I've recently realised that I'm guilty of a bit of "over-parenting". Basically for me this means interfering/intervening in my twins' play when it's not necessary, hovering over them and "advising" them when they are eating, telling them how to play with something and charging in to diffuse any potentially hostile situation. I've been spending far too much energy and getting uptight about things that, to be honest, are none of my business and it needs to stop.
As a mum I've always felt that it's my duty to control whatever is happening regarding my children. If one was about to hit the other I'd step in, if a cup was about to drop off the table I'd catch it, if they weren't playing with a toy "correctly" I'd "help" them. Urgh! What a pain in the bottom! No wonder my son would tell me to go away! Now that they are 3 years old I have made a conscious effort to take a step back, let them discover things for themselves and constantly ask myself "what's the worst that could happen?"
Well, nothing too terrible so far. If my daughter decides that she wants to eat all her potatoes, then her carrots, and then her chicken, who cares? She doesn't need my helpful advice on mixing mouthfuls so that they taste yummy. It's her dinner and she should be able to eat it however she likes. My son is massively into jigsaws at the moment, and can complete one in record time, but he always does them upside down. Does this matter? No. Does it take every fibre of my being not to intervene and demonstrate how much easier it would be the right way up? Yes! When it comes to their disputes I've realised that I can't intervene at the first whimper or whine. It's the hardest thing not to jump in when you hear playful laughter switch to a wail or an indignant "hey!", but I've forced myself on a number of occasions recently to take a step back and not charge in on my white horse to try to resolve the situation. Not least because I often have no idea what has occurred and we all know that taking a toddler's word for it is dodgy ground. I'm hoping that letting them resolve their own disputes will mean that they are more independent and capable of compromise, as well as understanding the importance of taking responsibility and saying sorry. Big dreams, I know!
As I've noticed this tendency towards over-parenting in myself I have also noticed that it really is all around. On holiday I witnessed a Dad coaching his 7-year-old around a climbing frame, barking instructions from the ground about the importance of having "3 points of contact" on a ladder at all times. It really made me giggle (maybe he was a health and safety inspector or something) and I wondered how this child was ever going to function in the big, bad world if he couldn't be trusted on a climbing frame? (By the way, the child was very cautious, obedient and didn't look like he was going to do anything terribly adventurous, ever.) I was quite proud of my twins who were running around, swinging off things, falling over and getting in a pickle as Mr R and myself sat on a nearby picnic table with a glass of wine. "Benevolent neglect" I call this particular style of parenting!
I've also seen a 4-year-old on reins, grandparents doing the "follow the child around the playground" thing, packets of crisps being opened the "correct" way for children who must surely be school-age, a panic-stricken mother screaming at her child to be careful of a stick that was lying on the ground and couldn't have presented any sort of danger unless the child suddenly decided to pick it up and poke himself in the eye.
Of course we have to look after our children and keep them safe, but we also need to leave them alone and give them some space. With the arrival of baby number 3 only about 4 weeks away, my twins aren't going to have much choice!