My Parenting Perspectives column for April 17 …
The bruise on my 8-month-old son’s forehead has worked its way across the owie rainbow, from red to purple to black to blue to yellow. It’s a fading souvenir of his first big head bonk. The first of many, I’m sure, given Owen’s squirmy nature and seemingly adventurous spirit. As I type, he’s trying to pull himself to standing, using a beach ball and curtain panel for leverage.
I’m not even sure what his head bonked – the floor, a piece of furniture, a toy. Any and all are possible as he rapidly learns to crawl and climb and stand. So I’ve begun to brace myself for the inevitable onslaught of self-inflicted ouchies that seem to be more prevalent with little boys than girls.
I’ve seen it in my friends’ sons, like Jenny’s little boy, James, who tried more than once to fly off the back of the family’s couch.
Craig and I have been lucky with daughter Eve, four years in with no gashes, broken bones or emergency room visits (insert sound of knuckles rapping wood table). This is in spite of her taking after her clumsy mother. We both are masterful at tripping over our own feet.
I remember Eve’s first bruise. She wasn’t yet 4 months old. I didn’t realize she could roll off the couch. I called the ask-a-nurse hotline, crying. She was fine except for the black-and-blue mark on her cheek, where she’d whapped herself with a rattle on the way down.
Owen’s owies haven’t sent me racing for the phone, a consequence of being a second-time parent, I suppose. But now I’m rearing a rough-and-tumble boy. Already he’s gotten himself into some precarious spots as he explores our home on all fours.
He’s trapped himself under the dining room chairs and gotten stuck on the bottom shelf of the coffee table. He’s pulled down a table lamp and discovered the stairs. I’ve swept pieces of cat food from his mouth. His dad recently pried a sharpened pencil from his hand.
And then there are the too-rough tummy pats, arm pulls and tight squeezes from Big Sister. Eve gives an entirely different definition to the phrase “tough love.”
As I listen to Owen grunt his way across the living room floor and up onto his feet, I find myself struggling to find that parental line of protecting him while letting him explore. How much should we let our little boys stumble? Where’s the middle ground between an overprotective helicopter mom and a neglectful one?
Jenny tells of her uncle sitting her down before they moved her pristine bedroom set into her and her husband’s first house. He calmly explained that the furniture would likely get scratched during the move, and she needed to prepare herself for that eventuality.
After James was born, both her uncle and husband gave Jenny the same speech again. One day this perfect little boy will get scratched. One day, he’ll need stitches. One day, he’ll break a bone. She may as well accept it now.
I guess bumps and bruises are a part of growing pains, for little boys and their moms alike.
Sherri Richards is an employee of The Forum and mother of a 4-year-old daughter and 8-month-old son.