It’s hard to look cool and relaxed as your two year old daughter plants her foot to the ground, pushing her scooter even faster down the slope while you struggle to recover from tripping on the footpath as you sprint to catch up with her. Harder still to look like you’re not panicking as your now faster daughter develops the death wobbles and starts to veer towards the wet, grassy verge. While she cackles with glee yelling “wobbly daddy, wobbly” my wife’s expression flashes through my mind as I imagine taking my daughter back home with a scooter handle through her spleen and blood pouring from her head.
I was one of those soon-to-be fathers that had a pretty clear idea about the Dad I was going to be. I wasn’t going to drive a people mover, I wasn’t going pile on sympathy weight and I wasn’t going to become one of those nervous, helicopter parents that were scared to let their kids fall over.
The pre-child me would have “let her learn the lesson” so I had to ask why am I jogging alongside my daughter clutching desperately at the hood of her jacket to slow her down and steer her around more cracks and certain disaster.
When my daughter was first born I took great pride in walking around carrying her in one hand, of confidently bundling her up and not worrying if she got bumped, startled or upset. This lasted a week or two until we realised that she was a rubbish sleeper waking up from the merest pin dropping, that anything she drank would perform a u-turn and be deposited on furniture, clothes and us thanks to reflux and that what she did keep down probably contributed to the wind that she suffered keeping her up between 11pm and 5am every night of her first 2 months.
Based on my quick polling, this isn’t an unusual story and true to form of many parents, from our relaxed intentions we quickly turned into anxious, sleepless wrecks who refused to walk passed her room for fear of waking her, tried every formula from every animal imaginable and every remedy under the sun for wind (which supposedly dosen’t exist). And like the vast majority of parents we never fixed it. Instead, we spent time, effort and emotion trying to fix everything whilst our daughter just simply grew out of it all and flourished.
So since birth there’s been a tension between the uber-chilled out dad that I imagined I’d be and the man trying to protect my daughter from anything that could go wrong. I don’t think I’m a neurotic parent. I’ve let her learn her own lessons (eg; dropped her, let her trip, let her fall from the climbing gym) but what I’ve realised is that for some some reason (I’m blaming genetics and/or the desire to get my deposit back when she’s eighteen) I just don’t want her to suffer.
So, did she fall? No? Will she? probably and with her desire for speed and danger it’s probably going to hurt. I suppose the trick for me is to figure out how much to let it hurt her.
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