Call Me When You’re Bleeding

We went to the playground today; it was the first day in a long time it was warm enough to do so.  (I had thought when we packed the moving boxes that I was moving to the “sunny” South, but I was actually moving to the freezing-cold-winters/hot-sticky-summers/nice-couple-of-months-in-the-fall-and-spring South.)  But that’s a different story.

Every time we go to the playground, I’m usually shocked by someone’s parenting.  I’m sure they are shocked by mine as well, and they are welcome to blog about it, but this is my podium, so to speak.  Here is what I see all the time: a young child, taking some tentative steps up a ladder or towards a slide, or onto a boulder and the parent snatching them up, explaining how it’s “too dangerous” for them, and re-directing them towards something safer, and usually way more boring.

Now, I know that many of these parents have very opposite (but similarly disapproving) thoughts on my own child-rearing skills because I’ve actually had parents tell my child to be careful or not go too high despite the fact that I was standing right there, obviously the mom, and obviously without any concerns.  Well, it’s not that I don’t have any concerns, it’s just that I weigh them differently.  (For the record, I have never suggested to someone else’s kid that she keep climbing.)  Here’s my version of risk analysis:

1) how likely is he to fall? (I base this on similar falls, similar climbing experiences, or similar feats I’ve seen him accomplish in gymnastics class or on my living room furniture)

2) if he does fall, how likely is he to get hurt? (I base these extraordinarily unprecise calculations on things like the height off the ground, the material said ground is made of, and his position on the apparatus and the body part mostly likely to hit the ground material first)

3) if he does get hurt, how close am I to an ER? (Okay, I don’t actually ask myself that, but it’s possible I should.)

4) How much energy do I have and do I really feel like going over to the monkey bars to rescue him?  (This might indicate a slight downside to my plan, as given this logic he is increasingly likely to fall the more pregnant I get.)

And then here’s the thing: even after judging, I still almost never take him off and redirect.  When I can, I stand underneath, so that my soft, cushiony body will act like the firefighters’ trampoline.  If I can’t do that, I try to support a little bit–hold a foot in place so he’s less likely to slip, etc.  And if I can’t help at all and it really does look too high up with too great a possibility of falling, I resign myself to asking him not to do it (he’s usually figured this out on his own at this point anyway), and try a modified version to increase the likelihood he’ll be able to do it on his own soon.

(For example, I did discourage my 2-year-old from jumping from the side of a high platform in an attempt to reach a pole to slide down.  But I did let him come down to the ground, where I lifted him up to the pole and showed him how to slide down.  He’s still learning, and maybe by the time he feels good at it, he’ll be tall enough to reach out and grab that pole at the top of the platform.  I look forward to that day.)

I certainly don’t think my way is the only way, but I do think parents need to worry a little bit less about their kids.  Specifically, they need to worry a little less about physical danger.  In my world, I worry (perhaps too much) about digital media, screen time, and junk food.  I do this because I’ve been in classrooms with middle schoolers for many years and have yet to see anyone permanently damaged by a playground fall, but have seen many that have suffered the consequences of too much of the stuff I mention above.  So yes, parents, it’s okay to worry.  But think first about what you’re worried about and why.  Ask yourself what your kids would be allowed to do if you weren’t worried about it, and think about the trade-offs.

And that’s all to say that Wendy Mogel is a great author.  Not just because she would agree with me on some of these things, but because she has good, solid advice delivered in about raising kids and how to deal with the mistakes they will inevitably make along the way.  She’s professional, humorous, and knows what she’s talking about.  So here it is.

Title: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children
Author: Wendy Mogel, PhD
Genre: Parenting

Summary and Review:

Ah, the religious disclaimer: Religion tends to be a touchy subject for some people, so I should let you know that the book is written from a “Jewish” perspective.  I put Jewish in quotes because it’s also written from the perspective of a PhD and parenting expert, and I truly believe that everything in the book is universally applicable.  But you should know that she will quote from and refer often to Jewish texts such as the Bible (which of course is also Christian), the Talmud, and others.

If you are Jewish, or religious and not Jewish but open to learning the perspectives of other religions, or even just interested in spirituality and history, then I think these quotes serve as a unique and refreshing perspective through which to look at family life.  She also talks about teaching religion and spirituality to children and how to honor the holy in everyday life.  So, if you believe religion is responsible for all bad things in the world, then you might want to skip this one. 

Topics in the book include honoring each child as their own person (and learning to accept “good enough”), honoring parents (and how parents can better be someone to honor), overprotecting your child (hence my playground story), and many other gems of parenting confident and capable children.

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