DS1 is the 49th great grandchild in my DH's mother's clan. DS2 is will be the 53rd. So this is a LARGE family. We are also a pretty close family, and especially in the summer, we have regular get togethers with close to 100 people. There is a wide variety of people in our family. But one thing everyone seems to have in common is helicopter uber safe parenting. Except DH and I. We are VERY free range with DS1, and will continue that with DS2.
The problem comes when extended family members, also parents themselves, try to inforce their boundries/rules/paranoia on my son. Even at his young age of 2, he knows his own boundries, and the sudden onset of much stricter stipulations stresses him out. For example, we had a beach party on Saturday. It was held at a beach we take DS1 too frequently. I set up camp in the shade, which is a little ways from the shore line. DS1 is "allowed" to play at the shore, venture into the water when he's hot, climb to the top of the beach to collect shells and rocks, whatever. He knows how far he can go and still be in my sight, and he really doesn't test those limits. He also has his own limits HE has set for himself-for example if there are waves coming in from a passing boat, he won't step a toe in the lake.
Other family members seemed to have a huge problem with this. One Aunt insisted on following him around, which frustrated DS1, as she was cramping his style. I said, He's fine, let him roam, and she made a rude comment about mother's who don't supervise their children. Another Aunt took away his snack "because there is sand in it!!!" Gasp, the horror!!! The poor kid had a total meltdown while I argued with the Aunt that it was indeed ok with me that he continue to eat his snack, despite the sand. (Seriously, he's covered in sand, the beach is covered in sand, how in the heck do you keep that from happening!) Various cousins were being hollered at constantly for various infractions ranging from playing with drift wood to a 14 year old who want to wade in ankle deep water without his life jacket. DS1 is not used to this. He was constantly thinking he was being hollered at.
I try and handle this the best way I know how. I praise him for following our "rules", I let him have his space that he needs (he's a very independent child) and I try and get the other adults to just leave him be. Beyond that, I'm at a loss. I heard many nasty comments being made about me, when people thought I was out of ear shot. Here's the kicker though-the snarks didn't bother me. My child was the best behaved out of the bunch, and I know that's largely due to the fact that he doesn't have 100 rules to remember. He gets to go to the beach and have fun and be a kid, and with both benefit greatly from it.
Here's the kicker though-the snarks didn't bother me. My child was the best behaved out of the bunch, and I know that's largely due to the fact that he doesn't have 100 rules to remember. He gets to go to the beach and have fun and be a kid, and with both benefit greatly from it.
SAHM to 6.5yo DS and 4yo DD. PCOS with two early m/cs. Married 8 yrs. Certified birth doula, writer, editor.
Some stuff I like:
She almost blew a gasket when I stripped DD to her diaper so she could play with the water fountain, though.
I put him in trunks for the party, BTW, because I don't need six new pairs of trunks this year.
Except for the water part. A bit of sand on a snack isn't going to kill him, but drowning is one of the biggest causes of accidental death for kids that age. No matter how good he normally is at obeying boundaries, drowning can happen too quickly to trust him to responsible for his own well being around water. It is just basic safety that if a toddler is in or around water, an adult needs to be following them around and paying close attention.
An older child with good swimming skills is one thing. But even then, most adults I know feel most comfortable with a dedicated watcher/ready-to-spring-into-action-er when it comes to water.
Everything else, I would similarly be annoyed at relative or stranger for that matter interferance.
We're very free range with our kids, except with water and car seats. A child's ability to explore isn't hindered by a life jacket when they are in water. My DD1 is often given a choice between a life jacket or being "within arm's reach". She varies in what she chooses.
Also, even parents who have rules for their children can still have well-behaved children.
Your family has probably seen a kid or two fall into the water (since they are on #50ish) and are paranoid about it. I totally get their feelings and would really respect that one.
I'm with you on the rest - my DD especially gets bothered by people yelling at their kids - she thinks they are yelling at her. Well, now that she is getting older she doesn't as much but it does bother her. And the sand, some people are just uptight.
I don't think a two year old should be by the water without someone in arm's reach. I don't know how far it was by the description but I am really cautious of water. I was a lifeguard for a few years
Wife to DH , mom to DS (4/09), and DD (8/11), and crafty and hardworking in my own right! In my parenting journey I've , , , , and. To each family their own!!
"There are words for people like me, but I don't think there are very many."
I agree with you about the other stuff, but they're right about the beach issue.
Just because today your child doesn't go in the water, is meaningless. Next time he might and *might* is enough reason to be within arms' reach.
I am all about letting kids do what they CAN do, but it's a little scary for me to think of leaving a two year old to their own judgment around water.
Last, I'm totally jealous that your kids have so many cousins.
I used to try to talk to DH about it and I really wanted to change him but now, after observing DS and DH together over the last year, I feel differently. Because of how DH is, DS does different things with him. He wants to play in a different way and they are building a relationship that is very different from the one that DS has with me. He appears to be learning that adults are all different and that people parent in different ways. I think that this is actually really healthy. I think we all, children included, learn about ourselves by observing the differences in people around us.
I'm sorry that your DS is annoyed by his relatives but I bet that as he gets a bit older he'll come to terms with it in his own way. He'll come to know that's simply how they are and sometimes he may choose to adjust his behaviour to get them off his back, or he'll feel confident in expressing a differing opinion. The same will apply where ever he goes in life - different environments have different social norms and expectations and we're not always going to agree with the rest of the group.
It's great that you feel so confident in your parenting approach and that you recognize that you're making the right choices for your family. I can imagine that the most difficult situations would be when a relative feels that they have to look out for your child because you're not. If I were in your shoes, I'd stick to my guns for the most part but I'd also pick my battles carefully and let a lot of it go to, just for the sake of keeping the peace and avoiding judgement (I'm all for being true to myself and standing up for my beliefs but I think that being flexible is worth it when it comes to relationships with family.)
If you have to, limit the number of these get togethers you participate in or only go to smaller ones where the volume is lower until DS is older and can better understand the differences in the family styles. I'd also look at the group to see if there are any other parents who might be more like you than you realize (maybe they're overshadowed by the others, or are behaving like the rest of the group because they feel pressured to do so to avoid judgement). Seek them out and hang with them.
Happy mumma to my boys Henny Tom (Nov 30, 2008), Arlo Odie (Oct 5, 2010), and baby SISTER! due mid-Dec 2014.
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