Sink or Swim

Bubba loves the pool, the cool as it’s called at our house. No, I’m not planning on throwing my toddler into a pool to see if he can figure out how to swim, that’s a bad idea, take them to swim class. I actually mean this in the less-literal sense. I’m talking about our style of parenting.
There are many parenting styles. You’ve probably heard of them. You may even identify with one of these.
You have helicopter parents who hover over their child’s every move. You’ve seen these types at the playground- they are constantly up and down ensuring that their kiddos stay on the designated course and that they do not fall, ever.
There are lawnmower parents who clear a path and mow over difficulties that may hinder their kids. They do their best to make sure the tall grass of life does not slow the pace of their little ones.
Then there are Paver Parents, more intense than the Lawnmower Parents, who smooth over everything to ensure free and easy travel through life. No pit-stops here.
We have all heard about free-range parents who allow their kids to roam the landscape, usually learning from nature and the world around them. Yeah, they’ll come back, eventually. No street light curfew for these guys.
We don’t really fit into any of those categories, yet.  We are Sink or Swim parents.
We tend to be in agreement that as long as Bubba is not going to be mortally wounded, we let him try to do things on his own, while we watch from the wings. You know, Sink or Swim. Think you’re just part of the regular parent crowd? Here’s a quick tip: there are no “normal parents” we’re all a little weird and we have our own ideas about how our children should traverse the trials of life. I do wonder if this will greatly affect how they act as adults. I can’t remember how my parents, parented and I think I turned out okay.
Often at our house, you hear the shrill cry of “Bubba do it!” which lets you know you had better not and under no circumstances do whatever it is he would like to attempt on his own. This may mean any of the following scenarios: trying to open the fridge, when he can’t reach the handle; putting his shoes on without opening the Velcro first, or putting the train track together without understanding the concept that it has to connect to itself. Notice a trend? In the same trend, I have found myself saying “It’s okay, let him try.” to friends and family as we watch him attempt something we know he’s still too small to do. He’ll learn failure and redemption as well as perseverance and success. Hopefully. Sometimes this is frustrating for both kiddo and parent. There are times that he wants to do things on his own and I know it will be faster and easier if I do it, but, how will he figure it out? Does he always have to do it my way? When we are in the parking lot in 102* heat and he wants to climb into his seat that’s FIFTY feet off the ground, yes, “Mommy do it.” But in general, it doesn’t always have to be my way. For someone who likes things just so this is taking some training on my part. We once spent half of the morning with one arm in his shirt correctly and the other sticking out from the bottom. That could not have been comfortable. But it wasn’t going to harm him, and eventually, he figured it out. We celebrate his willingness to try things, we also celebrate or discuss the result. We are of the mindset that not everyone gets a trophy just for showing up. There is something to be said for performing well and achieving a goal. There is also something to be learned from attempting and not achieving. Maybe we should change our parenting style to “bob or float?”
I’d like to offer an alternative view to parenting styles.

I don’t think they’re for the kids.
Did you get that?
I think the style a parent adopts with which to guide their interactions for raising their children has less to do with how they want to prepare their child and more with how they feel their child will reflect upon them as parents. Woah, deep. Go ahead and read that last part again, I’ll wait. It’s okay, I read it about 10 times after writing it because though long, it made sense. Those parents who are worried that their children’s actions will reflect poorly upon them tend to be more overbearing. They tend to plan, track and adjust their child’s course with an end goal of tangible success in mind. If done correctly, this will include conversations with the child, about their goals and what they wish to achieve. When done selfishly, it will end up as a parallel theme in a blockbuster movie where the protagonist and parent have a tumultuous relationship that eventually gets resolved once said protagonist proves their worth. Oh, you’ve seen that one? Me too.

On the other hand, you have the parents who are sure that no matter what their children do they will be seen in a positive light because they’re just ‘great kids.’ This sometimes presents itself in a lack of boundaries. Kids who have a hard time with structure or rules. When this type of parenting is joined with a watchful eye and clear expectations, children are very capable of being successful. Hands-off parenting, but not too far off.
I like to think our end goal for our kids is for them to be empathetic, respectful members of society who are able to use their talents to give back and make a positive difference. Not sure where our parenting style fits for that goal to come to fruition but it’s a process. We’re still learning. And hey, we’ve got two chances to get it right!

Where does your parenting style fit on the spectrum?

Be Great,

M

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