Thursday, July 26, 2007

Balcony Parenting

The Idaho Falls Aquatic Center has out-parented me. And don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. In fact, I’ll be implementing some of their techniques shortly. But first, a little back-story.

All three of my children are taking swimming lessons. Last year, my youngest Zack, was old enough to take a Mommy/Tot class at the local swimming pool where we lived in Utah. He hated it. While all the other toddlers complaisantly bobbed in the water with doting parents, my child would have none of it. For the length of his lesson I would stand in the shallow end while he would climb the stairs, jump into the water, climb, jump, climb, jump, until someone blew the whistle to cue the blessed end of swimming lessons (because surprisingly, standing idly in my swimming suit before watchful parents and teenage lifeguards is not my idea of a good time).

Now you’ve already heard a handful of Zack stories and can imagine my trepidation at registering him for a parentless class this summer. Not only that, but the Aquatic Center strongly discourages parents from watching lessons poolside. They ask you to observe from a balcony above the pool, complete with plate-glass windows--far from being able to swoop in and carry a belligerent child to a private time-out.

Swimming Lessons, Day One: Zack follows his sister to their class and sits, complaisantly, on the steps. He listens intently, looking at his teacher with complete adoration as only a toddler with a mini-crush can. He follows instructions and is bursting with swimming enthusiasm. And each time he enters the water his roadrunner feet pedal like crazy and he circles the shallow end like a little propeller. I’m completely enthralled; for me this is better than cable television.

Swimming Lessons, Day Four: Zack has his first blip. Tired of waiting for his turn to tour the shallow end on a floatation device pulled by his teacher, he stands at the top of the steps and jumps all the way into the water. His teacher directs him to sit in timeout at the base of the lifeguard chair. And Zack sits there sweetly until she calls him back to class: the model of obedience.

So what’s the Aquatic Center doing that I’m not? I’ve considered installing a balcony with plate glass windows in my home where I can parent (and nap) from a distance, because apparently my children are capable of making good choices in my absence. They fair nicely without me sitting on the edge of my seat, coaching their every move.

So these past few weeks I’ve learned a lot about taking a more hands-off approach in mothering my children, thanks in part to Jenny’s post called “Deep Reflections on a Wading Pool” and Sheri’s called “Playgroup Posturing.” As a result I’ve decided that from now on I’ll be doing more Balcony-Parenting, sans balcony. And don’t worry, I won’t be leaving my children home alone while I attend pottery classes and eat lunch at the Olive Garden. But I am going to back off a little and allow my children to make their choices and then either enjoy the blissful consequences of their good ones or recover from their bad ones. With the caveat that I can always swoop in when I choose.

Because in parenting there should always be a swooping clause. A swooping clause and a flotation device.

15 comments:

kara said...

love this...really made me ponder whether or not I should still a balcony too. Perhaps a nice loft in the living room or something.

Gustogirl said...

question for you. May be a silly one, but I thought I would ask anyway. I was trying to apply for blogher ads, but then they asked me the number of hits I get a day. I don't have a clue, is there a way to tell how many times your page has been viewed(other than the profile views number)?

shauna said...

I installed sitemeter AFTER I applied, so when I filled out the application I just put "I don't know." It didn't seem to work against me. But sitemeter is free, although it will take awhile to get the stats they want (hits per/month, etc.) I'd say go ahead and apply anyway.

LikeAstaR said...

So hard to admit, but i always find it semi-insulting when my child really takes to someone else.. following their actions and playing so well. NOt that I don't want my boy to be social, but hey.. I am his mom.. all tricks should be for me.. at least first!I swear that I didn't ahve a chilf or attention.. it onjly sounds that way.

Jennifer aka Binky Bitch said...

Kids ALWAYS behave for everyone besides their own Mother. It's some sort of weird wiring problem. I wonder if this problem is under warranty and can be fixed?

Karen said...

Darn, I'd have met you at Olive Garden if you were going! ;)

BlogHer or Olive Garden.....BlogHer probably doesn't have breadsticks! HA!

Aunt Carol said...

I happened on your blog from "Mr Smith etc (Amy)Love your story about your little one. Makes me remember when my "baby"(about 3 at the time) got up in the middle and decided our new kitty was hungry and put him in the refridgerator on top of our Thanksgiving Turkey. Not to worry I got the kitty out before he ate the whole turkey. Didn't have blogs in those days (he is 33 now)so I wrote poetry about the things he did. He seemed to do more than the other 3 combined. Thanks for making me remember those days.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100%, it's easy for worriers like us to do too much. However, I've also seen teh results of completely absent parenting and it isn't pretty. Overall I don't think our kids are going to suffer all that much from our wellmeaning though somewhat officious parenting. At least I hope so. I guess I won't know until my kids are all grown up. :-) I love your blog.

M

shauna said...

M,
I agree with you. Parenting requires a healthy balance of hands-on teaching, modeling, reminding, disciplining as well as the ability to stand back and let your kids practice choosing well. I hoover--that's my natural tendency. So I have to force myself to stand back and let them use their free will without any coaching from me. (But there's always that swooping clause.)

Motherhood is a tough gig...

Mama Zen said...

Balcony-parenting sounds like a great idea to me. I admit that I have some helicopter Mama tendencies (I'm getting better).

shauna said...

Aunt Carol,
Thanks for visiting my blog (I love Amy's, by the way). Zack would probably put the kitty in the fridge. Him and your 33-year old son must be kindred spirits. In fact, the last couple of days he's given me material for countless posts (including the flooding of a bathroom and two vomiting episodes at the local swimming pool). No one can say parenthood is boring, that's for sure. :)

shauna said...

Karen,
Maybe we should see if Jane wants to come. I LOVE Olive Garden... (especially the breadsticks!) :)

Gustogirl said...

This story illustrates what a great mom you are. He knows how to behave and respond in situations where you are not present because you have taught him. Now, he may not do it always at home, but aren't we all at our worst around those who know us best(ie family). Give yourself a big pat on the back because it is a tribute to you to see him respond the way he does in swim class.

shauna said...

Thanks, Gustogirl, I needed that! :)

mamacita chilena said...

hahha, funny stuff!

I got a kick out of your blog...it was linked from http://threedayblog.blogspot.com/ so you have Rachel to thank for my visit :)