My husband came home from a morning out with our son and told me he’d been castigated at the park for putting our son on the “big kid” swings and swinging him “too high” according to a woman out walking her dog. Matt responded to the woman, saying, “If you’re looking for any of your beeswax, you aren’t going to find it here.” It wasn’t a diplomatic approach, but can you blame him? (And wow - I was a little surprised that my mild-mannered man made that particular comeback! Go Matt!) The woman proceeded to hang around the park watching my husband and son, presumably because she felt Brandon’s life was in mortal danger.
I remember when Matt told me he’d taught Brandon how to swing on the big kid swings. It was just a couple months ago and I was pretty skeptical about whether he was ready. Then I saw for myself that he was absolutely fine. That first time I got to see it, we were all three at the park together and a woman with a little girl who was at least 3 kept nervously laughing as she said to us (jokingly?) that she couldn’t watch - it was scaring her.
A few weeks later, I read this post by Amber, a mom I respect through her writing though I don’t know her in person. She mentioned taking her son, who’s several months younger than Brandon, for his first ride big kid swing. Even though I was comfortable with it already, it was like a reaffirmation to me that it was fine to let Brandon on the big kid swings!
I would never go up to someone and tell them that it’s about time that they put their child in the big kid swings, so what makes it okay for people to tell us that our child is too young? Isn’t that my decision to make? You know, because I actually know what my son is capable of doing? I know what his temperament is like - whether he will listen and follow instructions or not. Stranger walking her dog doesn’t even know his name.
The thing about parenting children is that it is not, and never will be, one size fits all. Why? Because every single child is different and the parents parenting them are different. We have different ideas and beliefs that influence us and then our children’s personalities and behaviors influence our decisions as well. There are an infinite number of variables to consider when it comes to decisions about parenting.
Don’t get me wrong - I don’t mind getting advice about difficulties we’ve faced with Brandon. I’ve received some invaluable suggestions and some that just weren’t practical for us to try. If I was at a get-together with friends, I wouldn’t mind if one of my friends stopped Brandon from doing something wrong or put him in a time out. I would (provided they were okay with it) do the same thing with their children. That’s the kind of “village parenting” mentality that I think benefits children and creates a respect for all adults as authority figures.
We make decisions on a daily basis about Brandon’s safety, from whether we have enough time to stop when a light turns yellow to letting him play on playground equipment that is designated for children who are older. Brandon has fallen out of the big kid swing before - not while he was swinging, but when I was putting him in. Other than doing a face plant in the sand, he was completely fine. The point of all of this is that the decisions we make are ours to make and we own the consequences.
In terms of parenting, I feel like we live in a screwed up world. This stranger felt fine with telling Matt, a cautious, loving, attentive father that he was doing something wrong that could endanger his son - that couldn’t be further from the truth. Her concern for Brandon’s safety is admirable, but her implementation was misguided to say the least.
When someone coined that phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” I don’t think the intent was for busybodies to tell parents what to do or not do. Those types are truly unwelcome in my village.