Back when I was pregnant, I had many preconceived notions about the type of parent I’d be and the things I would and would not tolerate. But now that I’ve been a parent for over two and a half years, I’ve learned that sometimes you need to let go of those thoughts, plans, and ideas, and instead adapt to your circumstances. Case in point: There are three things in particular I always said I’d never let my toddler do–but now he does:
1. Drink Juice.
As an avid baker and self-proclaimed sweet tooth, I believe in letting my toddler indulge in moderation. But to me, juice is just a waste of sugar. At playdates, I’d politely decline when parents offered juice as an option. And at daycare, I gave my son’s teacher strict instructions to provide him with water instead of juice at snack time. But one day at pick up, she informed me that my son had gotten very upset when he realized he was the only child at the table with water instead of juice. I thought about it and realized that causing my son to feel left out was far more detrimental to his wellbeing than the small amount of sugar the daycare’s watered-down kiddie juice cups contained. I still do my best to avoid serving him juice, especially if we’re home or in a controlled environment. But if we’re in a situation where he actively requests it, I don’t automatically say no.
2. Use an iPad.
It’s one thing to let a small child play with an age-appropriate electronic toy, but it’s another thing to give a toddler free reign with an iPad. The latter is something I once adamantly opposed, partly because I didn’t like the idea of my child becoming glued to something that mimics a TV, and partly because I didn’t want my toddler playing with an expensive, easily-breakable device. But last year we took a long road trip, and half way through the trip, after exhausting the dozens of books and toys I’d packed, my son grew extremely restless. Out of desperation, we busted out the iPad. These days, my son can navigate an iPad himself and loves watching videos in his lap. We don’t let him do it all the time, but when the situation warrants it, we give in.
3. Walk Outside Without Holding My Hand.
I’m fairly certain that insisting on hand-holding while walking in public is something that most people wouldn’t consider strange or uptight, but rather a safe choice for a toddler. But one day, while strolling around our block, my son suddenly insisted on letting go of my hand. At first I refused, but then I thought about it: He was over 2 years old at the time. He understood commands like “no running” and “stay right next to me.” And so I looked him in the eye and explained that I would allow him to walk without holding my hand as long as he remained at my side and didn’t run away, and as long as we were within a certain distance of our house. These days, I strongly enforce hand holding in public spaces, parking lots, and stores. But when we’re on our block, in the immediate vicinity of our house, my son gets a little freedom. I like the idea of giving him a snippet of independence, and he recognizes that it’s a privilege he’s earned.
As I evolve as a mother, I’m learning that it’s OK to insist on sticking to your principles– as long as they make sense in real-world applications. Recognizing the importance of being open-minded and flexible has helped me make my peace with my decisions–even if they’re the complete opposite of the ones I originally had in my head.