I looked around at the other moms’ kids, sitting quietly and eating their lunch. My child, on the other hand, was running up and down the little hill next to the picnic tables, all reckless abandon. He darted near the parking lot, near the road, before taking a header next to a pile of deer poop. At least he didn’t faceplant into it. Exhausted from chasing him around, I caught my breath as he struggled to his feet. Then he was off again.
Welcome to the life of a mom of a runner, I thought.
LM has become increasingly difficult to handle in recent weeks. I love his spirit, I really do, but it’s flat out exhausting. His boundless energy for running, running, climbing, then more running, is wearing me down. This is why people have children in their twenties. I’m too old for this sh*t.
One of my main concerns with dropping him off at school was that he would make a beeline for the door when it opened and run straight into the road. The teachers assured me that they have a system for moving from classroom to classroom, and that him running away wouldn’t happen. I’m still nervous.
I wondered if his enthusiasm for taking off was just normal toddler behavior. After talking to other parents, I don’t think it’s abnormal, exactly — but I know not all kids are like this. After witnessing LM’s antics, a friend who has two older girls and recently had a baby boy asked, “Is this what I’m in for? My girls were never like this!” So I know it’s not just me not being able to handle it. LM is a legit handful. Not to gender stereotype, but maybe it’s a boy thing.
Last weekend we went to a pig roast at our friends’ family’s house. They own a pond store, and while it’s beautifully landscaped, the property is pretty much the opposite of baby-proofed. Ponds to fall into are everywhere. Rocks on which to crack your skull open abound. Lit fire pits beckoned LM to get closer. And a whole pig roasted on top of an open flame. Perfect place for a toddler! We spent the afternoon not more than two feet from him as he darted down pathways and climbed up stone steps. After dark it was even more fun to chase him through the shadows. Although it was a fun afternoon, Foggy Daddy and I were both wiped out when we got home.
So tell me, fellow moms of runners, what do you do to keep your wild and crazy children safe? I am seriously considering a harness, detractors be damned. LM doesn’t want to hold my hand, and to be honest it’s hard for me too, because I have to do everything else with one hand. If I let go for a second, he’ll be off. And he’s fast! I think a harness would give him the illusion of freedom, but let me stop him if he tries to make a break for it. But do I really want to do deal with all the judgmental looks I’ll be sure to get? I know I shouldn’t care — my son’s safety is more important.
I don’t want to be a helicopter mom. I really don’t. But when your kid just doesn’t listen to you, and thinks it’s funny to do things that are dangerous, what are you supposed to do? I feel like I’m that mom who can’t control her kid. And the combo of having a runner and being a super worrier mom is not doing much to help my anxiety.
Sometimes I wish I had a more sedate child. But then I realize that I have to curb that way of thinking. I can’t wish for LM to be anything other than who he is. I want him to own his own identity and personality. I want him to be confident and fun. I want him to be spirited and bold and strong-willed and a force of nature.
I just want him to slow the f*ck down.
Moms of runners, how do you handle it? I need advice!
An exchange between a mother and child overheard by another mom caused quite a stir on one of my Facebook groups yesterday. A woman, after saying how she wouldn’t let her daughter play football like she wanted but instead made her do gymnastics even though she wasn’t into it, told her son — who actually wanted to do gymnastics — that he couldn’t because it was “girly.” Instead, she said, he could do a sport like football or soccer.
Most of the moms on my Facebook group expressed their dismay at this mom for dictating her children’s interests and reinforcing gender stereotypes. But one mom said that although she doesn’t agree with her, we shouldn’t judge others’ parenting decisions.
I agree that judging, on the whole, is not a good thing and occurs too frequently among moms. But, I also think that “judging” has become a buzzword that those who employ less than desirable parenting practices use against their detractors to defend themselves. No judging!
As I pointed out in my response to the post, gender stereotyping is a form of sexism, and, therefore, prejudice. It’s not a question of judging. It’s a question of right and wrong. And prejudice is wrong, period.
I don’t (yet) have a daughter. But I was editor-in-chief of a magazine for tween girls for six years. Occupying my mind every day was how to reinforce girls’ self-esteem. What messages were our stories sending them? Yes, there were stories about boy bands and fashion. But hidden in them was the attitude that boys (or girls) should love you for who you are, and that you should wear what you love and what makes you feel comfortable in your own skin. I created a section where girls could talk about their body image issues and find out information on topics they might be scared to ask about, like getting your period, body odor and shaving. So I feel somewhat qualified to talk about gender issues as they relate to kids.
Plus, I was a girl once. Although I gravitated toward traditionally “girly” things, like dance, music and theater, I never got the feeling that sports were only for boys. But someone out there must be giving girls those notions. Remember this ongoing ad campaign, which showed that young kids don’t think of “running like a girl” to be something to make fun of, but older kids do. Somewhere along the way that message is still getting translated. And that’s wrong.
On the flip side, boys should be free to participate in any activity they want to as well. What is the fear — that doing “girly” things will turn them gay? First of all, that can’t happen; and second of all, what’s wrong with being gay anyway? Even with gay marriage becoming legal, and all the buzz around how being transgender should be accepted, it seems that many Americans still haven’t gotten the message. In fact, they still think it’s OK to parade their ignorance in front of other moms at a gymnastics class.
Prejudice is not a right, and it’s not a parenting choice. It seems the more progress toward equality we make, the more resistance we are met with. It’s a vicious cycle to teach prejudice, because kids learn from such a young age. Those attitudes become so deeply ingrained that by the time you’re an adult you don’t see how wrong they are. As Oscar Hammerstein wrote in South Pacific, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” to hate.
Am I taking this too seriously? No. Gender stereotyping is sexist and it’s homophobic.
I have a boy. If he wants to play sports that’s fine, but if he wants to play music, sing or skate in the Ice Capades that’s fine, too (I’m reminded of Steve Zahn on Friends who pretended to be gay so he’d fit in with his fellow ice dancers). I don’t care who LM wants to marry — in fact, I think I’d be more upset if he didn’t get married at all (I want grandchildren!), but that’s his decision too, isn’t it? And I plan to teach my boy that girls, just like boys, can do whatever they want. It’s not OK to make fun of others because of what they like or what they like to do.
Do I sound like I’m acting superior? Maybe, but the truth is I do feel superior to people who live their lives based on fear and hate. Prejudice is not a right. It’s not a “choice.” It’s just wrong.
Have you seen evidence of gender stereotyping in your child’s life?