Middle Ground

Do you find yourself hovering over your child? Have you ever thought of yourself or been called a “helicopter parent”?

Between Hubby and I, it’s actually Hubby who was more of the helicopter and overly safety-conscious parent. That’s not to say that I didn’t care whether my children got hurt or not. It just means, I was well-aware and more accepting of the reality that children are bound to get hurt in some form or fashion, scrape their knees, fall on their bikes, drop their toys, etc. There was a reason we child-proofed the house, buckled them on high chairs and car seats, removed sharp objects from their reach, and just watched them closely.

After a bike fall, I am the kind of parent who will tell my child “It is okay” and then encourage them to ride the bike again, not take the bike away. When Oliver was 4, he ran into the corner of our newly-bought dining table. He cut his head and he was bleeding. Hubby was so worried and upset. Oliver probably felt he wasn’t going to hear the end of his dad’s ‘lecture’ about what happened. I, on the other hand, thought – it may not be the last trip to the urgent care realizing that he can be an overly excited and clumsy child. Good news. Here we are 2 years later and we haven’t had any similar incident – thank goodness!

Aiden, on the other hand, is the most careful daredevil there is! And I know the irony sounds ridiculous but it really is how I would describe him. This nature of his used to send me and Hubby into anxiety land. But of course, Hubby would hover at arm’s length while I watch nervously from a safe distance. Aiden jumps on the bed, jumps off/on the sofa, climbs kitchen counters, and walks on ledges. I think he likes the height (unlike me). At the same time, he knows boundaries. When it’s no longer truly safe, he will look at us and ask for help. When he is unsure, without saying any word, he turns to us to ask for permission.

But, he is a child and there are times he does get hurt. Aiden hates getting hurt. Who doesn’t? It used to overwhelm him and so when he did get hurt, he would hurt himself more. He didn’t know how to deal with the pain. Over the years we’ve been able to work with him to help him understand that getting hurt is okay. He’s actually learned the word “ouch” and has learned to come to us to let us know he got hurt. He has learned how to show us where it hurts too. Every once in a while, we can still have meltdowns because of getting hurt but the recoveries are so much faster. See, with autism, we didn’t only worry that he got hurt but we dreaded the hours of meltdowns that came after. I was telling Hubby the other day, it’s crazy how far we’ve come.

How did we do it? Hubby and I had to find and agree on our middle ground. We had to find the sweet spot between hovering too close and watching from a distance. And then, reconciled between us what’s acceptable ‘hurt’ and unacceptable ‘hurt’. And it’s not only for Aiden. It’s the same for Oliver. Only that we both know the difference between our overly excited clumsy child and our careful daredevil.

I think as parents, we will always feel the urge to protect our children from getting hurt. But, getting hurt is inevitable in life so it is also important that we teach them how to overcome and recover from the pain.

For Christmas, we gave both children a hoverboard each. Hubby had been wanting this for the boys because it seems like a cool toy. He even wanted one for himself. Oliver has been eyeing it because some kids in the neighborhood go on their afternoon walks in a hoverboard. I thought that it will be good for both of them too. But my reasons were for developmental purposes. I thought it’ll help with balance and coordination. The hoverboard will also be a good sensory toy for Aiden and promote development of fine motor skills.

While wrapping, Hubby and I had doubts. Were we setting up our children to get hurt? Will they even learn how to ride it? Our sweet spot was that – they were going to like it but it was going to take a long time for them how to ride it. Hubby even planned on showing them videos of other people riding it. I just thought Aiden was going to stare at the lights, turn it off and on to hear its sound, and use it like his other toy vehicles.

Applying the strategy we’ve compromised upon – that middle ground between hovering closely and watching from a distance – we let them explore it. And just like a baby learning to walk only on a fast forward track – Aiden stood on that hoverboard and rode it in 3 days and Oliver in 4 days!

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