In a conversation with a friend the other day, she mentioned that someone once asked her if I was seriously okay with letting my 7-year-old go to the bathroom by himself. A little while later I read Mama B’s post about how her house is a dungeon of rules, and I suddenly felt extremely guilty for not imposing more rules on my son.
I’m a laid back parent. I have been from the start. When my son (born premature) came home from the hospital, I didn’t scrub every surface with disinfectant every day or make people wash their hands before touching him. Sometimes they did it of their own freewill, but I didn’t really pay attention. I didn’t even always wash my hands before touching him, unless I’d just changed his diaper or something.
I’m not super strict when it comes to dietary habits either. I’ll let him eat McDonald’s chicken nuggets occasionally, or try a non-caffeinated soda, or allow him to have cookies before bed. He mostly prefers broccoli and asparagus and apples anyway. I don’t keep a ton of sugary snacks around the house, but that’s mostly because I lack willpower to not scarf them down myself. I make healthier food choices for the both of us, and so the occasional fast food trip doesn’t bother me.
My son is allowed to go to the bathroom in public places by himself, but only restaurants or stores that I know he’s familiar with and knows where the bathrooms are. The one time I let him go without checking, he ended up getting lost, and I had to retrieve him from the customer service desk. Sometimes, I’ll go with him and stand outside to wait for him. Other times I’ll set myself up somewhere I can watch over him to make sure he goes the right way, or so I can see the front door from where I am.
I take some precautions. But not all the time. There is no bedtime. I have no idea if he’s getting 8 or 10 or 19 hours of sleep each night. He might be getting less. Sometimes he won’t go to bed until 10 or 10:30 at night.
If he seems to be getting tired or cranky, I’ll start the bedtime routine. If he’s extra cranky one morning, I’ll get him to bed a little bit earlier. Or I’ll let him sleep in a little extra while I get myself ready. He takes less time to get ready in the morning than I do, so there’s room for adjustment.
I worry about my son all the time. We talk about stranger danger, what to do if he can’t find me or gets lost, and what he should do if something happens to me. I’m a single mom. I live in fear of my son waking up one morning to find me lying dead in bed and not knowing what to do and having no one to go to.
So he knows how to dial 9-1-1, which neighbors we trust to go to in an emergency, and who else he can call if he needs anything. He has my cell phone number memorized. I take necessary precautions, all while still allowing him to not become the paranoid and scared child that I was.
I am conscious of the differences in parenting, and I embrace the fact that we all have our own ways of raising our children (as long as they are safe, healthy, and happy, right?). If I see a parent being more protective than me, or wiping a child’s hands after playing on the playground with the ever-ready baby wipes, or not allowing a child to even go in the bathroom stall alone, I’m aware of the difference.
But I’m not sitting there judging them. I use to; I’ll admit it. I did it because I believed that they were judging me. Now I see that it’s all a part of embracing our differences in parenting. We’re not the same, and that’s okay.
What are the rules like in your household?
Photo credit to the author.