This weekend we were pretty busy. We did more things on Saturday and Sunday than we normally do on a weekend (if we’re not traveling) because I am the laziest person in our family. We were out and about, enjoying the fall weather and having a good time. As usual however, after we spend a weekend surrounded by Dutch families I am once again reminded that I need to practice parenting like the Dutch.
This weekend we had an expat club meeting on Saturday and the Dragon Boat Festival on Sunday. I took some time during these events to think more about the Dutch people themselves and in particular the parents and kids. I’m still trying to figure them out- understand why I read things that say they’re so successful with their relationships with their children (go ahead, google Dutch parent/child relationships), and understand how I can become less of a ‘hoverer’ so to speak.
Saturday night was an expat club meeting in Tilburg at 4pm. It was a great turnout and held at a bar/restaurant that has the playground in the back. That’s so common here, I have to say it’s pretty brilliant. The restaurant soon grew too crowded for us, so we made our way to the playground and then eventually out to dinner with some other expat friends. The place we took them is pretty new for the area- and serves up pizza and pasta (really fast and really cheap). Our favorite thing about this restaurant is that there is a play room on the second floor with a completely enclosed climbing structure/ball pit/etc. The boys LOVE it.
My husband is really great about being the one to monitor the kid situation, so he took the first round of watching the guys in the play area while I stayed at the table. After a bit, we traded and I hung out with them. Besides our three, there was our friend and maybe 10 other kids of varying ages. You know I was the only other parent there, right? Because I was. Why? Why did I feel like I had to sit there and monitor them? Why couldn’t I just be ok, know they weren’t going to go anywhere- or be taken (honestly, that’s my last thought over here)? Because in MY mind- my biggest thing is that they’re going to get hurt.
As I type that I actually asked myself – hurt with what? And how? And so? They need to learn.
So yesterday… we went to the Dragon Boat festival in Tilburg. Along the canal there was a street filled with beer tents, inflatable bounce house things, a food stand, and on the side of the canal were the team tents. Since my husband was rowing- our ‘home base’ for the day was pretty much in the tent area watching the Dragon Boats finish. However, there were also pretty big spans of time in between their races and we (of course) had to see the bounce house things.
Chaos. Total chaos. But isn’t that the point?
I remember back in SC there was a bounce house place we used to go to with the boys- they had ‘toddler mornings’ where kids over the age of 6 or 7 were ‘discouraged’ but not disallowed. You know I was filled with contempt if I saw a child who looked too old to be (gasp!) bouncing in one of the things. I would hurry the boys from one bounce thing to another if I thought they were in danger of being jumped on.
Oh my gosh. Was I serious?
So here I have learned that with bounce houses- anything goes. They are not monitored, there is no limit to the number of kids that can go in them. There is additionally no age limit either. They are just gigantic air-filled germ-colonies colorfully gyrating and beckoning my kids.
I watched the Dutch parents set their kids loose- and minutes later their child would return crying. Quick hug, and they would go back in. Rinse and repeat. The parents weren’t worried…they were there to comfort their kid, and then move on. So what was my problem? Why couldn’t I relax just for a minute?
Because I can’t. Those things fill me with dread. I still think of my boys as too little, too easily injured. They’re a head injury waiting to happen.
But I need to let go a little bit more. I need to just exhale and say- so what? So what if they get their head bonked. I did! I clearly remember being in those things- or things like that and hurting myself. It happens. They’re kids and they’re going to get banged up. B actually got a pretty good smack on the side of his head. When I saw the red mark I was yelling in there (hovering on the edge) ‘Are you ok?!!’ and he just laughed and kept going.
The Dutch must think I’m crazy- but HOW. HOW DO THEY DO IT???