get himself, or others, hurt in a serious way, I’m swooping in with my razor-sharp mom talons, like, immediately. But if I see him doing something that is going to end with him getting a scrape, bruise, or bump, guess what? Carry on, young sir!
The way I see it, the lamp post represents all the times life is going to knock him on that cute little hiney of his. It’s going to happen, probably a lot, especially with his stubborn personality. My greatest hope as a mother is that he can peel himself off of the sidewalk and think, “Doh. Won’t do that again.”
Heck, maybe next time we’re at the park, he’ll see the lamp post ahead of time, calmly walk around it, and everyone will think we are normal people. A mom can dream, right? Right?! My eye isn’t twitching, your eye is twitching!
Look, I wish I could spare him the bump on the noggin and still have him learn the lesson. But a lot of times, it doesn’t quite sink in unless he scrapes up his knees a little bit. You know what else? I absolutely love that about him. The guy’s got moxie. I can see the wheels turning in his little brain: “Really, Mom? You think I shouldn’t jump that far? Well, watch this.”
That quality will serve him well in life if he learns to channel it properly. We’re still working on the channeling part, obviously.
I’m constantly doing a tightrope act with this parenting thing, trying not to snuff out that beautiful twinkle in his eye, while also keeping him from giving me cardiac arrest and permanently maiming himself. The fact that our vulnerable, squishy mom-hearts rest in their snot-covered, fumbling, toddler hands is a terrifying realization.
So, stranger in the park, I see you glaring at me through the dangling ropes on the swings, and I know that your hairy eyeball comes from a good place. You have your own toddler out there, and I see your heart cradled in her dirty little hands as she clambers up the rock wall. You’re just as terrified as I am.
Man, this parenting thing is hard as hell. Aaand, now I’m having feelings. Shit.
You know what? I’m coming over there — you’re cool with fist bumps, right? Or are you a hugger? I’m a hugger.