As I look out the window I can see my three big kids mucking about outside.
Izzy is up a tree, Zoe is dancing around without shoes on, and Morgan has a long stick in each hand, waiving them around madly.
I want to fling open the window and tell Izzy to be careful. I want to remind Zoe to put her shoes on (we have a boots on outside rule due to snakes in the warmer months). I want screech at Morgan to put the sticks down before someone gets hurt… but I don’t.
I squash the urges because, for a fleeting moment, I see my childhood reflected in theirs.
I remember hours spent in the back yard making precarious cubby houses out of dangerous objects. I remember digging in the dirt and picking my Mum’s prized plants to make potions. I remember doing things I knew I really shouldn’t be doing. I remember the joy and freedom of just mucking about.
As I sit here watching my own kids, I wonder if my mother knew about some of the not so great things I got up to, and let them slide. I wonder if she looked out her window and decided not to intervene, to just let me play.
Then Zoe dances too close and Morgan accidentally whacks her with a stick. I see her stop and say something with a cross face and I resign myself to getting up and dealing with the argument and tears that are sure to follow.
But it doesn’t happen.
I see Morgan throw his arms around his sister, he is obviously saying sorry. I see Zoe hug him back, despite the fact that she is obviously still cross. Then she points and I assume she is telling him to stick twirl somewhere he is less likely to hit anyone. They go back to what they were doing, but this time a lot further apart. They worked it out, on their own.
Zoe still has no shoes on, and I debate internally whether I should remind her of the rule. But it is a cold day, the grass is short, the likelihood of a snake being anywhere in her immediate area is pretty slim. So I ignore the fact that my mind is filling with images of an evil black snake sinking it’s fangs into my precious child’s unprotected foot, and I look away. I let them be for a little while longer.
I hear a lot about ‘helicopter parenting’ and now ‘lawnmower parents’ (who always smooth the way for their children) and I know I don’t want to be that kind of Mum. I do think there are times when hovering is totally warranted, even needed – even my five year old still needs me within ear shot at the park to help him deal appropriately with tricky social situations, and my two year old needs me even closer – but at home, with their siblings, in the (relative) safety of our own yard, this is the time to park the helicopter in the hanger, squash my own anxiety and let my kids be free to play crazy games, learn about taking risks and sort out their own problems.
For once… sitting on my backside doing nothing is being a good parent.
How do you decide when to intervene and when to let them be?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
Nirvana Watkins says
I’ve never taken the time to comment on your blog but I thought I really should. Thanks for another thoughtful post. I seem to pin, flag or share just about everything you write, and wanted to avknowledge that and encourage you to keep writing. I think we all struggle with the question of when to intervene at times, it’s tricky!
thanks for taking the time to comment – it always makes my day :)
And it really is tricky isn’t it… sometimes I get it dead right like this time, but just as often I get it all wrong!
I’m all for leaving them to sort it out for themselves.
Unfortunately in this hyper-vigilant age, people tend to step in and intervene and then judge me for not doing so. Just today I was letting my two sort it out for themselves when they both wanted to bring the bin in (go figure). I was watching from the carport at the top of the driveway while I unloaded the car. A nurse walking past crossed the road and intervened. I then stepped in and said they were fine, but in the back of my mind I know she was deciding where this stood on her mandatory reporting scale.
I am kinda surprised anyone would step in to intervene in two kids (obviously siblings) have a regular every day argument!! Surely they were not in any mortal danger, even if the helpful stranger didn’t know you were right there watching!?!?
Megan Blandford says
Love this, Kate. I’m a big believer in letting kids explore and work things out for themselves to a certain extent, but it can be hard sometimes.
Nanny B says
I had a pretty good idea of what you were up to. Was it you or your brother or both of you jumping off the garage roof? Also remember I had a wild and free childhood and survived to go on to let you be a bit adventurous. Be glad you have the space to let them test themselves.
Very well said!
Lynda @ all about mama says
It really is a balancing act, isn’t it? Wanting them to be safe but wanting them to discover and explore. When I send them outside I lay out a few basic ground rules of what is off limits and then delight in sticking my head outside every so often to see all the wonderful things they get up to.
That is pretty much how it works here too… the rule is ‘stay in the back yard’ (as opposed to wandering the paddocks or going near the dam) and I am really glad I can trust my big kids (the toddler is too little yet to be out without supervision) to follow that general rule… it helps keep me sane!
Jay @ Learning to play and playing to learn says
I so struggle with this. I have not heard of lawnmower parenting but it is a great analogy. I will just keep trying not to remind as often, thank you for the reminder