Posted: Thursday, March 25th, 2010
Recently I was at the front door of a gal pal of Speed’s telling the girl’s mom about the great play date they’d enjoyed that afternoon. ”They played for hours on the trampoline,” I said. ”She should sleep well tonight!”
[insert long awkward silence here]
“Oh.” said the mom. ”You have a trampoline. My kids would love one but they’re so…..” her voice trailed off into another awkward silence.
“Dangerous?” I said bravely.
“Yes…from what I hear” said the other mom.
And with that, a line was drawn in the sand – “Good Mommy” on one side and “Bad Mommy” on the other. It was clear that this was my opportunity to explain myself and the next words I uttered would forever place me on one side of the line or the other in this woman’s mind.
I inhaled in preparation for the smart and redemptive explanation I would give but as I exhaled, the words that came out were “Ok! Well, see you tomorrow at drop off! She was a gem…SUCH amazing manners!” And I beat a hasty retreat back to the car.
One of my favorite things about blogging is the opportunity it provides to take mulligans on my toughest mom moments. So, please join me as I take another deep breath and help myself to a fantasy do-over. Here’s what I would say:
“Yes. I suppose trampolines can be dangerous. We did quite a lot of research before we bought it and chose one that’s designed to greatly reduce the risk of injury. We have strict rules around how our kids use it and they know the day they break one of those rules is the day the tramp goes away. But in the mean time, every day – sometimes for hours a day – they’re outside, in the fresh air, moving their bodies. They’re laughing together, and challenging each other, and inventing great adventures about which planet they’re leaping to. I know it would be safer for them to sit on my fully padded couch watching someone else jump around on a video game, but that doesn’t really work for me. I’m pretty sure one of them will get hurt one day on the trampoline but I think maybe a broken wrist will be easier to mend in the long run than a mushy mind.”
Phew! That feels better!
It’s no secret to any of you that being a parent is hard. I think one of the hardest parts is the never ending risk/reward analysis we all have to navigate. There’s nothing I hate more than seeing one of my kids in pain, and it’s unbearable to think about one of them ever getting seriously injured. But it’s also kind of tough to think about them growing up afraid of life or unwilling to try the good things because they don’t believe in themselves or their bodies. So I spend a lot of my day walking that “Good Mommy” / “Bad Mommy” line.
Some of the choices are easy: ”Yes”, you always have to wear sunscreen even though you hate getting it on. ”Yes”, you have to wear a helmet when you’re on wheels even if it’s itchy. ”No”, you can not go scuba-diving in the deep end of the pool with the hose of drinking straws you taped together. All easy.
But lots of them are really hard. Do you let a seven year old ski down a double black diamond ski run if he’s dying to do it and has proven that he’s capable of getting down all the single black diamonds on the mountain? Do you give your completely trustworthy kids the freedom to play beyond your sight when you’re car camping in a state park? Do you let your five year old climb to the tippity top of the coolest climbing tree either of you has ever seen? Any one of these could result in catastrophic disaster, but they also each offer the kid in question the opportunity to learn, grow, make their own tough decisions, challenge themselves, survive failure, or savor the unique joy and immense sense of accomplishment that only comes when we try and succeed.
When I’m faced with those kinds of decisions I rely a lot on advice from more experienced moms and on information I find here on Education.com and other parenting resources. But mostly, I just trust my gut. I’m never 100% sure but, knock on wood, my kids are healthy and happy and turning out to be people I find interesting and genuinely enjoy hanging out with. So maybe that’s the best way to know that I’m doing what’s right for me and for my family.
What parenting decisions are toughest for you? Have you ever made a big one you later regretted? How do you handle it when it’s clear your parenting peers think you’re on the “Bad Mommy” side of the line? Don’t be shy…Share! Our favorite comment will win a box of kids books so be sure to include your email address.