Last week, Ma and I had Oli for the day. Oli doesn’t do walking, he does running at full pelt paying no attention to the danger of cars or anything else.
I don’t have a problem with this, he’s 2 and half and a boy, that’s how it works. He’s pushing his limits as all children of his age should be. What I have problem with is him running across a road into a car or losing him because he’s so quick. So the solution is his turtle rucksack with a lead. Yep, I’m happy to put Oli on a leash.
Does this make me a mean aunt*. I don’t think so. Oli wants to walk, actually he asked/told me “Please, I need to walk” but looking after children is about setting limits that are realistic to where the children are. About keeping them safe as well as letting them become independent. Oli is good short term, he behaved brilliantly on the escalator, holding my hand and walking carefully (I think that’s he’s had some practice with his Dad and childminder!) but 5 minutes after he’s been told something he forgets or chooses not to remember (Oli often pretends to be asleep if you ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do or tell him not to do something!) that’s now it should be.
What I have to be with him is consistent. If he doesn’t want to hold hands and wants to walk, he wears the rucksack. He’s not that keen on it, he asked his Grandma to take his “ucksack off” and sat down in quite a huff when she wouldn’t. Of course, once we were in the park I did take the leash off, because there wasn’t anything he could run into that would hurt him.
The point is that being a good parent, aunt, caretaker or whatever of small child is balancing keeping them safe and giving them freedom, of knowing what they’re ready for and what they’ll do for you. Oli isn’t ready to mind me like he minds his parents or childminder. Do I like putting Oli in his ‘ucksack, not really but I like it much better than the thought of him running across a road and into a car. Yes, I do go to the worst case scenario because his parents are trusting me to keep him safe.
I know that Ben and Lu are working with Oli on this, he’s just had his scooter taken away for not stopping when told but he’s just not ready to be let loose on the unsuspecting people of Watford (or anywhere else). So I will continue to make Oli wear his rucksack and leash and I won’t be at all ashamed of it. It’s a decision I’ve make that works for Oli and me. So I will defend it’s use when snotty women (who’s children are running amuck in a shop) accuse me of putting a child on a leash and damaging Oli’s fragile young ego. Oli’s ego, (like his father’s) will be just fine and if it isn’t, if he’s scarred for life, I’d rather pay for therapy when he’s older than take the risk of seeing him under a car now.
*I should point out, I have history here, I once put my then 6 year old godson in reins for the day, when he ran across a road. We had talked about the issue of him running across roads, how dangerous it was, how frightened I was about looking after him for 6 weeks if he wouldn’t listen when I said stop and that only very small children didn’t listen when told to stop. We agreed, he thought of the punishment if he did it and the reward if he could manage not to run across the road for the summer. He ran and spent the day in reins. I need to check but I’m not sure that Ryan remembers this and he stopped running across roads with me, I suspect because he knew I was serious about follow through.