I remember the parent I was when Brenden was 9 months old. I was constantly worried about where he was, what he was doing, and whether he was on his schedule. He was fed every 2 hours, he took a nap at specific times (which means we missed out on some fun things), and we always knew what to expect. Was it strict for everyone? Yes. Did we do just fine? Absolutely. He thrived and grew and I'm pretty sure he hasn't suffered any negative effects from it. Was it perfect? Of course not. But I'm one of those people that believes there is never a perfect way to parent. We're all just limping along, doing the best that we know how.
The other day I realized that I am no where near the same parent I was then. I was sitting on the floor, watching Lauren crawl towards the sliding glass doors, impressed by the fact that the vertical blinds entertained her. She banged on the glass, checked out the floor vent, and then realized there was a balloon under the table. She squealed with delight and took off after it, grabbing it with both hands and gnawing on it like it was a big old apple. Suddenly, she remembered the dog food in the kitchen and she was off, which was my cue to go after her to save the dogs from starving.
"And...?" you're probably thinking. There is nothing surprising about her actions. She's a baby that is learning and exploring her surroundings. The change is me. Brenden would have neverbeen near those sliding glass doors. I'm not sure what would have scared me so much since they don't open on their own. He would have never ever been allowed to play with a balloon, much less chew on it. What if it popped and little pieces were all over the floor? What if he ate some of it? (Like he would have been thinking about eating anything after having a balloon pop in his face.)
Then, that night, Tim came home to talk about the budget with me. He had a piece of paper and a pen, and made the mistake of sitting on the floor, which is Lauren's domain. Within moments she was climbing all over him, intent on looking at the new "toys" he had brought her. It's amazing how difficult it is to juggle three small things like a piece of paper, a pen and a baby. Eventually, he gave up and let her happily crunch and chew on the paper, which entertained her for about 8 seconds. Did he give her one of the 384 toys that we have laying around? Of course not. He gave her THE PEN. Yes, my husband handed our 9 month old a pen, which she used to try to draw herself a goatee like her grandpa. (Which was hilarious!) I thought for sure he would take it from her after that, but no. He simply clicked it closed and handed it right back. And I thought he was the "strict" one.
The main difference between us then and us now is how we stress about the little things. Is Lauren allowed to do anything and everything she wants? No, but we aren't following her everywhere, worrying about what trouble she might get in to. Do we sit behind her, carefully making sure she never falls? No. We aren't watching her get hurt, but we aren't keeping her from trying out her new balance or the ability to sit from standing. Do I write down every little thing that needs to be done when we leave her with someone? Heck no. Anyone I leave her with is someone that I know will take great care of her, and Brenden, too. They won't follow every rule, and things will be done differently, but it won't bother me one bit. As long and they come back happy, healthy and in one piece then that is all that matters.
However, if they come home raving about how they were allowed to drink all the pop they want, we'll definitely have a problem. I have my limits.