Well, it happened. Eric and I disagreed on something in terms of parenting, some things were said, I cried, and after a few hours I realized Eric was right. Kind of.
This morning Henrik asked his dad if they could have a Daddy Date to see Planes and get a new toy car. Eric of course said he'd love to take Henrik to the movies but instead of getting a car, how about they get a bike helmet. When I walked downstairs, Eric told me about their conversation (in that way that you talk so you can include the child in an adult conversation) and then said, "And after we get the helmet, I'll take you to the park to ride your bike on a mountain"(really he meant on a rock-ish mountain, not up Pike's Peak). Henrik quickly agreed that it would be the coolest thing ever and before the conversation could finish, I got huge eyes and said, "I don't think that's a good idea" in a low, quieter voice. Eric said something, I replied, "He's three, remember?" And then BAM, right there, Henrik took my side. "Dad, we can't ride bikes on mountains, I'm not big enough. But, I can climb them with my hands, I'm good at that."
Then, Eric gave me the big eyes, "See what you did? You told him he was too small and now he thinks he can't do something. You don't push them enough. You don't expand them, he's timid because of you." We try to avoid confrontation in front of our boys, but today we didn't even try to avoid it. "I didn't say he was too small. I said, I don't think it's a good idea, and, he's three, remember? He didn't even KNOW about mountain biking until you said something." Eric then said something like he wanted to push them and show them that they are capable of anything, to show them to be strong and be a man and that he had showed Henrik videos of mountain biking before today. And I replied, "I think having a Daddy Date does that. Spending time with you instead of me will teach them how to be "men" and grown up, he doesn't have to ride a bike on some rocks to do that." I then saw how upset I was getting and excused myself upstairs while Henrik and Eric finished breakfast and talked about riding bikes on mountains.
I was upset for a few reasons, first, because of how crazy it was that he'd make a promise to take our THREE year old mountain biking without talking to me first. And second, because he insulted me. Telling me that I don't push them or challenge them is a giant blow to my heart. I spend HOURS each day teaching our kids about different things from letters to numbers, themes in our at home preschool, how to brush, wash, wipe, get dressed, ride bikes and scooters, climb the rock wall at the park, etc. And then, after they go to bed, I invest more hours to get ready for the next day, sometimes to the point where I delay time with my husband to get ready for the boys. To hear Eric say that he thinks I'm babying them really hurt me. He's not here each day. He doesn't know what it's like to convince a stubborn three year old that he can in fact use the potty, get dressed himself, put shoes and socks on himself and get up after he falls off his bike. I've spent MONTHS boosting this kid's confidence and getting him to actually believe that he's a "big kid". How dare he tell me that. I'm not a helicopter mom, I don't jump up when they fall down and skin their knees. I don't ooh and ahh over boo boos. Instead, I simply clean it up, offer a kiss and get them back on their feet. I almost always suggest that they "be caree-fulll" as they climb on whatever it is they feel the need to scale at the moment, but that doesn't make me over protective. Does it? My kids are three and 19 months, they still want their mom when they fall and they still want to be snuggled if it's actually painful and traumatic. So what.
After Eric left for work I met up with some friends at an indoor gym so our kids could play during their open gym times. It's a real gymnastics gym with trampolines, bars, balance beams, rings, foam pits etc. The boys had a blast, I was still in a sour mood from this morning and was trying to rub it off, but it was taking a bit. My boys had a blast as they ran around and when some older kids, familiar with the gym, climbed to the top of this six foot ledge above the foam pit (where the rings were located) Henrik followed them. He sat, with his legs dangling off the side. I looked at him and shook my head no. I said "no" for two reasons, I didn't know if they were allowed up there as I'd never been to this gym before, and I didn't know if the teacher would let him jump off. But it was when the teacher went up there and sat down so that the kids could jump off, I realized that maybe I was babying them. Did I really want him to jump? Subconsciously did I shake my head no to tell him not to jump because I didn't want him to because it was dangerous? Or because he was too small? It was a six foot drop into feet and feet of foam cubes, it would be a freak accident if he actually got hurt. Why would I say no if the teacher allowed it?
Because I had already shook my head, Henrik was timid and thought he couldn't do it. But when the other kids started jumping off, I told him he could. He said, "No, I don't think I'm big like they are." Uh-oh. I now had to take my initial reaction of "no" and convince him that it was okay, that he was big enough and old enough to do it. My stomach dropped. Was Eric right? Did Henrik think that my saying no was because he was too small? Did I think he was too small? I talked Henrik into it and he jumped. He loved it. He jumped off that thing about sixty times. Then Theo wanted to jump off of it. A friend asked if he'd actually jump off, I told her that I didn't think so but I'd offer it to him. Low and behold, He jumped off too. A few times, and loved every minute of it.
I think people would say that I'm a laid back mom when it comes to the boys, I let them do what they need to do in terms of play. I try to keep an open mind when I raise these boys too. I try really hard not to push the macho attitude on them, for example, they both like to play house, have their nails painted, play with baby dolls, and like the color pink. And at the same time, we play hockey indoors, we wrestle, play outside all the time and drive cars everywhere. I don't want them to believe that something is girly or boyish because of the aisle it's in at the toy store. I don't want to make them "weak" in Eric's or society's eyes because I don't let them play war or shooting games or let them do something physically dangerous like riding a bike on a bunch of rocks. I like to keep them safe, I like to keep them where I can see them, I like them to play nicer games, but does that mean I'm babying them? I can't keep them safe forever, and I can't shelter them from other games that are happening on the playground, but I feel like I should have some say over where my kid rides his bike.
I think that my anger over the mountain biking thing comes from the fact that Eric didn't talk to me about it before hand, and he isn't around the boys as much as I am and often forgets that they are only three and 19 months. Henrik went ice skating at 2 and Theodor went before he turned one, yes, Eric held them, but he got a little bit frustrated when Henrik didn't want Eric to let go of him. Eric can get upset with the boys in the bewitching hours (during dinner and before bed) because the boys can get out of hand and have melt downs. I usually ignore them, but Eric wants them to do things that they physically cannot do because they are tired, hungry and worn out from the day. He wants to engage with them on a level that he's comfortable with, a more grown up level, because he hasn't spent the day with them. He wants more than to be the roughness guy when he comes home. He wants the calm and collected kids. He believes that they can function that way because they can literally hold conversations with us about a multitude of topics, but at the end of the day they still wear pull ups to bed and want warm milk.
I'm going to agree to let Henrik go to the park to ride his bike on the rocks because it's important to Eric. And it's important for me to let him have a say in his kid's life. I'm going to try really hard to avoid the 'I told you so' comments when Henrik gets hurt isn't able or doesn't want to do it. But I'm going to be sincerely happy when they come back and say they had a great time, even if there are scrapes and blood. It's important for Eric to know that I'm not holding the boys back because I want them to stay babies forever. I want Eric to know that I'm more reserved on things because of their ages and the background that I have with them. The boys have a whole world out there to take risks and do dangerous acts. Some of those things we'll introduce to our kids when we take them white water rafting or surfing, skiing, or actual mountain climbing. But at age three and 19 months I don't think we have to fit all that into one weekend.
I'll admit when I'm wrong. Today was probably one of those moments, I still have to investigate in my soul as to why I said "no" so quickly. I was really proud of Henrik when he jumped off that ledge and I was really proud of Henrik when he climbed the rock wall at the park all the way to the top after weeks of trying to get up there. Those things aren't dangerous, they are age appropriate they are just the skills and challenges my kids should be experiencing. I want my kids to have every opportunity and every experience out there and I'll probably have to be less reserved when some of these things come up. I'm more of a cautious person and I don't think it's a bad thing, but if I'm teaching my kids to be over cautious then I'm doing it wrong.
I don't know if Eric was 100% right or not today, but either way, this conversation and the words he said to me at least made me stop and think about a different point of view. It forced me out of my comfort zone and made me really internalize my thoughts on parenting. I'm not about to let them go sky diving, but I am going to really ask myself why I'm saying "Be careful" or "no" when they ask to do something that appears older than they are, if they are asking, it's probably because they are interested, capable and ready, right?