It’s never good when you get a text at work from your husband with the word “fracture” in it, and the immediate phone conversation with your child starts with, “well, I was pretending to be a bird…”.
Our Baby Monkey is what some might describe as a “high energy child”. In fact, I first learned of this “category” of children when someone was describing MY child. Sure, she can sit there for HOURS reading novels (yup, she’s read the entire Harry Potter series TWICE) quietly without so much as a glimpse from her pages, or a word from her mouth.
But that is her quiet alter ego.
On the field, she runs as fast as any boy her age. She was brought up in a daycare as the only girl among ten boys. One day, a mother remarked on the fact that she enjoyed watching my daughter, a girl, running ahead of the pack of boys.
Years went by, this same Baby Monkey picked up swimming, martial arts and dappled in gymnastics and ice skating. Her favorite part of a play structure is the monkey bars and of course you all remember how she fractured her elbow last summer. She can appear deceptively harmless when sitting there silently reading her books, but take her books away, and she can swim across an Olympic size pool, kick her way across the dojo, and jump up onto a 5 feet high mat from the spring platform and do the mandatory “ta da!” without breaking a sweat.
I nearly fainted with shock and pride when Monkey King decided to take Plumster up the lift after just a day of kid’s beginner’s ski lesson last year during our first family ski trip. You see, that is just how Monkey King operates. He has absolute faith in his Baby Monkey, and believes in self correction and self discipline. MK shot this footage riding down on his snowboard backwards the entire way.
And so it was with this same faith and belief in his Baby Monkey that Monkey King allowed Plumster to pretend to be a bird, flying down a 5 feet play structure platform, TEN times in a row. At first he felt “uneasy”, and “wonder if it was unsafe when she first jumped.” But after a couple of times, he figured, “well, she will figure out if she can do it or not herself.” WHAT?! I nearly fainted with shock and disbelief when he told me his logic and reasoning after I came rushing home from work after getting the said text at work. My first reaction was a strong question of his ability to parent MY CHILD. How dare he let this mishap occur on his watch?!
Of course I didn’t let any of this out of my mouth. I counted ten, well, more like fifty, in my head. I simply said, “You are her father. You should know the safety boundary and parent her. ” But what I really wanted to say was, “How could you not stop her when she was pretending to be a bird? I mean, don’t you know that our child does not have a pair of wings?!!!” With the sorry state that Plumster was in, limping around in pain, I didn’t have the heart to leash out my frustration.
We iced her foot and went to the pediatric orthopedic clinic that we visited just a short six months ago. There she got her three view X-rays: AP, oblique, lateral. The words, “THERE IS NO OBVIOUS FRACTURE” that came out of the orthopod’s mouth was the best Christmas present this year. We had the choice of a hard cast or a moon boot. We chose the moon boot so that we don’t have to deal with the hassle of having to keep the hard cast dry all the time like we did with her arm.
At work, I discussed what happened with my colleagues. “She is very lucky that she has both her mom and dads’ parenting style,” said one of my colleagues. That remark struck the core of our issue. I realized that we are both careful parents. It’s just that Monkey King and I have very different ideas of how to teach our child the concept of safety. When he watches Baby Monkey, he prefers to stand back and observe and offer help if asked. A day with Dad is free flowing, and Baby Monkey usually has lots of fun as evident by the overflowing Lego blocks, her dress-up clothes and stuffed animals in their various pretend states all over the house upon my return. My style is more structured. I usually plan out the entire day, mixing indoor and outdoor activities; making sure that we get both work and play time in; and that we get our house chores done by the end of the day as well. A day with Mom is productive and Baby Monkey usually has lots of fun and a sense of accomplishment as evident by her newly folded dress-up clothes and games after we played with them, her organized dresser with freshly laundered clothes that were folded and put away by her, well practiced piano pieces, and freshly prepared dinner with Plumster’s help on the table, upon MK’s return. She might prefer MK’s way when she is a bit older, and realizes that laundry and cooking aren’t necessarily fun games per se. But right now, my six year-old likes to help and I am harvesting that energy.
Do I hover? Probably a little. I stand close by her when she is on monkey bars, and ready to catch her if she loses her grip. I accompany her into the x ray room, fussing over the lead apron to protect her from excessive radiation. Do I baby her? Probably a little. I hug her close and tight any time she wants, be it in the middle of dinner, play, or walk. I still stay with her to help her go to sleep. We’ve abandoned sleep training years ago. With my colleague’s remark, I realize that Plumster needs both her father’s self correction and her mother’s nurturing style to flourish. She gets to experiment and test her boundary with Dad, and gets to feel safe and protected with Mom.
Now that the moon boot is on, Plumster clunks around the house walking and getting herself to places again. I watch her: fearless, without any self pity, and I feel nothing but pride in my wingless baby bird.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I am certain that there will be many more situations where our patience and beliefs will be tested. There will be more differences to be ironed and worked out. I am just glad that I have MK as my partner in this very adventurous journey we called parenting.