This month an interesting parenting situation presented itself. Honestly as a parent we find ourselves in a plethora of situations we would not have anticipated. Taylor keeps us on our toes, constantly challenging us to learn and grow right along with her. This time however, it was someone else who made us consider all sorts of consequences.
Our nine-year old daughter slept over at a trusted adult’s home. During that time they made the decision to allow her to ride on the back of a motorcycle without consulting us (her parents).
- Decision was made on our behalf.
- This specific activity has many risk factors and is dangerous even for adults.
- Our daughter is nine years old and roughly 50 inches tall and 55 pounds. This dynamic is important because she must still use a booster seat in a vehicle because she is too short and too light for her to be safe otherwise. Her height also restricts her from various roller coasters and water slides.
- Trust was damaged.
- She was okay, none of the horrible things that could have happened did.
- We discussed the possible ramifications that could have, but thankfully did not occur.
- The trusted adult recognized their error, apologized and seemed remorseful.
- We had an open conversation with trusted adult about who the parents are and what that means. Also that no matter how old she sounds, she is nine and we (the parents) get to make the decisions.
- Engaged in a conversation with our daughter about how even if a trusted adult says something is okay and you want to do it, you still need to evaluate the situation for yourself and decide IF you should ask your parents for permission (especially if you have not done it before).
After I found out what happened I was able to recognize a few things prior to reacting:
- What happened
- What didn’t happen
- What could have happened
- Why I was upset
This was a pretty incredible experience for me. It took me a minute or so of thought and controlled breathing for me to assess the situation and rationally express my feelings about what occurred. In the past, even as recent as 2, 4 or 6 years ago, I would have been ignited in anger and lashed out. The protective mama bear in me would have been released and unable to be reasoned with. When it comes to the safety of your child it is easy to see red.
Once I knew Taylor was safe the biggest thing for me was that I was not the person to make the decision that ultimately could have affected the rest of her life. They did not have my permission to take this risk with her. This involuntary surrender of control just about did me in. However, it felt so good to not over react and to think everything through in the moment; in addition to many times later, while still coming to the same conclusion. I am proud of myself for how I handled the situation.
This made me think of a time in my childhood when my mom was very upset that my grandmother allowed me to get a picture with a snow leopard at the zoo. I was about 5 years old, it was a cub and chained up. The zoo would have you sit on the counter “next to it”, smile for the camera and then over pay for the cheap photograph. I was very excited and loved every minute of it. However, my mom was upset that she was not consulted ahead of time. In her mind the perceived threat of me being mauled and scared for life was enormous. I remember arguments and grandma being ‘grounded’ from watching me alone for a while. (I did confirm my memory with my mom to ensure that it was not completely in left field) Remembering this and how it was handled made me understand and empathize with the emotions relating to lack of control over decisions and activities that could impact your child’s well-being.
How do you handle difficult parenting moments involving permission?