I gave the Little Mister some freedom today. Thing is, give a toddler and inch and he’ll take a mile. I usually carry him through car parks and then set him down when we’re safely out of the way of any passing cars on a path or in a shopping centre. I hold his hand everywhere, because he’s a bit too curious about everything and everyone – some kids stay close and others are explorers and need stronger limits (guess which one I have). He is only 2 years and 4 months old after all.
This kid is getting heavy for me to carry and while I am pretty impressed with my newfound strength (I think my muscles have adapted with him as he’s grown – it’s a great daily weights work out), it is becoming a bit much. After a really crazy day of toddler chasing, I have been known to suffer from strained stomach muscles which does NOT feel good and upsets my gut (also not fun). Being only 5 foot tall, I am lifting a human being over half my height and I’ve been feeling it’s time to start teaching him more consciously about how to conduct himself a little more independently, which will help us both. Particularly with a rather full on overseas trip coming up where there will be strange people, places and road systems.
Today we walked together hand in hand across a zebra crossing. I knew this was within his capabilities and that I could keep him safe. He knew he was doing something new and he questioned me, looking a little wary when a car came a little closer. When we reached the doors of the shopping centre, he spotted my mum and my grandparents waiting for us. Once we were safe, I let him run excitedly to them for a big cuddle (giant cheeky grin included). Everyone gets such a kick out of that. It does tend to make you feel special.
When we entered the coffee shop, he devoured his apple and cinnamon muffin (a bit of a tradition) and then I let him out of the high chair to play at the little kids’ table that is always stocked with dried up texta markers with the lids off and colouring in books (not to mention the muffin crumbs of the children who have occupied it before him). He was free to roam around the small radius that was our table and the kids’ table. The shop wasn’t busy, so it was the perfect opportunity to let him explore new boundaries (without annoying anyone). He was very well behaved and I was feeling good that he’s reaching an age where he is starting to stay closer and is more easily occupied than say a year ago. It feels nice to let him be more independent.
Spoke too soon, Kez.
He’d had a taste of freedom. He was enjoying being a ‘big boy’. The world was his oyster.
There was a door that opened up onto the path outside (which leads to the car park). He’d ventured closer to it and just as I said, “Stay close please” he was out the door. He was enjoying the game of chasey he’d started. Mummy couldn’t get him right away – FREEEEDOM!
Thing is, like a lot of other toddlers, he enjoys a game. If you run after him, he giggles and runs faster. Only thing is, in this situation it could be fatal should a car come at the wrong moment (the driver obviously not keeping an eye out for a small child whose head wouldn’t even reach the top of their bonnet/hood). We reached an impasse, him dangerously close to the edge of the road and me knowing I had to stop him without accidentally encouraging him to run out faster. I made the instinctive decision to stop running and yell “STOP” in my most commanding tone. Something he doesn’t hear from me often. It worked and I was so relieved. It could have gone either way (in which case I feel I would have become faster than Usain Bolt). He was carried unceremoniously back inside and got a friendly little lecture from my mother, myself and his great grandparents. There was no point being mean or yelling at him because he didn’t know better. It was just our job to teach him, not scare him.
Later, I told him, “You can’t ever go outside without mummy. Cars can be fun (he loves them) but they can also hurt you if you get run over by one and we have to be very careful. Mummy would be so so sad if you got hurt by a car, so that’s why you can’t run outside where there are cars around.”
As we left the shopping centre with a couple of groceries (and my heart rate had settled a little), we crossed the zebra crossing with him strapped into a trolley. A couple of cars had stopped at a respectful and safe distance for us and the Little Mister looked a little freaked out. He said, “Car. Careful. Hurt. Sad.”
He was starting to get it. I explained that he was safe because I was with him and I am a grown up and I have had more practice at knowing how to keep safe on the road and that with practice he would be good at it too, but for now Mummy would help him.
I still don’t trust the little bugger just yet haha.
It’s so funny, because it seems like such an insignificant moment. It happens to parents all the time. Near misses. Moments that could go one (terrible and tragic) way, but more times than not (fortunately) go the other. Parenting is made up of so many of these moments. It feels like a crazy game of ‘luck’ and we just pray that we stay ‘lucky’.
The times we haven’t realised immediately that our child is sick enough to need medical assistance outside of our abilities as parents. The times we have watched them bounce off some furniture or leap off some stairs – all despite our best efforts to keep them safe. The moment we realise in our tired state we forgot to drain the bath the night before and while our toddler has gone nowhere near it since, the idea of what could have happened if they had. You name it, it’s happened to a well meaning, loving and competent parent somewhere. It’s a part of parenting and being human!
Today reminded me that I can know my toddler inside and out but he will still surprise me (and probably himself). I don’t want to smother him or take his freedoms (limited as they are for a 2 year old), because I believe he needs to develop a sense of self confidence, but I know I can not afford to get complacent in this parenting game.
As I sit here and look at my Little Mister safe at home playing with his toy cars (they’ve just had an epic smash and have landed under a cabinet while he lies down on his belly and reeeeaches) I am so grateful for every moment in which a ‘near miss’ has not become a terrifying hit. Parenting is hard work, y’all!
When did your heart rate last get that bit faster?
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