I asked this earlier on facebook:
Question: Do you ever change your parenting style a little so that others around you will feel more comfortable?
I find that occasionally I “play the part” of a more cautious mom than I really am because even when I truly don’t feel too worried about them, it freaks people out to see my kids climbing certain things or doing certain things.
So- case in point: one time I was at a wedding watching my one year old clamber over some pretty low boulders in the landscaping. I suppose she could have fallen and skinned a knee or even bumped her head, but really, it’s not like I was letting her play by the pool or something. Next to me two women were talking:
Woman 1: Oh, my gosh look at that little girl!
Woman 2: I know, she’s adorable- I don’t know whose she is, but they aren’t watching her at all!
Me: Oh, she’s mine. I’m watching her. (I then round her up and attempt to distract her with wedding buffet food so that we can spend a little time not frightening the rest of the wedding guests.)
What was, to me, a perfectly fine situation, screamed danger to these two women. We simply have different levels of comfort with what my child was doing.
I was left wondering- what is the proper response in these kinds of situations?
On facebook one person said she changes her parenting style a little and then feels sort of bad afterwards, as if she’s being inauthentic. Another person said she is generally the more cautious type and hates it when parents let their kids climb places like on top of the slide on playgrounds (yeah, that one bothers me to…)
So, obviously there is a huge amount of gray are here. I might let my kid ride on the end of the shopping cart while your must be buckled in the seat, but I think we both would agree that a child should not be allowed to play unattended by a pool. How do we navigate the in-between?
I’m if at a wedding for instance I don’t mind changing my parenting style a bit to suit others, because I think that socially, sometimes it just helps smooth things out. However, being who I am, I still am going to wind up being that parent that make others uncomfortable, and I can’t live my life trying to gauge everyone’s expectations.
And I’m not blind to the fact that my children can get hurt! Both of my boys have had stitches, one even had to have staples in his head. I just feel generally more comfortable with letting my children take risks, and I know my children are VERY capable. I don’t want to send them the message that they aren’t!
Personally, here’s my take: I don’t expect you to change and allow your children to do things you’re uncomfortable with. I respect that we all have differing comfort levels with this kind of thing. I would prefer someone just says something to me at the playground if my kids’ actions are freaking them out, and I will strive to be aware of what is generally accepted so as not to cause major alarm bells to go off. However in the end, I might wind up just being “that mom” on this one.
What do you think? Do you ever pretend to be a different kind of parent than you are? Should we?