There are thousands of ways to parent a child and every parent wants their way validated. For me, Linda McSweeney’s article was that validation and for once I didn’t feel like a bad parent.
Aidan is immunocompromised (meaning he catches every bug going around) and his osteoporosis makes his bones brittle so we do have to take more caution than most parents, but for the most part, Anthony and I are determined to let Aidan be a kid.
When Aidan was first born, I remember the intensive care doctor telling us he would always be prone to illness. One of the first things I asked was, “Can he still eat dirt?” As a child who loved making mud pies, this was important to me.
Aidan was 4 before he got his first skinned knee and I have to admit I was happy about it. I never thought he would walk, let alone fast enough to skin his knee. I gave him a quick cuddle, wiped the blood and sent him on his way. It was his own little rite of passage.
Whether it’s from family, friends or complete strangers, there is a tendency for people to want to shield Aidan from harm. I’m forever dispelling the myth that Aidan will get sick from being cold. I’m forever defending myself for taking him to the football in the middle of winter (he does wear thermals) or letting him go outside without a hat on (for the record, the vitamin D from the sun is actually good for him).
Anthony and I live by the rule of ‘Will it kill him or harm him?’ If the answer is no, then we’re happy to let him live and learn, despite the looks and comments from others.
Aidan’s low platelet count makes nose bleeds a regular occurrence but I would never consider using a red face washer to hide the colour of the blood as is becoming a new trend in preschools.
When anyone hurts themselves, Aidan is the first one there asking if they are alright. If I sneeze, he grabs me a tissue. If I vomit, he grabs me a bucket. This kind of empathy only comes from experience.
I’m not claiming to be the best parent and I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes but I am proud that, despite Aidan’s illness, I have not mollycoddled him. His resilience is one of the reasons he copes with his illness so well and for that I am proud.
Californian-based psychologist Dr Wendy Mogel says children are hard-wired for competence but need to be given the chance and resources to be resilient.
Mogel, the author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee and The Blessing of a B Minus, runs Overparenting Anonymous, an 18-step guide for parents to better equip their kids for a sturdy life.
Some of her tips I love most are:
- Remember that kids aren’t hothouse flowers, they’re hardy perennials. Let them be cold, wet or hungry for more than a second and they’ll appreciate the chance to be warm, dry and fed. Football, anyone???
- Be alert but not automatically alarmed. Question yourself. Stop and reflect: is this situation unsafe or just uncomfortable for my child? Is it an emergency or a new challenge?
- Learn to love the words “trial” and “error.” Let your child make mistakes.
- Don’t confuse children’s wants with their needs.
I must admit that when Aidan broke his crayon in half the other day and was quite upset about it, I did consider using super glue to put it back together. Fortunately, I came to my senses. Gluing his crayon together probably wouldn’t work and it definitely would not teach him that sometimes things break and can’t be fixed. He now realises that two crayons (albeit broken) are better than one and he is much happier for it.