i saw the headline for this article—which was Easter Egg Hunt Canceled Because of Aggressive Parents—and had to read it. i sort of which i hadn't, because this stuff makes me crazy. what is wrong with people?! (i ask that question time and time again and there's never a satisfying answer.)
this quote from the article really got me:
“You have all these eggs just lying around, and parents helping out. You better believe I’m going to help my kid get one of those eggs. I promised my kid an Easter egg hunt and I’d want to give him an even edge.”
so said the father—whose name is Lenny Watkins—of a seven-year old boy. the following is directed at Mr. Watkins: stop. just stop, sir. do you hear yourself? it is an Easter egg hunt you are speaking of. if your kid finds one egg or one hundred eggs or one thousand eggs, the course of his life will not be altered. it will be altered, however, by an uber-competitive, immature father who puts undue pressure on his young child to be the best at everything, even something that should be purely fun, like finding plastic colored eggs filled with candy and coupons.
i think i get upset because i know my son will be in school with kids who have parents like this Mr. Watkins. and those kids will probably be jerks to my kid, which will make me want to teach them a lesson (why i oughta...) but i will have to be the bigger person and instead teach my son that life is a journey, not a fucking contest. (i will edit obscenities when i speak to him, obviously.) and advise him to ignore the jerky kids who try to compete with him or one-up him or act like they have "an edge" over him. it will take all of my willpower not to tell him, "listen, Bubs, these idiots may think they're better than you now, but when you're all thirty years old, you'll be off living the life you always wanted and they'll be stuck in their parents' basements because they never learned how to do anything for themselves."
it's not that i don't understand parents who 'helicopter'—at least the ones who do so out of the urge to protect their offspring. but what are you really teaching your kids by hovering over them so? i can tell you the answer: nothing.
i make a conscious effort every day to let Matty find his own way and make his own mistakes, inasmuch as an 11-month old can do that. for example, i let him explore things like the drawers of our TV stand and the contents of my computer bag and that pair of Converse i left by the couch. i figure it's better to allow him to feel a little autonomous before distracting him with a toy, rather than rushing in immediately saying, "no, no, no, no!" because doing that will only 1) incur the wrath of his fake crying and 2) make the object more appealing by underscoring its illicitness. (on Sunday morning, i let him unspool the entire roll of toilet paper in our bathroom, partly because he had most of it unspooled by the time i realized what he was doing, and partly because the poor kid has been suffering from extreme teething pain and playing with the toilet paper seemed to be giving him such joy. why the hell not?)
but sometimes i wonder if other people see me as a little negligent. for example, at the park a couple weekends ago, Matty was crawling around on the sponge-y surface of a play area and came to a stop near a bench. as he sat there exploring a few pieces of displaced mulch on the ground, his head was about six inches away from the corner of the bench. a dad sitting nearby covered the corner with his hand and made sure i was aware that my son's head was in close proximity to what i assume he considered a hazardous object. of course i knew where Matthew was sitting, but i figured worst case scenario, he'd knock his noggin once and figure out that he should move away. i mean, right? but, to appease this clearly worried dad, i scooted Matthew a few feet away, to ensure he was out of the danger zone.
we were at that same park on Saturday when a little kid came into the sand pit area, where Matty and i were playing with his bucket and shovel, and immediately kicked sand into the air. it wasn't a lot and of course kids are going to kick the sand. but the dad rushed over apologizing profusely to me. i just smiled and said, "it's okay! really! no worries!" Matty hadn't even flinched. and even if he had—come on. he's eleven months old, not eleven days. he's in the park to play, to get dirty, to get used to life really. (a park full of kids is a microcosm for real life, isn't it?)
something similar even happened yesterday at my aunt and uncle's house. Matty was crawling on the floor in the sunroom/porch and there was some water on the floor—tracked in from outside or maybe just a few displaced ice cubes from the cooler that had melted. he was headed straight for the small puddles, and i knew it, but i was going to let him go. he's a boy—he's going to get into far grosser things than water on the floor and i might as well get used to it. but my cousins who were standing there turned him around, away from the puddles. i'm guessing they did it because they were closest to him at the moment and didn't want to be held responsible for Matty getting wet. i said, "ah, don't worry," but they'd already re-directed him.
maybe i'm the oddball—shrugging my shoulders when most parents are practicing hypervigilance. i just really want Matthew to learn, from an early age, to take care of himself whenever possible, and that if a little sand gets kicked in his eye or his head knocks into a bench, it's OK. these things happen and they're not a big deal.
then again, this is coming from the daughter of a man who hid Easter eggs in ridiculously hard places for a child to find—some might call him 'clever,' others might go with 'merciless'—and who gave vague hints when absolutely necessary, but never, ever did the hunting for her.
and, see? didn't i turn out all right? (don't answer that.)