Safety and independence

Today on our walk with all the kids, my nanny and I talked about how we want to balance safety and independence when we’re out and about with them. Since you can’t program young children like robots, there is certainly a significant amount of repetitiously stated guidance that’s inescapable. In order to teach the twins not to grab and pull at flowers, for example, we have to be willing to remind them, over and over, to use a single finger touch. Though that gets wearing, I do view it as necessary, and I don’t fundamentally mind it. It’s part of my job.

But not all repetitious statements are useful. And when one’s desired outcome is not truly realistic, there can also be added elements, including frustration and impatience on the part of both parent and child, that make the experience not fun, not effective, and not desirable in the long-term.

I had the idea that we would work on training the twins to walk only on the sidewalk so that they’d never get close to the street. So on the walk I started saying, as I have been since they have been walking, “Sidewalk, please!” I said it a lot. But we had brought soccer balls along, and none of us have the control to make sure the balls never get onto the tree lawn. Additionally, there are fun things to explore on the tree lawns in our neighborhood: sand boxes, toys, tables and benches, etc. It is not going to work to try to keep all the kids out of that zone. The bottom line is that we want to keep them out of the street, and for the most part off people’s lawns (except where they’ve been invited in). Other than that, I was getting too granular, tending too much toward micro-managing. They need to have some freedom to explore.

What we arrived at was that instead of creating a series of inflexible rules to enforce, we need instead to work on communication, and one or two really big deal rules/boundaries we want to teach them to follow. One is, to stop when we say stop. To that end, I enlisted Hazel’s help in a game of “Red Light, Green Light”. I had her run down the sidewalk in front of me, and stop when I said, “Red Light!” and go when I said, “Green Light!” And then, at her request, we swapped. She loved that part best. We will teach that game to the twins, and they will get used to stopping when we call that direction.

I may, if I am in public places by myself with the twins where they could get in trouble or separated from me too easily, get a rope for them to hold onto. Friends often suggest that I just tie them together: that way, if they run, at least it’s only in one direction, and I’ll be able to catch them (at least for now). Though silly and humorous, the idea has appeal, I have to admit. I can’t run fast enough to get to both twins when they’re heading in opposite directions, after all.

Logistics are definitely more complicated with the two, that’s for sure. But we’ll figure it out as we go, as we’ve done ever since we had our first kid, almost five years ago now. Amazing, that is.


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