By Laura Simon
When I was new to motherhood, I kept reading about this mythological concept that my sleep-deprived brain couldn’t wrap itself around: the sweet spot. The sweet spot is the stage in parenting where your kids haven’t yet reached the angst of adolescence but are still largely self-sufficient: they can be trusted not to talk to a stranger or drown in a pool if you look away for thirty seconds. In fact – this image has always stuck with me – moms in the sweet spot can take their kids to the pool and (gasp!) read a book in a lounge chair.
I love reading books in lounge chairs.
I’m not quite to the sweet spot yet. My boys, at 6 and 8, are pretty much close. When we go to the pool or park, I keep them within my peripheral vision, but I don’t have to be an arms’ length away. However, I also have a three-year-old girl who is bent on mayhem and destruction. If it can be climbed, broken, or generally turned into a weapon, she will find it. She’s fearless and independent, and I hope she keeps both those traits for the rest of her life. I also hope she doesn’t apply them to driving a car.
So while I could, perhaps, read a book while my boys play, my daughter pretty much ensures that I’ll be pouring myself into a swimsuit and joining her in the pool for the rest of the summer. And I’m kind of glad for that, because I’ve learned something about the sweet spot that I hope I’ll remember when I fully arrive: just because your kiddo can stay alive without your watchful eye doesn’t mean he’s ready for you to stop watching him completely.
In recent weeks, at both the park and the pool, I’ve found myself parenting other people’s elementary-aged children, only to discover the parent having a relaxing moment with a book or a phone or a cup of coffee.
I don’t begrudge them that book or cup of coffee, but friends, my three-year-old needs all my attention and more (remember: mayhem and destruction). While I’m all about the village, I shouldn’t have to explain to your ten-year-old that the raucous game of keep-away shouldn’t happen in the toddler section of the playground. And I shouldn’t have to tell your nine-year-old that the concept of sharing doesn’t mean that my three-year-old has to share her kickboard right away just because said nine-year-old has followed her relentlessly around the pool, asking every thirty seconds. And for the love, people, I have my own eight-year-old. I don’t want to play Hotwheels with yours while you read the last three chapters of Fifty Shades of Grey. (True story.)
I’m grateful for the culture of moms who notice things I can’t because I’m trying to watch three kids simultaneously. I don’t mind helping out another mom or picking up the slack, and I definitely don’t mind when another mama calls my kid on inappropriate behavior. But it is just not fair to get your relaxation on at the expense of a toddler mom. Remember what your own toddler was like? Yeah…moms of littles have enough on their plates.
When all three of my kids are in the sweet spot, I hope I’ll remember to seat myself close to the action. I hope I’ll remember to keep at least one ear open at all times. I hope I’ll be quick to put the book down and intervene…because even good kids have moments where they need to be parented. I hope I won’t presume upon other moms to do a job that’s still mine. Because this parenting gig doesn’t end when the kids aren’t little.
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