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I'm Raising A Free Range Toddler Tornado

Beige carpet. Our current apartment has beige carpet, and a toddler lives his loud toddler life on them. I’ve stepped on my fair share of blocks, pacifiers, and stuffies. Unfortunately, I’ve also stepped on too many pieces of fruit - usually banana or blueberry. Sometimes I even roll my foot over a fossilized piece of string cheese. Shep doesn’t realize he’s a tornado of a human. I can’t be mad at him. But I can definitely get annoyed with the genius who chose beige carpet.

Every mom has her own style of parenting that stems from her personality and core values. I don’t ascribe to any particular philosophy, but I’m probably more free-range than most. Yes, I totally let my toddler eat food he’s dropped. I’ve even given him food specifically because I knew he’d enjoy making a mess with it. When we visit a playground, I sit and wave him away to go play with the other kids. Almost all of them are bigger than Shep, even kids 6 months his junior. Sometimes he gets pushed around by an older kid, and I watch over my phone. He’ll cross his arms and wait for the kid to get bored with him - is he a turtle? Have I gone so free-range that my child has turned in to a wild animal?

Probably. And I’m ok with it. I’ve always been a little bit crunchy - I prefer the term “moderately crunchy”. When I was eleven I stepped on a toothpick and spent the next few weeks with my foot bandaged. But it was summer! Instead of wearing shoes I ran around barefoot on our 3 acres. It wasn’t until my mother noticed a red line creeping up my leg that we realized I had developed a blood infection - because I was always barefoot. Even under threat of losing my foot, I pranced around like a flower child. A not-so-small part of me is proud that my son is also a bit untamed.

Your Kid's Table

So it doesn’t surprise me - or seem out of the ordinary - to give my kid some freedom. He’s got bruises all over his little legs because I don’t stop him from running into things, or trying and failing to climb on the couch. I don’t hover and I don’t tell him to get down or stop doing something unless it’s going to hurt him. Even now, I see streaks of the terrible twos coming to the surface. Here’s the honest truth: I don’t feel like turning everything into a battle. Shep has wide boundaries because I don’t have the energy to keep reigning him back in every five seconds. He knows these rules are fine at home. When we’re out and about, he’s expected to sit on his bottom and use his manners. For the most part, he does a pretty good job of behaving like he’s not a wildling.

If we see the whole world as a beige carpet that’s meant to remain pristine, we’ll make ourselves sick trying to keep it that way. When we started decorating our apartment, I told my husband, “I never want to own a rug so nice that I’d be angry at my kid for ruining it.”

Diablo Carpet

At the end of the day, I’ve chosen to be a bit more laidback in my parenting because I want to choose my battles. I don’t mind that my curious toddler made a bit of a mess in my tub with crayons - he’s learning how the world works and everything is still new to him. One of the things he learns from this is that sometimes there are consequences to our actions. Sometimes, he has to help mama clean up the mess he made. Shep better count his lucky stars that I’m so lenient and understanding. Unfortunately, this damned beige carpet isn’t quite so forgiving.

How would you describe your parenting style? Which battles have you chosen as your hill to die on?

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