Recently I've heard some pretty dumb rules on the playground.
"Don't climb up the slide."
"Don't jump off the swings."
"Don't go in the tube when someone else is in there."
"Do not get your outfit dirty!"
Really? What happened to going to playground and just playing like crazy? My kids must seem like the rebellious ring leaders because when we go to the playground I let them do whatever their little hearts desire (as long as it is not obviously dangerous). And Miss J has a habit of asking the other kids "Are you coming?" as she is climbing up the slide. I stand close by and monitor the situation, but unless someone is trying to go down the slide I figure that climbing up the slide is building more muscles and motor skills then just sliding down.
All I can think sometimes is 'No wonder our children have an obesity problem'. We have overprotected them into being little indoor pets that sit nicely on the couch or play quietly in their room. When Miss J was getting her development test, one of the ladies asked if she could go up and down stairs by herself. Of course, I thought, she is 2 and a half for goodness sake. Then the two women told me that it is quite common for them to have 2 year olds that can't go up or down stairs because no one ever took the gate down.
We don't let our kids learn to go up and down the stairs because they might fall, when if we just help them the first few times, they get it and master stairs easily. Do they still sometimes fall? Yes, but that's ok!
Maybe my parenting approach is outdated, but I figure childhood is about getting your hands dirty, and having a few bumps and bruises. I think if we just let our kids live a little we will find that things aren't as dangerous or as risky as we think, and our children are a lot more able than we give them credit for.
You may think that what I am suggesting is lazy parenting. It is not. It takes more time, energy, and vigilance to monitor your child's stair mobility than to simply put up a gate until they are five years old. It takes staying right close to your 14 month old when he gets it into his head to climb up the slide like his older sister instead of holding him while you talk to someone on the phone.
Giving your child a little more freedom doesn't mean letting them do whatever they want without supervision. I think it requires more time and supervision to give your children a little lee-way. I'm not suggesting we let our kids play in the street or go swimming in an unsupervised pool, I'm just saying let's take a step back from our attitude that the world is waiting with baited breath to kill our children.
So to all mothers out there, here is a challenge. Let your kids live a little! Encourage them to get dirty!
Take down the gate!