My husband and I are not very disciplined, regimented, or structured parents. A Tiger Mom I most definitely am not. I think that childhood should be reserved for blissful innocence and unadulterated freedom. We are free spirits and Aiven has already shown early signs of being fiercely independent. When Aiven goes to school, he will get his first taste of law and order, but until then, we want to make his childhood carefree and give him as much space as possible to be himself. I’ve thought about how our parenting style is more relaxed than most, and I think we distinguish ourselves in seven key areas:
When we were in Europe this summer, Aiven enjoyed dropping most of his food on the ground, especially at outdoor cafes. He would marinate it in whatever dirt was there and then gleefully pop it back into his mouth. It was as if he was declaring, “All food tastes better with that special spice called STREET DIRT.” Sure it grossed me out at times, but he was eating so nicely and making this Jewish mother kvell!
2. Bumps, Bruises, and Boo Boos
We let Aiven fall. We don’t jump to catch him when we see him stumble. Everyone else gasps and dives to save him. He slams into furniture, walls, and people, yet he almost always picks right back up regardless of the damage. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to go out because he looks so banged up, but if I stop him from walking into the table, how is he going to learn to duck? I figure that if I don’t make a big deal of his tumbles, neither will he.
We don’t do schedules well. Bath time is when he gets really dirty, not an assigned time every night. He’s had three baths in one day and one bath every three days. He eats when he wants (which is all the time) and not at three designated hours. Reading time? Play time? He lets us know what he wants by gesticulating and putting stuff into our hands, and he excels at letting us know when he wants it by screaming.
We embrace Aiven’s disorderly conduct. He throws his food down when he is finished. We leave restaurants with complete meals on the ground. He plays in mud. Kids are messy… why fight it? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. My husband now has the perfect excuse for looking like a schlepper.
5. Screen Time
We let Aiven watch DVDs (mostly baby signing videos), Skype with his bubbe almost daily, and play with our iPhones. Actually, the iPhone obsession was becoming a problem so we had to cut him off. He cried for three days straight. His first heartbreak. So, we bought him an iPod Touch. His first rebound. It resides in a childproof Fisher Price case and he can take it with him to sleep. Some people might say that we’re bad parents for using an electronic babysitter, but we say we’re exposing him to music, technology, and a superb design aesthetic.
We don’t say “no” much to Aiven. I don’t want to deny him any thing or experience that might enrich him. We try very hard to pick our battles in fear that “no” will become meaningless if we say it too often. We don’t impose many limits and let him touch almost anything. If you invite us over, please hide your valuables. Management is not responsible for lost or broken items.
7. Run, Run, Run
We let Aiven run around supermarkets, airports, movie theaters, and restaurants while other parents look at us like we’re meshugge because they keep their kids close by. We do, too, but only because we’re running after him. We love that Aiven is courageous and curious enough to explore his surroundings. He also isn’t afraid of strangers and greets anyone who crosses his path. After a while, people stop looking at us like we’re meshugge and start to think we’re good parents.
I know we are different from the norm. We dance to the beat of our own drums and are teaching our child to do the same. So far so good. Aiven is thriving by any measure, so I’m confident that our parenting style works for him. I wonder, though, how it will work as he grows older and especially if we give him a sibling. The great thing about not being regimented is that it’s easier to adapt and change!