Setting the Rules and Bearing the Heartbreak

Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to play with something so badly, mostly because you weren’t allowed to? One of mine, among many, was this little glass box with a purple flower on the lid that my mom had sitting out on a side table. It wasn’t particularly awesome and didn’t do anything special, but it was novel to me, and most importantly, I wasn’t allowed to play with it because it was fragile which enticed me even more. I have a few memories of sneaking into the front living room and touching it, and even sometimes daring to pick it up if I really felt like I wasn’t going to get caught. My child logic never understood why I wasn’t allowed to just add it to my collection of toys and sometimes when my mom would remind me that it was not to be played with, I would get so mad at her. Looking back, I understand completely why I wasn’t allowed to have it. First of all, it was glass, and I was a clumsy little kid. Big no-no there. One trip on the sidewalk and a skinned up knee could become much worse should I have been walking around with a glass bowl in my hand. The other reason I see was learning boundaries and obedience. Not everything was mine, and my parents were teaching me to respect the property of others and to listen to their authority and the rules that they set. So, mom and dad, sorry for freaking out all those times when I was a kid, and even not such a kid, when you would tell me no. And most importantly, thank you for telling me no.

So far, my experience in parenting has been the fun stuff. There are the typical parental decisions of what type of diaper to use, how you will establish the bedtime routine, to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, and figuring out how to get your 9 month old to get all their basic food groups. But mostly, it’s been a lot of playing simple games, making silly faces, oohing and ahhing over sweet coos and belly laughs. There were the rough days in the beginning full of relentless crying thanks to reflux, but honestly looking back, most of what was required of me was hugging and soothing, rocking and swaying. Not too bad if you ask me. Yesterday, I experienced a different side of parenting. It was harder than the usual cuddly, playful stuff. Yesterday, I made my little man cry and it broke my heart.

My little bug began to crawl about a month ago and has been enjoying his new mobile world. He is exploring like crazy and discovering that there is so much more available to him now that he can move on his own. It’s been amazing to see how quickly he learns new skills and I love watching him discover new treasures throughout the house. As you know, after crawling comes the development of those little leg muscles to lead up to that first independent step (yikes!!).  Judah has been loving the feeling of standing on his own two feet and wants to do it any chance he can. We have tried to do a relatively good job of “child-proofing” our place, though I’m convinced you can never completely be rid of all dangers unless you live in a padded cell.  Anyway, Judah was standing up against our ottoman and reached for a small hair clip I had laying out. He began playing with it and as most things go at this age, it went right to his mouth. To my surprise, he was able to get a lot more of it in his mouth than I felt was safe…okay, he fit that whole sucker in there. In swoops the mom. I took it away from him and also with it, apparently all the sunshine and joy in his world. He looked at me with such disappointment and disbelief and immediately the tears started flowing. Usually Judah isn’t a super loud crier, it’s more of a loud whimper. But this time, it was mouth open, scrunched red face, loud cries. The big-teared, heart breaking kind. And it was all because of a stupid hair clip.

To my surprise, taking that little piece of plastic away wasn’t easy to do. I’ve had to tell him no lots of times and redirect him to a different route if he’s going toward the lamp cord or the dog bowl, but that’s never seemed to bother him before, or me for that matter. It’s just one of those basic parental duties of setting appropriate boundaries around the house. He has shown a few times a particular attachment to certain toys and gets a little worried looking if it’s moved for a second while I’m cleaning, but it hasn’t been anything traumatic. Yesterday was a new level. It was hard for both of us.

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It’s never easy to make your child upset, even when you’re doing so with their best intentions in mind.  I know that this was the first of many, many times that this will happen as Judah grows up and gets into more and more things. Someday we will face other types of parenting, like dealing with hitting, talking back, and lying. Right now, taking away small objects is good enough for me. I just hope my son someday realizes that everything his father and I do is because we want the best for him. It’s not easy, and sometimes it really sucks when you look at your sweet baby sobbing because of something you did, but those tears are necessary. They are necessary for him to learn his boundaries, and for us to learn as parents how to parent.

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