Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lectured by Lito

Thumper had a fabulous time playing with two girls, about five and three, at the playground today. They were there with "Lito" and "Lita," which I'm guessing to be Spanish nicknames for Grandpa and Grandma. Perhaps a shortening of "abuelito" and "abuelita," which are, again perhaps, affectionate versions of "abuelo" and "abuela?" This is all conjecture based on my extensive ignorance of Spanish.

Anyhoo, he had a fabulous time. But Lito's extreme concern for Thumper's welfare was starting to make me nervous. He stopped the swing when Thumper was still 20 feet away. He gasped and sighed and jumped every time Thumper so much as wobbled a little. He kept instructing the little girls to take care of him. I began to take it personally. I wondered silently if he would show such concern if I were female, and then wondered if I would be so cavalier about Thumper's safety if I were female. I let him climb on his own. I even let him fall sometimes, but nothing serious, like a four-foot dive off the playground equipment. I let him approach the swings without yelling at him, but I wouldn't have let him walk right into them. I don't think I let him get into dangerous situations, but then I thought about the various scratches and abrasions on his left cheek, his elbow, his knees, his shin, etc., and I thought to a stranger, it might look bad.

Then a dog showed up. On a leash, with an owner. I don't know dog breeds, but the top of its head came to about Thumper's chin. Thumper yelled "Doggie! Doggie! Woowoowoowoowoowoo! Doggie!" and headed in that direction. Usually Thumper approaches dogs but doesn't get closer than 4 or 5 feet. I followed close behind. The dog seemed much calmer than most. I asked its owner if it was OK if Thumper got closer, and she said, "Yes. Roxie's a good girl." Roxie didn't seem at all excited, which I suppose explains why Thumper got closer than usual. The owner asked, "Do you want to pet her?" and patted the dog's side. Thumper patted her gently, and I said, "Good job. Do nice to the doggie." Then he smacked her a good one, and I picked him up, carried him away, and said, "No, do nice to the doggie. No hitting."

That was it. The dog didn't react to Thumper's hit at all. The interaction lasted no more than a few seconds. But as I walked away, Lito came up to me and lectured me, though in a very friendly and smiling sort of way. He told me I should be more careful with the boy, especially with dogs. The dog respects me because I'm so big, but because Thumper's right at eye level, that dog has no respect for him, and bad things can happen. He knows because he used to be an emergency room surgeon.

"Ah!" I thought. "That explains a lot." I thanked him, and we walked back to the car. I struggled with some resentment. Did he think he needed to warn me because I'm the dad and am probably just filling in for the mom for the afternoon? Would he have said something to a woman? Was he right?

I don't like to think I put the boy in danger. I like to think that I let him explore and discover things for himself. I like to think that I'm helping him not to be afraid of the world around him. I see kids at the playground all the time that fall apart at the slightest injury or who don't want to be pushed too high on the swings or who don't want to climb too high or get too dirty, and I think it's because they have protectors who follow them around telling them how dangerous everything is.

But then again, maybe I'm really going to regret it when he cracks his skull open or gets suddenly mauled by a dog that seemed quite calm a moment before.


Anonymous said...

I think you have a great balance. Yes bad things can happen, but they can happen anywhere at any time. You can't be scared of the world. You are letting Thumper explore his kid-friendly environment with a watchful eye. Yes, the dog could have bitten him, but you did ask the owner before T did anything. ER docs see a lot of bad stuff, but that's usually all they see. Take it with a grain of salt.

I, Rodius said...

Thanks, that's kind of the feeling I got. Balanced and salty grains is what I'm shooting for.

Jennie said...

Don't take it personally - you did everything right with the dog. You know how some women feel the need to let everyone know their opinion? He's just like that, only with a doctor's ego in addition. S'all good.

She Said said...

Yeah, I know all to well what you're talking about. I'm one of those moms who followed my son around warning him of the dangers of everything. To my defense, that is how my mother raised me, and she so lovingly passed on that unwelcome worry gene to me. I am actively trying to get better about it though. My son is now 5 and isn't as fearful of things he once was. My daughter is almost 3 and she's fearless and stubborn. I think I'm making progress.

For me it is hard to find the balance between letting them fall (so to speak) and preventing it from happening in the first place. I may have pulled back too much recently when my son got hurt during soccer practice. I didn't want to seem like the overprotective mother and run out there to him, so I just sat back and hollered from the side, "You're ok! You're ok!" All the other moms looked at me like I was crazy. I asked, "should I go out there?" They all nodded their heads as if to collectively say, "Duh!"

Anyway, good luck with defining your balance. It's not an easy thing to do. At least it hasn't been for me!

I, Rodius said...

Heh. Doctors have egos? Really?

Oh god, soccer field etiquette. I have so much to look forward to!

suttonhoo said...

you're a really good dad, rodius. I can see it in the pictures you post of Thumper: your little boy is so solid and alive and engaged. that comes from good parenting.

lito is lito: with his own history and hangups. he also comes from a culture that has a more generous sense of responsibility -- a good thing, I think, but hard to adjust to in our culture where we don't spill over our social boundaries much.

love him a little for it, and then throw away all the advice you can't use. ;)

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