One of the most terrifying experiences I ever had as a parent was something that never actually happened.
After Reese was born, we had her sleep in a bassinet by our bed for the first few months. Occasionally, Kristi would bring her in to bed with us to feed her and give her some good bonding time. I had no problem with this – until the nightmares started.
I would wake up several times almost every night (regardless of whether or not Reese was in the bed with us) freaking out because I thought she was about to fall off the bed. I was convinced, in this not-quite-even-half-awake state that she was inches from falling off the bed and getting seriously hurt. So, in a desperate attempt to save her, I would sit up, reach across the bed, and frantically try to reach her. Unable to find her (because, you know, she wasn’t there), I would panic even more, swatting at the comforter in an attempt to pull it up the bed, and hopefully bring her with it. In reality, IF Reese was actually about to fall of the bed, I would have been smacking her harder than if she’d actually fallen off the bed.
It was terrifying in the moment, but in the mornings, it was pretty funny. I mean, what the heck was that? Kristi sure had a good time with it, too. Nothing says “love” like making fun of your weird nighttime stuff. But I get it, it’s pretty funny! But as I reflect on that, it got me wondering: Am I the only one that does these irrational things, whether consciously or subconsciously (or in my case, unconsciously)? Let’s take a look at some of my eccentricities.
You know that annoying parent at the party who can’t seem to relax, keeps wandering back to the kids’ room to make sure no bookcases have magically toppled over and squished their kid, and who keeps making the kids stop having fun because there’s a chance that somehow all that fun might poke an eye out? Yeah that’s me. I’m sorry! I know you want me to sit down and be a grownup, but dangit, if I don’t stop that kid from running with a sharp crayon, it’s on me if they fall and impale themselves!
So yeah, I’d like to stop being that way. I get frustrated with Kristi sometimes because it feels like I’m the only one worrying these things. Like, let’s say there are a lot of kids over for a playdate. You get too many kids in one room and it becomes a hazard, right? She’ll just laugh and say, “Well first of all, yeah, you are the only one worrying about that. And secondly, I don’t have to worry about that, because you’re doing a good enough job of that for the both of us!” Ok, maybe I am worrying about stupid things…
Are You Not Entertained?
Sometimes I feel like I must entertain my kids all the time. You can only hear, “I’m bored,” so many times before you just want to give up and turn on the TV. So, when the kids won’t play together in their room, or they come in from outside too soon, or they’ve finished building all the Legos, I’m not very good at just letting them be bored. I have to find something for them – even if it’s not the healthiest option (TV, video games, etc). Now that’s not to say I let them watch a ton of TV. We’re actually pretty good at limiting it. But sometimes it’s good to just let kids be bored, and eventually they’ll fall into something creative.
Some of our most fun days have been when the kids came up with some goofball game. Like, “You have to get across the house without touching the ground,” or “Let’s play basketball on our knees using a bouncy ball and an American Girl Jeep.” I’m not good at letting them drift into these creative zones, because I can’t stand to hear them complain about being bored. But when I do, there’s often a pretty fun afternoon in store.
Kids who aren’t playing well together isn’t exactly any parent’s favorite thing, but it really gets under my skin. When I hear Macy cry out because she thinks Reese isn’t playing fair, or I hear Reese get mad because Macy doesn’t want to play the same thing she does, for some reason it makes my skin crawl. I feel this need to go up there and help them work things out. Sure, this isn’t exactly the end of the world, but it’s also not teaching them the right things. I think it’s because I desperately want them to be best buddies, and every time I hear them argue, I have this irrational fear that they’re going to hate each other forever. But even saying it now, I see how ridiculous that is.
Kristi always gets on me to relax and let them work it out. And they usually do. Sometimes we still have to intervene, but often they’ll figure out a way to share or take turns or play together that makes everyone happy. I don’t have to do a thing, I don’t come across as the bad guy, and they both learn a valuable lesson about getting along with others. So maybe I need to just butt out.
Do you see yourself in any of these roles? If so, don’t panic – you’re not alone. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to cut out all the over-parenting I do, or be able to relax and just let the kids be kids, but let’s keep trying together. Does your spouse have an uncanny ability to stay calm when kid chaos takes over your house? If so, try to see things from their perspective. Why do you feel so worried or agitated when they apparently feel relaxed? Are there some things you could let go of to reduce some stress in your life?
I don’t know what I’m expecting… perfection? If that’s the case, that ship sailed a long time ago. So maybe it’s time to just accept that I’m doing the best I can, and that the kids need to learn for themselves.
We can do this.