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Apr 20 2012

Free-Range Dad

By at 9:30 am

I pride myself on being a hands off/free-range kind of dad, especially when it comes to the playground. I attempt to emulate my neighborhood moms in most ways, but I cannot fathom heading out into the jungle gym myself, unless explicitly invited by my daughter. The reason is twofold. Selfishly I want that time to space out or blissfully stare at my daughter from afar. (And yes, I will cop to furtively sneaking glances at my smart phone.) And unselfishly, I really feel that it is her space, and I want her to learn to navigate it.

I recently got a friend to take her to the playground so I could play frisbee in the adjoining park. This is easily simultaneously one of the geekiest and jockiest things I do. Appropriately, I injured myself on the first day of the season, diving underneath a fellow player, a medieval-bearded-kind-of-dude named Duvid, to intercept a pass. He landed on a part of my body that I didn’t realize could be injured, the meaty small of my back on the left side. Essentially, my love handle. I had the wind knocked out of me, but got back in for the next play, and promptly re-injured it, so I hobbled over to watch my daughter, who I had been feeling extremely guilty for leaving, anyways.

I found her on the swingset. At this point, pushing my daughter on the swing was not an option, so I obeyed my inclination to hang back. I saw her at the center of a group of moppets. I couldn’t hear her voice, but her pantomime was clear. The group of fellow 4-year-olds hoisted her in the air, like a group of moshers helping someone crowd surf. As her cohort pushed her, I saw a look of beaming pride I have seen few times on her face.

I felt completely validated in my hanging back to give space. “She doesn’t need me,” I practically purred. There are some family stories involving nameless relatives of mine lining up all of their playmates and giving detailed instructions of how they needed to play, but this was different. Ronia was the instigator, but was happy to give others a turn. I stood there, aching with love for my charismatic spark of a daughter.

Nov 29 2011

Diary of a Wimpy Toddler

By at 10:24 am

My 21-month-old son is the light of my life. He is kind, loving, giving and he takes a three hour nap everyday without fail. He is a quiet, gentle soul that speaks to me in ways I cannot explain. He shares his toys without hesitation, he freely gives hugs and kisses and wants nothing more than my love and attention. I, on the other hand, have a huge personality and practically bounded out of the womb dancing and singing.  My husband and I wonder repeatedly how this sweet soul was ever created from the combination of our candid and mildly abrasive DNA.

I hesitate to even write this next part, for fear of sounding like a “tiger mom” or worse have it seem like I am less than enamored with any aspect of my sweet son. But, over the past few months, I’ve wished my son were a little more fearless.

It took my little one 17 months to muster up the courage to walk. He doesn’t run, jump or climb and he is thoughtful and cautious at the playground, and with everything he does. Just last week he was pushed down the slide by a burly 10-month-old girl. He sat at the bottom, tears streaming as she whizzed past him at twice his walking speed.  And instead of scooping him up and smothering him with kisses and Mama fuss about how that little girl shouldn’t have pushed him, my husband and I looked at each other and laughed. We laughed after our twig of a boy was manhandled by a chick half his age.

I know we must seem like insensitive parents and while most days I do assume the role of “helicopter parent” or “referee” that afternoon I just wished my kid would haul off and push someone. I wish he would snatch back a toy at playgroup, instead of passively finding something else to play with. I want him to explode with giggly energy; running, jumping and playing until he passes out from exhaustion. After a day where he’s been pushed, shoved and had every toy he tried to play with ripped away by another toddler, I sit and pray for the strength to not strangle another mother’s child. Read the rest of this entry →

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