Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Running With Scissors

I was thinking the other day about all the things I (and probably most other moms) do that the prevailing literature tells us not to.  I was pondering it because Jack fell asleep in the car on the way home from my parents' house after refusing to take a nap that day.  I then did something strictly forbidden:  I parked the car in the garage and left him sleeping in there while I went in the house.  It was seventy degrees outside.  The garage was a pleasant temperature.  I left the car windows down and the door to the kitchen, where I was, open so I could hear him.  I also checked on him several times.  I felt perfectly safe about it, and he woke up an hour later, perfectly healthy and well-rested.
It seems silly to make blanket statements like, "You should never leave a child sleeping in a car unattended."  When did we stop expecting people to make rational decisions based on individual circumstances?  It was probably when we all went and got so litigious, the manufacturer of my hair dryer was compelled to place a sticker on it warning, "Do not use while asleep."  There is a big difference between leaving your infant in the car in shadeless, 100-degree heat while you walk off where you can't hear them and letting your toddler sleep in the nice cool garage with mom nearby.  Many of the things we hear we're not supposed to do, can be perfectly safe if you take unique circumstances into consideration and aren't a complete idiot.  I'd like to see us as a society encouraging people to take more responsibility for their own actions and their own children.  In an act of defiance from the safety police, I am listing the thing I've done as a parent that would earn me a frowny face from the "experts."
  1. left child sleeping in the car
  2. let baby sleep in bed with us
  3. let formula sit out longer than the prescribed time period before feeding in to baby
  4. put baby in bouncy seat on a table instead of the floor
  5. put antibiotic cream on child that was prescribed for someone else
  6. drove to the mailbox and back with toddler on my lap instead of in the car seat
  7. let toddler play in the back yard by himself (I could see him from the window, and we don't have a pool.)
  8. left toddler momentarily unattended in the bathtub
  9. let toddler help light candles
  10. given two-year-old many MANY toys rated for three and up
  11. used adult toothpaste on toddler's teeth
  12. allowed child to "graze" instead of making him sit down for every meal
  13. don't make child wash hands before every meal or even after every trip to the bathroom
I'm sure there are a lot more I'm forgetting.  I know you can say just because none of it ended in disaster for me, doesn't mean it couldn't have - maybe I was lucky.  But here's the thing:  You have to know your child.  I feel like I should write that in all caps.  KNOW YOUR CHILD.  These are not things I did carelessly.  I did them calculatedly because I know Jack.  I know what he can handle and what he cannot.  I would not have made the same decisions with a different child.   I am certain he will not drown in the bathtub if I run out of the room for 2 minutes to get a wash cloth.  I know he's not going to light his or my hair on fire when he helps with the candles because he is a very careful child..  And, I know it's not worth it to try to make him sit down for every meal - I don't have that kind of fight in me.  I'm not saying other parents should do the same as I am, but that we should all use our brains and make our own decisions about what's safe and good for our individual children.  The warning labels sometimes make us feel as if there is some big, bad unquantifiable monster out there that's going to get our children if we violate the "rules."  I'm taking back my personal responsibility and my confidence in my ability as a parent.  If the rest of the world would do the same, well... there'd be a lot of out of work lawyers.