We’re at soft play again. It’s not my favourite place to be, but Tink loves it and it gives me a chance to sit and drink a hot cuppa with little distraction. And this, I realised today, is because Tink needs relatively little supervision here. Outside, where there are roads, and vehicles, and puddles and people, as well as opportunities for tripping over fresh air onto concrete, I can’t let her go far, if at all. She lacks road sense and a sense of danger, and will happily run into the road without realising the risk.
However, in a ‘safe’ place like the soft play, I can let her run free and I don’t have to have my eyes on her the whole time. It’s quite liberating. Of course I supervise her and I check regularly to see where she is and what’s she doing. I have to make sure she’s not upsetting anyone with her behaviour, or jumping on the ride on Peppa car when someone else has put the pound in, and I have to keep an eye on the exit gate, as I’m not 100% sure she wouldn’t run out with someone else. But generally, I can let her get on with it without being that helicopter parent I have to be in other situations.
I hate having to be a helicopter parent. I’m very much in the camp that believes children need to experience risk and that they learn from making mistakes. When H was little, I let him get on with things; we never ‘babyproofed’ the house, other than a board across the stairs when he first discovered he could crawl up them. If ever we were at the playground, it would be Dave who followed him around, ready to catch him at a split-second’s notice. It’s not that I didn’t care; I was watching him, but not stifling him, trying to give him the confidence to have a go at things.
With Tink, things are a bit different. There’s that lack of a sense of danger; she’s not afraid to jump from high places with no understanding of the risk of injury, for example. She will lunge for the fireman’s pole even though it’s high and she can’t quite reach without help, so I have to make sure I get to the bottom before she reaches it. She will run in front of the swings and not realise she could get knocked over with a kick to the head. She will try to climb but sometimes lacks the understanding of where to put her feet and hands. She is somewhat clumsy when she runs, and often falls over or bangs into things. It’s like having a young toddler, only she’s the size of a 5 year old and I can feel the stares burning into the back of my head as other parents judge my seemingly overprotective behaviour.
It’s hard not to just let Tink get on with it. I so want to allow her the freedom I did H, but there’s a greater need to protect Tink, both from herself and others. And sometimes I need to protect them from her! I’d love to sit back while she plays in the sand pit at the garden centre, but I know that I can’t leave her as she’ll start jumping on other children’s sandcastles. or throwing the sand – not maliciously, but she doesn’t quite understand the consequences just yet.
So, when we are somewhere that’s safe, we can both relax a little. I get to sit and drink tea and check facebook on my phone, just like a ‘normal’ mum, and Tink gets to jump and climb and play without me hovering over her too much. Opportunities like that don’t come along too often, so I’ll suffer soft play hell for a hot cuppa!