My friend Trisha always says "Safety First"... it's a theme she has! Because she says it so much, it plays in my head when something appears to be unsafe.
My brothers and I used to sing "buckle up for safety, buckle up! buckle up for safety, buckle up! Show the world that you care... about your underwear... buckle up for safety, buckle up!" I'm not sure what the real song is- or even where we heard it- and I'm REALLY not sure why the world needs to know how much you care about your underwear-- but if you have brothers then you know that underwear, farts, and pooping are all VERY funny and warrant a laugh regardless of the situation, your age, or how much sense it makes.
But alas, that brings me to my topic... safety.
As a mom and the only female in my house, I feel like I'm walking a fine line between the over-protective hovering helicopter mom, and then the careless mom. I know it's really not that fine- they are two pretty stark opposites, but sometimes, it feels like a fine line.
How do I raise boys that are brave and courageous? How to encourage adventure, yet protect their bones and their teeth and the eyes- amongst other things? How do I not stifle them or even make them "girly" for lack of a better word? I was talking with my friend Danielle (one of our small groupies) last week about raising boys- we talk about this a lot since we're both new at doing it. I love comparing notes with her and learning from her heart for her son, Reed. Danielle and I could both be described as "cautious"- and I don't think that's a bad thing- but how do we make sure that doesn't interfere with their manhood? And at what age do I really need to stop "babying" them as Chad says? I feel like that's an unfair statement, because hello, they are babies!
On Saturday, Chad and I were watching the Georgia game from the couch, Max was sleeping and Gabe was playing outside. All of a sudden I hear "thump".... pause... "whack"... pause... "CLUMP" and then the back door opened- and there stood Gabe in his roller skates in my kitchen! Yes, he had climbed up the very steep garage steps (about 8 of them) in his roller skates. And without disparaging him at all, Gabe isn't exactly coordinated when he's on roller skates. My heart started thumping and I started screeching: "Gabe, what are you doing? Take those things off right now! You may not roller skate without an adult outside with you, and you may never climb stairs in roller skates, do you hear me?" I'm not sure if my little tirade just trailed of then or what, but his shoulder sank, his eyes when to the floor and he sulked out of the room.
Now was that hovering or was that a "safety first" moment?
Yesterday, when Max got his new toothbrush, he slept with it during his nap, and then took it to bed with him for the night. But I just kept playing images in my head of him stabbing it down his throat or somehow choking on it and I just couldn't relax. I had to go in his room, and cause a ruckos, to get the toothbrush out of his bed, so that I could relax.
Hovering or "safety first"?
This weekend we went to the lake again, only this time it was for Wendy and Brian's wedding shower. We were all hanging out on the double-decker dock and swimming in the cove. We brought the boys with us- they were swimming too. Some adults were in the lake and Gabe just jumped off the dock and started paddling around-- I watched him for about 5 seconds when panic started to wash over me- um hello, there is no "side" to grip onto when he needs a break. Gabe is a pretty good swimmer, but when he jumps, he swims back to the edge--- there was no edge. I squacked for our friend Jonathan to grab him and then I threw Gabe like 5 noodles and made him promise to hold them the whole time he was in the water. Then I put Max in his floaty and pushed him out to Chad. Max, like Gabe, loves the water. And we all enjoyed out time before heading in for dinner.
Then last night, as I was laying bed, I started thinking about the lake incident again. The lake is murky- you can't even see 2 feet down. Then I started picturing what would happen if one of the boys went under. And Max, he can't swim at all- how would I find him? So 4 nights later, when everyone is safe in their bed, and there is no lake for at least 30 miles from our house, my heart starts racing-- my mind takes off even faster-- I even go as far as to think through what my prayer would be if something like that happened, and we had to call 911. And I vowed to never take either of them to the lake ever again. (This is a true, although embarrassing, story).
Luckily, I did get a grip. But again-- how do I walk the line of safety versus being too protective?
They want to dive off of things, Max likes to splat face first down on the ground and barely catches himself with his arms in the nick of time, Gabe likes to jump off of things that are taller than he is-- and what about monkey bars and jungle gyms and fire and sticks and rocks- and all those other boy things?
I don't wash Max's passy every time it falls on the ground, and I don't insist on Gabe using hand sanitizer too often- I've cut back :) I don't worry about bigger kids playing around Max anymore, and I don't fret about germs-- so what's another cold at this point? I'm doing better when Chad wrestles with the boys and when he throws balls AT them-- they are laughing, so if I intervened, that would totally be hovering, right? And when they want to try something out, that could surely hurt them if they fall, I access how "serious" the injury would be before I decide how to handle it-- a scraped knee or a bonked head is ok- but stitches and a cast... not so much.
But I just can't get this thing figured out-- and I know it's only going to get worse from here. I can't even fathom handing one of them car keys- my stomach knots up just thinking of it. So for now, I've just got to pray and ask God for wisdom. I'm going to trust my intuition- because God gave it to me- and I'm going to trust my gut, because the Holy Spirit lives inside of me- but I'm also going to get some advice from other boy moms, and books, and my husband. And then I'm going to pray some more! And then pray again. Ha! And I'm going to stop worrying about what other people think about the decisions I make- I often feel embarrassed when someone "teases" me for being cautious- but I'm the Mom- I'm the one fighting for them, and protecting them- and Chad and I are the only ones who will have to answer to God for how we raised them.
You know, I spent an awful lot of time reading and studying about growing a baby and birthing him-- what to eat and how to get them on the best schedule. I even read a lot about getting them to sleep through the night-- but that was such a small fraction of the bigger picture- I wish I would've spent more time reading about raising them, and what the Bible has to say about it- their obedience, respect for authority, their spirits, their character- I guess it's the whole principle of planning for the wedding but not the marriage.
There's a lot of learn- but I'm so grateful that God promises to do it with us- for us, really. Raising boys is a tough gig- especially for moms- because let's be honest, who wants to see their kid experience any kind of pain? But I know pain leads to growth, and mistakes make some good experiences to learn from- but I still like the motto "Safety First"!!!!