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#1 of 16 Old 05-30-2010, 08:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This is mostly a vent, as I realize this is something I will probably always struggle with, unless by some miracle my extended family loosens up.

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.

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#2 of 16 Old 05-30-2010, 09:06 PM
 
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Originally Posted by KempsMama View Post
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.
I hear ya on the vent. But this last part of what you said is so key! You know what you're doing is right for your family and your kid. Don't let them get to you. Easier said than done, I know. My DS's 4th birthday party was held at a park in the woods, and my MIL (who is way more helicopter than I am) kept following both my kids around with napkins trying to wipe the dirt off them. I thought about asking her to stop, and felt judged a few times when she tried suggesting I clean something or other off one of them, but mostly I just tried to see it as comical and harmless. If that's how she wants to spend her time with the kids, have fun (or not! ) She almost blew a gasket when I stripped DD to her diaper so she could play with the water fountain, though.

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#3 of 16 Old 05-30-2010, 09:12 PM - Thread Starter
 
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She almost blew a gasket when I stripped DD to her diaper so she could play with the water fountain, though.
I know that feeling. Most of the time I don't bother with swim trunks for DS1, just a swim diaper. Why create more laundry than necessary? Last summer, everyone kept asking where his swimsuit was, and I kid you not, over the course of the next few weeks no less than six relatives dropped off new swim trunks for him. Because obviously I was just too poor to provide them. Whatever.

I put him in trunks for the party, BTW, because I don't need six new pairs of trunks this year.

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#4 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 12:00 AM
 
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I would be really annoyed to. People need to relax a bit.

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.
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#5 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 12:10 AM
 
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Yeah, I was going to say...honestly, while I am totally not a helicopter parent, I do think that allowing your kid to play unattended physically at the water's edge (or giving that impression)...it's not unreasonable that many people would be nervous about that. I don't know what you mean by "a little ways" though. That could be 5 feet, or it could be 50. Toddlers move fast, and drowning is a concern. So I can see why some people might be annoyed with you about being unconcerned about your toddler playing by himself at water's edge--they might have felt then that you were kind of shoving the responsibility off on them.

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.
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#6 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 01:33 AM
 
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I agree. That doesn't sound like helicopter parenting to me. It sounds like paying attention to one of the leading causes of accidental death in small children.

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.
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#7 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 01:36 AM
 
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While I would have not made snide remarks about or to you, or tried to enforce my parenting style on you, I have to agree that toddlers near the water should be closely supervised. Drownings can happen SO fast.

Also, even parents who have rules for their children can still have well-behaved children.
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#8 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 02:01 AM
 
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My DD is very good about the water, but she fell in at our family cabin last summer. It was so totally silent, if I had not had my eyes right on her when it happened we would have had no idea where she disappeared to.

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.

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#9 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 04:02 AM
 
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I think hollering at a 14 year old for swimming would have been way overboard as well as the snack.

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

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#10 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 04:18 AM
 
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No advice, tons of sympathy. My DH's family doesn't like or support our parenting style/choices either. It can be SO frustrating, especially when it stressed my little DS out.

Sorry mama!

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#11 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 09:50 AM
 
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I'm very free range, but 2 is too young to be out of arm's reach at the water's edge. Kids that age drown in almost no water because they automatically breathe it in if they fall in it. Also, they can loose their footing while in the water and panic.

I agree with you about the other stuff, but they're right about the beach issue.
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#12 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 10:59 AM
 
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I personally think you were too far from your child. Arms' reach at that age for me-no exception. Toyour family you obviously looked disinterested in your child's safety by how far away you were. I'd be grateful too that others looked afte your child so you could relax-nothing to moan about.

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.
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#13 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 11:32 AM
 
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i sympathise with you, OP, but i also agree with others. while in most things being in sight is enough, not so with water. and i notice you're 30+weeks pregnant? it would be hard for you to react physically with the speed needed IF your child lost footing. please be more careful.
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#14 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 11:34 AM
 
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Two year olds are impulsive and not exactly known for their awesome judgment. I don't think that good judgment and self control are things that can be taught before they are developmentally acquired. So while I don't mind a sandy kid eating sandy snacks, I am a little more cautious about water. Is this a smallish lake with no real waves? And quite a lot of shallow water along the edge? Is he wearing something for flotation? Honestly, if I saw a two year old wandering in the water with nothing for flotation and no parent near by, I would assume he hand wandered off. Also, with that many people and that level of commotion, it would be so easy for one kid to go under and no one to notice. My 10year old niece got in over her head in the pool a few summers ago and with all those people standing around, it took more than a second for someone to notice. It was so quiet.

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.
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#15 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 12:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I appreciate everyone's concern. He's never in the water alone. I wasn't clear on some of the details in my first post.

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#16 of 16 Old 05-31-2010, 03:28 PM
 
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I deal with a similar situation on a daily basis - I was raised truly free range and I am moderately free range with DS (though less so outdoors, but DS is only 18 mos and I'm still just learning about what I'm comfortable with as a parent). My DH is the exact opposite. He is no more than 3 feet away from DS at all times even inside our very safe toddler-centred house. It used to drive me absolutely bonkers. Our families fall into the same two opposing camps, though no one is quite as overbearing as DH is.

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.

Good luck!

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