Author: Jaclyn

Thank you, Bolingbrook

alliedWe move to Tennessee in a few short days. As we pack the last of the boxes and plan out the last of our chores here in Illinois, my thoughts turn to you, Bolingbrook. You sometimes get a bad rap, but I think you’re just misunderstood, like the emo high school kid who keeps to himself. People may whisper about him, but he has a generous heart of gold and a head full of talent. You’ve been good to us these last few years and it is difficult to say good-bye. So, I want to thank you for supporting us during the Illinois leg of our life’s journey.

Thank you Bolingbrook for my neighborhood. I love our diverse, peaceful neighborhood. I love living in harmony with the Atheists, Muslims, Catholics, Hindus, Protestants, “nones” and more on my very street. I am proud to call Koreans, Indians, Nepalese, Caucasians, Hispanics, Chinese, African Americans and more my trusted neighbors. I enjoy chatting with the 3 year old, the SAHM, the veteran, the retiree, the government worker, the DJ, the fire fighter, the politician, the entrepreneur, the teacher, the contractor, the business owner and more who live on our block. We are a vision of what world peace could look like and I think that is incredibly inspiring. Take lots of pictures at the next block party for me. I will especially miss you Lorraine, Sarah, Ryan, Sean, Joey, Jackie, Joe, Sue, Dana, Michele, Lee, Tim, Amy, Jill, Scott, Dawn, Cici, Tony, Sheryl, Jeff, Gauri, and Mahee.

Thank you Bolingbrook for the library. I brought my first baby there for story time where he heard some of his first finger-plays, read his first books, and “made” his first Christmas ornament. The ground-breaking Studio 300 is where I first saw a 3-D printer up close and in action. The huge children’s wing invites kids to be simply who they are: kids in their loud, excited, sticky glory. My family enjoyed walks to the Bookmobile when it was parked outside our neighborhood twice a week. There are simply too many services you provided for me to list. Just know that my library card was my ticket to pure magic. I’ve already checked out our new library in Tennessee. It simply won’t be the same.

Thank you Bolingbrook for Meijer. Oh Meijer I love you and your mperks. According to my receipt today I’ve saved over $1,500 this year from mperks and specials. I don’t care if that is a marketing bluff, I love it. Most of our income after taxes, insurance and mortgage goes to your store so whatever you’re doing, it’s working. But I do have some suggestions. Take out the entire middle of the store. I never see anyone shopping for clothes or shoes in there. And when I need to pick up 2 items, like a toothbrush and bananas, they are inevitably on the opposite sides of the store and that drives me crazy. Walking through the middle dead zone is a pain. Lose it. Otherwise you’re great and my boys enjoy the free rides on Sandy the horse.

Thank you Bolingbrook for the Hidden Oaks Nature Center. This place is the definition of a hidden gem and I still can’t believe it is free to visit. The natural park under the canopy of trees in the summer is like a secret paradise and even I feel like a kid in there. The nature trails are beautiful and my husband and I have enjoyed many bike trips on the paved trails close by. The discovery room is so cool and a great place to spend a rainy afternoon. My boys love touching all the buttons in the interactive display on the first level and get excited seeing the turtles. The employee who wears a real snake as a necklace is kind and ironically inviting. I do owe you an apology, though. I tried a garden plot this year and royally failed. Sorry about that. But thanks for forgiving me and giving me the gigantic sunflower.

Thank you Bolingbrook for the parks. One of my secret goals was to visit every park in Bolingbrook. Sadly, this dream will go unfulfilled. However I’m thankful for the parks we have enjoyed; specifically Balstrode, Volunteer, Bulldog, Winston Woods, and Jamie McGee’s school play ground. My boys learned to swing on your swings and slide down your slides. Your wooded trails were some of their first to hike. United by common ground I met new mom friends and my boys learned to play well with others. And lastly a trip to the park always translated into a good nap later. Thank you for that most of all.

Thank you Bolingbrook for Lifestyles Fitness Center. Oh my gosh BRAC I will miss you so much. You introduced me to Body Pump and made me feel like a badass lifting a barbell over my head (Thank you, Maribel!). You made me feel comfortable for the first time ever in the weight room (Thank you, Beth!). You taught my toddler to be unafraid in the water (Thank you, Carrie!). You let me show off my white girl moves in Zumba (Thank you, Tracey!). You were there when I set a personal record for distance running. You let me shower and pee in peace. The caretakers in the child center room took excellent care of my boys, providing a safe, welcoming place to play while I enjoyed some daily “me” time. I can’t tell you how much that means to me and the impact you’ve made on my life.

Thank you Bolingbrook for BHS. I know people move out of this district because of you and I think that is a shame. You are part of my community so I have no problem being part of you. I love that you are a school of financial and racial diversity. I love hearing the marching band practice in the summer. I love that your building is “green.” Yes, I know you have your issues but what high school doesn’t? I’m confident that if we stayed in town my children would thrive there and learn how to get along with people from all sorts of financial, racial, and family backgrounds. That is an education worth having. BHS, I’m not mad at you. Go Raiders!

our houseLastly, thank you Bolingbrook for our first house. It is where we learned to be grown-ups with a real mortgage and a yard to maintain. It’s where we relaxed after long days at the office. It’s where we brought home our babies. It’s where my boys learned to walk and talk and use a fork. It’s where we celebrated Christmas year after year with thankful hearts. Our home has spoiled us and now we are very picky about the house we will chose in Tennessee.

Before I leave I do have some parting advice:

Don’t lose the prairies. People love to bitch about the rapid loss of the Amazon rain forest, but what most Americans don’t realize is the alarming loss of natural habitat in our own backyard. Bolingbrook is part of natural prairie land and it is estimated that less of 1/100 of 1% of Illinois’ natural prairie is left. ONE HUNDREDTH OF A PERCENT. Shame. Now, this isn’t completely your fault of course, but it irks me to no end seeing all the “For sale” signs on the last plots of wild land still left in our town, especially when Bolingbrook is home to so many gigantic, unused parking lots. We need to use our resources more wisely. How would you feel if someone put up “for sale for development” signs on the last one hundredth of a percent of the Amazon rain forest? Furious? That’s right. Do better and be a beacon of hope for our environment.

Lastly, Bolingbrook is a bit of a cultural desert. I know it. You know it. They know it. Let’s change it. There are talented artists within your borders. Engage them. We need some street art. Some public sculptures. Some bright paint on bland store fronts. Murals. A place to showcase local talent. Pretty please make it happen.

Thanks for everything. You will be missed.

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I know where cyber bullying comes from

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” ~Pogo

Zoe looks in the mirror and cringes at her reflection because she doesn’t recognize herself. Evidence of sleepless nights and the hollowness she feels inside is written on her face in the form of dark circles under her eyes. She shifts her 6 month old baby to the other hip and closes her eyes. In doing so she tries to create a moment of peace for herself, but in her mind’s eye all she can see is her never ending to do list. Laundry. Dishes. Vacuuming. Cleaning bottles. And what the heck is for dinner? People tell her not to worry about housework with a new baby, but if she doesn’t who will? None of the women who have given her this “advice” have actually volunteered help in any real way.

Zoe hears the baby grunt and gets a big whiff of something foul. Grimacing, she gingerly takes off the soiled diaper and reaches for another only to find they’re gone! How could she be out? She berates herself for being so stupid. She grabs a burp cloth and some duct tape, her heart heavy at not being a better mom. She redresses the baby and loosely wraps a receiving blanket around him to hide the makeshift diaper. Her phone vibrates in her back pocket. Taking it out she reads the incoming text reads, “I’ll be home late from work. Don’t wait up for me.” Eyes stinging she throws the phone down onto her bed in frustration and sits on the floor in a heap. Evenings with the baby are the worst. Soon as 5pm hits, James starts shrieking and doesn’t stop until he’s asleep. Dealing with his colic is manageable with her husband there to tag team, but when she’s alone, which has been a lot this week, it’s soul-crushing. The baby rolls over to her and let’s out a yelp of glee. She smiles, picks him up and stands to face herself in the mirror again.

With a sigh she wipes her eyes then lifts her chin. Rallying, she puts on her makeup, relishing the feeling of getting dressed up, if only to stop at the store to pick up diapers. She glances at the drawer holding a favorite pair of pre-baby skinny jeans and bites her lip. Does she dare? Opening it she pulls them out and puts them on. They fit! Well, not buttoned, but close enough! Throwing on a longer shirt and a cute scarf to seal the deal she breathes a sigh of relief. Dressing as her old self makes something inside her feel alive again. She is not only a mom, but a person. An individual. Someone of value in and of herself.

Slinging the diaper bag over her shoulder she bolts out the door to Target before any more mishaps occur.

Parking near an abandoned shopping cart, she straps the baby in it and walks toward the store. Once inside she breathes a sigh of relief. “I did it!” She thinks. “We made it out of the house.” She grabs a box of diapers, wipes, and a frozen dinner for herself. Pausing, she whips out her phone and tries her best to keep a neutral face as she checks her joint checking account. $67.32. Her limbs go numb as she stares at her phone in disbelief. She puts back the frozen dinner, not realizing her baby is currently making an escape attempt out of the cart. A man close by lets out a small shout of warning. Zoe snaps to and grabs the baby, avoiding eye contact with the other shopper out of embarrassment. He shakes his head and keeps walking. But once Jake* is around the corner he pulls out his phone and posts to his Facebook account:

Name changed to protect the guilty

Passing by the makeup section she allows herself to stroll down an aisle, looking at the beautifully packaged products and perfectly photoshopped faces staring back at her. She picks up a new shade of lipstick and holds it, imagining how it might look. But then hearing her baby’s stomach gurgle lurches her back to into reality and she quickly puts the lipstick back and makes a beeline for the checkout before her baby makes a mess of his DIY diaper. A woman in the makeup aisle notices Zoe and is flabbergasted that she’s all dressed up at 3pm on a Wednesday. She writes:

Tammy FB Post

Zoe checks out, makes it back to the car, unloads the groceries, returns the cart, and buckles the protesting baby back into his seat. Hands on hips she leans back to stretch her aching back, then reaches up to close the trunk door.

While walking toward her car in the parking lot, Tanya saw her reach up and got a peek of Zoe’s middle and unbuttoned pants. Smirking she posts a meme:

tanya fb post

Sliding behind the wheel Zoe lets herself briefly bask in the success of her Target run. She turns to beam at her baby in the back seat and tells him, “We did it! And no one would even believe the awful night and morning we had.”

Make the Internet a kinder place for Moms. Sign the “End the Mommy Wars” pledge now to commit to kindness online.

Rude Facebook posts based on actual posts about moms the author has viewed in her own newsfeed from “friends.”

* Names changed to protect the guilty.

“So, what do you do?”

He eagerly waited for my reply. I stared at him for what felt like a beat too long. Finally I heard myself say, “I’m just a mom.” Soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted them. It has been harder than expected erasing “just” from my vocabulary. The woman sitting next to him clapped, apparently in excitement that I chose this profession, but then with kindness reprimanded me for using the word “just.” She built me up reminding me that I’m not “just” a mom and that being one is a high calling and a viable job. In my heart I know this, but I always struggle with how to answer the question, especially in business settings like the one where this conversation took place.

stay-at-home-momI’m definitely not a stay at home mom. I find that phrase a bit demeaning, anyway. “Stay at home, Mom!” My babies and I are often not home as we fill our days playing at the park, walking through woodland trails, running errands, going to the gym, visiting museums, hanging out at play dates, etc. The phrase doesn’t begin to cover my role and what I do.

I’ve tried telling people I’m a full-time mom but I find that offensive to my working mom friends. Of course they are also full time moms. I admire and support my friends who work and don’t want to use a phrase that belittles them. We need moms everywhere: at home, at work, in public office, in boardrooms and more.

Replying with “I’m CEO of the house” just seems silly. And if I’m CEO what does that make my husband? Someone who sleeps with upper Management? Actually I think he’d be OK with that.

I’ve even replied with “I’m a mom” but that seems so abrupt and also doesn’t paint the whole picture. Besides the mommyhood phase I’m in is very different than the phase of a woman in her 50’s. Although we both have the title of Mom, our jobs vastly differ.

Recently I’ve heard of the new title “Mompreneur” to describe the moms who decide to sell jewelry, Tupperware, nail decals, skin care, books, or makeup. Although I have a small side business, it isn’t part of one of these franchises so I don’t feel like it adequately describes me. Besides, doesn’t that phrase sound a bit weird? Moms should feel empowered to call themselves entrepreneurs, period. It’s like saying “I look good for someone my age.” No qualifier is needed, sister friend.

Work at home mom generally denotes someone who has a legit business, like running a daycare out of their home. Or it describes a mom who regularly telecommutes. None of these options applies to me.

Le sigh. How do you answer this question if your regular day-to-day job is being a mom? Clearly I need some fresh ideas!

Level Up

I first saw her at one of our library’s baby storytimes. I don’t know what it was about her, but I could tell from just looking at her that we could be friends. Somehow after class we started chatting and I thought, “Yeah, I like this one. I think we’re the same person!” Of course, admitting as much to her would kill any budding romance, so I just casually said, “See you next week.” Each week at storytime I tried to sit next to her and her daughter. We’d giggle at our baby’s antics and make little comments about what they were up to outside class. Eventually we exchanged numbers. We texted occasionally, but I think both of us were afraid of scaring the other away, so we still held each other at arm’s length. Finally one of us got brave and we decided to meet up outside of storytime to see Santa together at some store. Milestone! Her husband came along too, so I got to met him. Double milestone!

Since then we’ve been on a couple dates outside the walls of the library, mostly meeting up at the park. Last week we set a tentative park play date for an upcoming afternoon. But, that day it rained cats and dogs. We lamented the weather over text and promised we’d try again for next week. I was bummed but started trying to figure out what my son and I would do to while away the afternoon. Then I got an unexpected text: “Want to come over to our house to play?” Whoa. Level up. Meeting at her house makes it real. It solidifies the deal. Its like when Carrie asked Mr. Big, “You wanna come up?” Such a simple phrase with so much implied. What if we go and her house smells like 20 cats? What if her daughter has no toys and the kids just amble about randomly getting into trouble? What if my son breaks something? What if my son is mean to her daughter? What if we find out while forced to sit and talk together that we have nothing in common? We reached a new milestone, one that would make or break us.

But, my friend already knew I had nothing else planned, so I accepted. The whole drive there I’m inwardly freaking out, and outwardly reassuring my son with phrases like “This will be fun! We’re going to see your friend!” in an effort to calm myself. We arrive and knock on the door. That small moment before she opens it is the worst. There is no going back.

She welcomes us with a big smile and there is her daughter standing next to the toy bin. They both look adorable. Her house does not smell like 20 cats, or anything else off-putting. I take off my shoes and notice my friend and I both wore the same pink flip flops. Maybe we are the same person! She offers me tea (I LOVE tea!) and even has some chips and salsa out (ohmygosh, my favorite snack in the world om nom nom). Our kids play together splendidly. My friend and I talk, getting to know each other as women beyond just so-and-so’s mom. After what feels like 5 minutes I glance at the clock and realize 90 minutes have gone by, and that I’ve eaten all her chips. All of them. And, I don’t even feel bad because we’re super comfortable around each other. Later I use her bathroom and notice she has the same hair gel I do. We ARE the same person!

I left the playdate with a big grin on my face and couldn’t wait for my hubby to get home so I could tell him everything. While I gushed to him he gave me the half-smile of amusement. “Glad you found a friend, honey,” I think is what he said. Making real, true friends based on a commonality other than your kids is hard. My library friend and I leveled up. We’re officially in a relationship!

Rest in peace, Hira. Hira, I am going to miss you terribly. I mourn for you, the baby girl you left behind, and selfishly, for what our friendship could have been.

Why my Son Watches My Little Pony

bronie

No, this isn’t him.

Since I’m “grown up” and it’s 2015 I often live with the misguided illusion that the world has been fixed by now. That the problems of my youth have been solved. That the human race is evolving to higher levels than previously achieved. Of course this is completely false, and often I’m shocked out of my comfy mental place. For example, with Ferguson I noticed that all my white friends had the same opinion of what happened, and all my black friends had a very different opinion. Also, I noticed on FB that whenever my white friends posted something about a black person, about 90% of the time it was negative. It is usually a warning like, “this guy is out from jail and on the loose!” Racism still exists? Even among those I know who would not claim to be racist? You betcha. And racism exists in my own heart, too if I’m honest.

Another example. I know a boy who loves the color pink, and I have seen with my own eyes that he gets made fun of for this reason. “Girl stuff,” even in 2015, is still considered “less than” or “other.” In popular movies created for children, girls and women are usually side characters or there is only one “token” woman in a major role who then of course has to fall in love with the main character (Ahem, the movie Planes and Lego: The Movie). I obviously, am not that cool with this idea. Having boys has made me more of a feminist than ever. (Just ask my husband how often I talk about the “Bechdel” test). I do not want my children thinking they are better than girls, or that “girl stuff” is less valid or meaningful. And I know I can’t control everything, but I can try to make a change by normalizing “girl stuff.” So when my 2 year old started showing an interest in TV, I very purposefully included My Little Pony into our regular tv rotation.  I hope that by being purposeful yet not making a big deal about this being a show marketed “for girls,” it will just be another show, and pink will just be another color. And someday when my son hears another boy declare something is “just for girls,” I hope he will think that is a very strange thing to say.

A few days ago while I was upstairs I heard my husband turn on the tv for our son. When I came downstairs I saw both of them, and my Dad!, watching My Little Pony together. It really is a great show. Triple win. I hope I’m doing my part, however small, to make the world a better place, one bronie at a time.

From Cesarean to Unmedicated Birth

My second son was born October 29th. I’ve been reflecting on his birth ever since trying to sort through everything that went down, everything I felt, and everything that happened after. I wanted to write down my “birth story.” Turns out the whole story isn’t about one day, but takes place over almost 2 years involving multiple people and places. Here I attempt a 30,000 ft view of the events, and I know even that will be too long for most to read! But, I wanted to share anyway.

My first son was born via unplanned cesarean December 2012. I went into that birth pretty clueless. Sure, my husband and I took the class offered by the hospital, which was a big help, but that was it. I didn’t read any books, talk to other mothers, or do any prep on my own other than diligently seeing my OB throughout my pregnancy. I was admitted into the hospital immediately after going in for the stress test 4 days after the baby was due. Overnight I slept best as I could in the hospital bed but periodically nurses rushed in response to the fetal distress shown on the monitors. Finally around 6am the OB said it was time to just take him out. I accepted it, not moved one way or another. I sat calmly while my husband suited up, and I was even calm as the spinal was administered. (And here I skip a lot of stuff…basically cesareans aren’t as easy as one would think) I’ll never forget that alien feeling when I first heard my son cry. “That’s my son,” I thought. In an instant, I was a mom. Mom. What a weird word, especially when it suddenly applied to me.

When I became pregnant with baby #2 I assumed I’d try for a regular birth, since that is how it is “supposed” to happen. But, I was shocked when at my first OB appointment the Dr. started talking repeat Cesarean as if it was a done deal. She told me to go ahead and schedule it because the calendar books up quickly. I left the appointment a little numb. No factors such as my health, my wishes, my recovery, etc were even discussed. Of course I’d have a repeat Cesarean. This didn’t feel right. What was wrong with trying for a regular birth? Shortly after I read an article saying that the assistance of a doula can increase your chances for a successful regular birth. After getting more serious about the hope for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and discussing the idea with my husband, we hired a doula we loved to join our team. (Check out Tara’s website here if you are considering a doula! She’s fabulous.)

Once she was on board I got really serious about this birth. I read 4 books about natural or regular birth, the best one being “Birthing from Within” recommended by our doula, Tara. I practiced relaxation techniques daily. I kept a journal to process my fears, thoughts, and emotions about the pregnancy and birth. I even connected with my inner hippie and made birth art. I was eager to hear other women’s birth stories and asked as many moms as I could to tell me theirs. I joined ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) online. I studied the risks, stats, and success rates of VBACs. I spent a lot of time thinking about and drafting a birth plan. I learned more about OBs and why they do what they do and why so many are wary of VBACs. Soon I was talking exclusively in birth lingo in online forums, understanding completely when another woman posted “I had my VBA2C at 40+3 with DH and ds8 present.”

While sitting in bible study at church 4 days after my due date I finally felt them: contractions! For some reason I knew these were the real deal. I happily marked a tally in my study booklet for each contraction, blissfully unaware at the work ahead. Once home I took a shower, shaved my legs, and dyed my hair (because of pictures, duh!). The day dragged on along with the mild contractions. That night I slept on the couch and eventually woke my husband up in the middle of the night during a false alarm. He joined me on the couch where I slept fitfully until the morning. We called our doula over and sent Ashton away to our neighbors for the day. Things didn’t get really going until about 1pm. Suddenly, the contractions took a turn and were stronger and close together. I labored at home with my husband and our doula’s help. I wanted to stay home as long as possible to avoid unnecessary interventions or pressure from the staff at the hospital. But at around 5:30pm I was ready to go. After checking in and going through triage, we set up camp in the labor and delivery room.

Here is where things got interesting. I don’t even know how to adequately describe it, and it will never fully make sense to women who haven’t also been through it. It is like the difference between reading a book about how to skydive, and actually skydiving. You can’t grasp the experience without well, the experience. Active labor is a true force of nature. An amazing, crazy, powerful, unbelievable force of nature. Like a tsunami. Suddenly it just takes you on a ride, with or without you. You are present, but you aren’t part of it. Your body has 100% taken over. Yet, there is this incredible sense of freedom in active labor. You lose control, in the best possible way. You become this powerful, primal creature. There is no past, there is no future, your whole being is focused on the present which is thrown into sharp relief, second by second. Everything else in the room melts away as you shout, moan, and move in submission to labor’s force. Your body knows what to do even though you have no idea. Your body is doing something crazy and beautiful and insane. You are partnered with God bringing forth new life, united with Mother Earth in labor’s power, and brought into this sacred sorority of all other mothers. Labor is hard, then it gets harder. When you can’t take it anymore, it gets even more difficult. When it feels impossible to go on, you somehow do.

I was tired and asked for pain relief. After all, I only got a 45 min stretch then another 1.5 hour stretch of sleep the night before. I’ve been awake for essentially over 36 hours at this point other than a couple cat naps. The nurse checked my progress and cheerfully announced I was 10cm dilated, too late for drugs, it’s almost time to push!

Now that was a crazy moment. When I heard her say there would be no drugs, I was a mixed bag of conflicting emotions. First, I cursed myself for waiting too long to ask seriously for pain relief. Then I thought, wow…I’m actually going to do this. I’m going to achieve something I never thought in 100 years I could do. I was scared and empowered at the same time.

When it was time for the baby to make his debut, the room filled with staff and supplies. The big light was lowered from the ceiling. I was told that when it’s time to push, you will instinctively know what to do. I didn’t. In a panic I asked those around me, “How do I push?” My OB calmly talked me through it. After pushing through a contraction I’d look up into my husband and doula’s faces to gather strength for the next one. After a few more contractions and the appropriately named ring of fire (holy hell that hurt), baby was out. “Look at him, look at him!” the staff exclaimed. Afraid of what I’d see I squinted open just one eye as he was lifted up. And then there it was, that first baby cry as his lungs filled with air for the first time. Suddenly the baby I’ve been day dreaming about for months is real.

The main event was over, but the room still buzzed with activity. My OB stitched me up while a nurse collected linens into the biohazard bag (and it was a big bag. Birth is messy!). My husband stood near the baby, describing to me what he saw as the staff checked him over. Utterly and completely exhausted I was too nervous to hold the baby right away in fear of dropping him. My husband held the baby skin to skin himself. After gathering up what was left of my energy, I finally held my new little boy. It felt completely normal yet bizarre at the same time. Another baby boy! You could see the plates of his skull, and the ridges where they moved during birth. I loved his bumpy head. To me it looked as if he was wearing a crown. A well-deserved crown after what we both accomplished.

levy mommy counts toes

Next up: What I learned through this process, and what I’d change about birth in general if I had a magic wand.

Safety Second

XXDos Equis’ “The World’s Most Interesting Man” is a bit of marketing genius. Clever, irreverent, humorous, quotable, even memeable. I’m a fan. One of his quotes is “Safety third.” My husband and I adopted this phrase to sum up our penchant for adventure (Climbing atop unmonitored centuries-old ruins in Ireland! Jumping off a diving board made from a log into the Wisconsin River! Skydiving!). But, soon as we had kids we recognized the need to be more careful so we modified the phrase to “safety second.”

I understand the need for safety to stay alive, and my husband actually earns his living by enforcing fire safety regulations at government labs around the country, but I reject the notion of “safety first.” If we truly lived in a safety first world, America as we know it would not exist because Christopher Columbus never would have set sail. I am OK with living with a reasonable amount of risk, even as a parent.

Today I received my weekly email about my toddler’s development. This edition was all about playground safety. I read the advice in the email, scoffing and rolling my eyes at what I felt was insane advice. Allow me to now make fun of said advice.

Always stay close by as your toddler plays and follow these safety precautions:

Um, no I will not hover over my 2 year old as he plays. I will sit on a bench and watch from a distance. I will even watch him cross the expanse of the nearby soccer field before I run after him. Exploring a field of grass isn’t going to kill him…unless there is actually a soccer game going on.

  • Make sure your child uses toddler-safe swings (with close supervision)
    • Hilarious. My 2 year old started using “big boy” swings months ago. I was at the playground with my husband and toddler when the toddler asked his dad if he could try the big boy swing. I watched my husband plop him on it and I was about to get up and shout “He’s not ready!” when my husband started pushing him and my toddler held on and did just fine. I stared at my husband in disbelief and he looked at me and shrugged saying, “he’s been doing this for the last few weeks.” When my toddler thinks he is ready (within reason), even if I’m not, I will let him try something new. How else will he grow?
  • Check metal surfaces to make sure they aren’t hot enough to burn your child.
    • Actually, I’m OK with letting him check that for himself. “Hot” is one of the first words he learned and understood. If he does touch something that is too hot at the playground I’m confident that his reflexes and brain work so that 1. he’ll immediately let go of said object and 2. know not to touch it again. He isn’t stupid.
  • Avoid equipment like see-saws and jungle gyms, which—while tempting for toddlers—require more advanced motor skills than they possess.
    • We actually built an indoor jungle gym for him this past weekend. He is gifted physically, and part of me thinks that is because we’ve always let him explore the limits of his own body, even if this meant he fell on occasion. He knows what he can and cannot do and I’ve noticed he is intuitively careful with his body when exploring because he knows what it is like to fall.

And now for the really absurd stuff:

Before you let your toddler head off to explore and play, take a good look at the playground. Evaluate it for the following:

  • Points or corners that can cause injury.
    What? How is this even practical? Pointy things are everywhere, not just at the playground! I can’t keep him from them, I have to teach him how to handle them. I’m not going to hand him a pair of scissors obviously, but c’mon. This is crazy. If I ever saw a parent going around a playground checking the corners I’d think they were nuts!
  • Cargo nets or openings wide enough to stick heads or limbs through.
    Yep, have totally let my toddler play on those cool spider web net things. And, he was fine. I’ve even seen him climb the vertical ones. Again, how the heck will he learn without facing challenges? It isn’t like the nets he is on are higher than a few inches off the ground anyway.
  • Tripping hazards, such as ropes, cables, tree roots and rocks.
    What? No tree roots or rocks? Is this serious? Toddlers trip all the time, even on smooth surfaces! This piece of advice is irrational and delusional. What is this, The Giver? Exploring nature will always be worth it in my book. Always.
  • Equipment that is not secured to the ground.
    Ok, this one I get. Next time I see a free floating, levitating platform hovering a few feet off the ground we’ll steer clear of it.
  • A ground surface that is not soft enough to offer some cushioning.
    • See note above about toddlers tripping on smooth surfaces. My toddler has tripped over his own two feet on pavement, hardwood floors, and tiles. So far, he’s still intact.

The world is safer now than it has EVER been before, at least where I live in the well-to-do antiseptic suburbs of Illinois. You know your child best, but give your kid a little credit. I think as parents we often set the bar too low for our children. They are literally born to grow, explore, be curious, ask questions, experiment, test boundaries, even fail. Why would we ever want to stunt their progression? To me, that is just cruel. How else do we think skyscrapers eventually get built? Not by adults who never experienced risk as children.