Three and a half years on-the-job training as a parent so far, and there’s still so very much to learn. I am absolutely fascinated with what I am learning not only about myself, but about the Husband, friends who have children, and virtual strangers met on play grounds, in pre-school, etc.

Recognizing that we have a long, long way to go on our journey through parenthood, I am thrilled with the ride so far. The Husband and I, remarkably, are on the same parenting page. This realization has come as a surprise. After all, we raised two puppies together and nearly killed each other in the process. I was a huge proponent of positive reinforcement and he basically used scare tactics with the dogs. Although our dogs have turned out to be the envy of the neighborhood, and friends are always asking me to refer them to our dog trainer (which was the Husband), it was a long and bumpy road for us so it should come as no surprise that the mere thought of raising children together had me running for the bottle of wine.

When I was pregnant with V, we had long and involved conversations about a variety of parenting subjects, the most heated of which was on the subject of spanking. We were both spanked as children and although neither of us have any emotional or physical scars from it, I do not believe in spanking. The Husband was a proponent .. it didn’t matter how many articles I emailed him, how many passages from parenting books I read to him, his mind was set.

The moment V was born, however, something inside of the Husband clicked. V is his pride and joy – his little buddy – and he would never, ever raise a hand to him. He has been able to see that alternative ways of discipline have worked like a charm with V – and his mind has been changed.

We have always encouraged V to try. If something was out of reach on the coffee table, rather than scooting the item closer so he could reach it, we let him figure out a way to get it by himself. And he did. By the time V was 18 months old he was setting the kitchen table, dishing food on to his plate, and pouring milk out of a bottle in to his cup. He showed an interest in trying these things. We encouraged it. Simple as that. He dropped things. He spilled milk. But he tried again, and his coordination developed very quickly. I remember one afternoon having lunch with two other mothers I’d met and their sons. V was the youngest of the three boys, at 2 years old. I was struck by the fact that these mothers fed their sons lunch. Spoon fed. Like they were babies. Both of them. And just like they spoon fed their sons, they essentially followed them around the yard like a shadow ready to catch them if they fell. The mere sight of the hovering moms made me vow to myself that I would never. Ever. Hover.

At three and a half, V is starting to learn a thing or two about playground politics. After our softball game last week, we all gathered for a celebratory bar-b-que at Coach Nick’s house. There were two other boys there – a five year old and an eight year old. V was in heaven playing with the big boys. The big boys, however, weren’t all that thrilled to have a little one tagging along so they would ditch him whenever they could. Lots of hide and seek, lots of disappearing when V wasn’t looking. It was so obvious that several other women there mentioned it to me. The mom in me wanted so desperately to reach out to V, to tell him that I’d play with him, that he didn’t need those big boys. But V didn’t see it that way. He had no idea that they were trying to ditch him. It was all a game to him, and he was having a blast. Had I hovered, he might have thought something was wrong with him. Or that these boys didn’t want to play with him.

We talk often about our role as V’s parents. We believe that, among other things, one of our jobs is to be a soft place for V to fall. The key word being fall. We have no interest in stopping all of the falls, just the big life-threatening ones. V must learn to fall. And get back up, dust himself off, and try all over again. We want him to learn not only the joy of victory, but the agony of defeat. Yes V, there are winners and losers in the game of t-ball, just as there are in the game of life. We care only that you tried your best.

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