I was fully planning on being one of those parents, the ones who read parenting books in a (what I now know is futile) attempt to arm themselves with answers, to better understand the role of a parent. Husband and I even bought the obvious, What to Expect When Expecting book and I think I started reading it when pregnant with Cody.
Then Cody came way too early and the emails from the pregnancy website I had subscribed to that told me what size my fetus was by relating it to various fruits, was painfully irreverent. The parenting books, pregnancy books, and birthing books were angrily and intentionally thrust into a dark corner of my closet. I hated them.
I hated those books. I could never have what those books cheerfully walked you through. I could not follow along with the age appropriate milestones an infant and young child meets – the lifting of the head, tracking objects with eyes, pincher grasp with thumb and forefinger, reaching across midline, pulling themselves up, rocking back and forth as a precursor to crawling, scooting, finally walking – no, Cody met none of those goals at the age appropriate time. And I was painfully aware of it.
Of course much time has past since then. Cody just turned ten and Carter will be eight in a few weeks. I have never found myself in want of a parenting book.
So last week when I was at the library with Carter I surprised myself. I was pursuing the best seller and library picks shelf, a quick place to grab a book for myself before we left, and I found in my hand a parenting book. It was the title that drew me in. Once I recognized it for the genre it was, I almost flung it back onto the shelf, in my haste to put space between it and me.
But then I cautiously plucked it up again, allowing myself to read the back cover. I ended up leaving the library with it riding in our reusable bag between a Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other such thrilling reads.
The book is It’s OK to Go Up the Slide: Renegade Rules for Raising Confident and Creative Kids written by Heather Shumaker. It was the word confident that I kept coming back to as Cody struggles with being confident and I struggle with finding ways to help him. I have no idea if this author or the book is well known, nor do I really care. But I am finding myself agreeing with a lot of what is in the book. Some topics I skim, but others have given me pause.
And one has changed the way Husband and I walk the dogs.
Shumaker discusses in her book the lack of free play children get, unstructured and unencumbered by lurking parents ready to pounce into the scene whenever it looks like help is needed. Now, Cody and Carter get a healthy amount of time to play and use their imagination, but I am almost always within eyesight or earshot. I try to let them sort things out, solve their own problems, but I’m a teacher and a bit of a control freak, so I am not very good at this (I can’t believe I just admitted that).
A topic that has come up in the past several months between Husband and I is at what age we could leave the boys alone for brief periods of time, or let them go the the park by themselves. I jokingly suggested never, but Husband felt it was close to time, if not time now. Reading this parenting book gave me a different perspective on the subject and helped me to visualize how to ready the boys to go independently to the park – to ready myself too.
After dinner I asked the boys if they wanted to go by themselves to the park and play on the playground while Husband and I walked the dogs. Carter yelled out, “Yes, that sounds AWESOME!” and Cody was unsure. Once he found it he would be with Carter and it would be for a short time, he was all in. What followed was a casual discussion with the boys on what helpers look like (look for parents – they are used to helping kids), and the importance of staying together. Then we tried it out.
Husband and I, each with a dog, and the boys, Cody riding his bike and Carter walking, left the house at the same time. We went up the street and crossed the road, then they went one way, off towards the park, and we went the other, into the neighborhood.
In total we were separate for about 20 minutes. It was easier than I thought it would be although I would be lying if I told you I did not quiz myself on exactly what they were wearing in case we needed to file a a missing child report.
We have done this two times so far. The kids love it and Husband and I enjoy the time kid-free together. It might just become a thing we do. They are older and more independent. The park is close and they have each other. I think this is what letting go feels like. It is scary and liberating all at the same time.