Sunday, 2 March 2014

Curling Parent

I’m afraid this week’s blog is just about a week off being topical. But hey …it is still one of the many things that kept my brain ticking over this week. So here I am. Sharing it with you, my computer, and hopefully, my silent readers.

Curling Parents is a term I came across this week. You may already know it, but it was new to me. It refers to overparenting of a child.  And yes, it is related to that most curious of Olympic sports. Executed with those bizarre tools: a few brooms and some stones, carefully arranged on a patch of ice. Mostly by amateur sportsmen and women, that much missed category at the Olympics. It is the shoes and their gliiiide that appeals the most to me. I would love to try them sometime.

The Curling Parent refers not only to those parents, who sweep all obstacles out of the way for their precious little ones. It also pertains to that certain frenzy attached to the vigorous sweeping, and the distinct – perhaps even desired – possibility of bumping into other stones sending them flying out of orbit. The term is of Scandinavian origin and is close in meaning to Helicopter Parents. Although it is a little unkinder…

The term made instant sense to me. And made me feel guilty. (Another one of these unhelpful knee-jerk reaction. Sigh.) It has sparked off a host of thoughts. About modern parenthood. And me as a mother. Overparenting? Me? Probably. In trying to do it just right. All the time.

This week we went to a soft play session.. you know... doing our thing. Digger roaming, me watching him, but also the other kids and their parents. Having your own kid I think opens your hearts to all children. I always loved children, but now I see their little beings more clearly. Delicious, funny, cheeky, curious and so much else. 

And then suddenly, it struck me that all of the parents were occupied with their own children. Exclusively. All 25-30 of them. Not one of them were actually letting their children roam. Or at least no more and two feet away. And there was only little interacting between the children. I’m not exaggerating. It was striking. And it felt claustrophobic, despite the open plan of the area. And then… as a punch in my stomach I recognised myself in it. Especially, a year ago when Digger was just over a year. My eyes were clued to him and his every move. Anxiously getting to know him. And I am still doing that.

I thought of my own childhood. And whether our own parents would have been this obsessively omnipresent. Frantically sweeping the ice in front of us. I think not. In fact I know they weren’t. Our parents drank coffee, smoked fags and chatted when they met up with the offspring, the sex rubbish as one parent of that generation recently put it. It wasn’t entirely unkind. It was just the 70s. I recall pictures of me and my brother, aged 1 and 2, exploring the world far away from the parents, and our parents being occupied with themselves and their mates, rather than us. We knew where to find them, or at least a parent, and so felt free so venture off. And to come back. They trusted us to do both. And mostly they were right to…

My thoughts wander of to us parents a safe bases for our children, as places for them to return to, in order to refuel. Emotionally. Them wandering off, exploring the world, only to return a regular intervals for a hug, a biscuit, a quick drink and a kiss, and then off again.

I wonder whether I might be a better safe base, if I let Digger wonder off, and come back – on his own account. If I stay put. Rather than teaching him that I will come running if he twitches. Of course there is a time and space for either. But for all the sitting close and observing him, as I described in my last blog, should I step back a bit more? I am beginning to think so. There is more trust and thus potential development in stepping back.

All these thoughts coincide with one of those quantum leaps I see so regularly in Digger. This week it was interest in other children, he was actually playing with them! And he started venturing off on his own at the playground. Now I can even have grown up conversations while he roams! I haven’t really been able to do that since he moved in 18 months ago. At 95 cm he is turning into a very confident young man. And I could burst with pride when he does his own thing. The poise. The self containment. The concentration.

So what does this have to do with adoption? Well, I wonder whether being a Curling Parent is another Achilles heal of mine. As an adoptive parent. It may of course just be what I would be as a parent no matter how I arrived at parenthood. But I think I am over acutely aware of… everything regarding Digger. I try to be. Too hard, possibly.

‘Do we, as adoptive parents, over-supervise our children?’ I asked a fellow adopter. He paused. Then “There may be a tendency… We always wonder about whether it is normal or down to being adopted.” I don’t know what you, who reads this, may think. But I wonder whether he isn't right. Perhaps because we are more anxious, having spent waaaayyyyy longer than birthparents from ‘conception’ to a child of our own nestling in our arms. We are older, we are first timers, and it all feel very precarious and fragile. I certainly am a first time parent. Of an only child. I fuzz. I overthink and overanalyse and read too much. But I am learning. And Digger is my supreme toddler-sized teacher. I love it.


  1. You might be right about this - certainly being a single parent to an only child can get a bit, well, intense! But on the other hand, my friend let her toddler 'roam' at a soft play centre recently and he managed to fall on the only non-soft thing in the place and smash out his two front teeth! So, yeah, finding the balance is important! And now to over-analyse where the balance might be . . . :)

  2. Of course, your memories of your own childhood will be about you as a much older child.
    I think you will find you allow your child more freedom as he grows, which is just as it should be.
    I wonder if part of the 'extra' supervision from adopters is down to the greater likelihood of adopted children being socially and emotionally delayed. I have watched my birth son wander off and occupy himself from the age of one, whereas my adopted sons weren't ready to occupy themselves until they were much older.
    Though, the first time parent thing is very true. People are way more protective and worried about first children, I think, regardless of how they got them.
    So, you have all possible reasons to be a bit of a 'curler' parent. It doesn't sound all that bad to me, there will always be plenty of obstacles you can't remove, you needn't add more.

  3. Thanks for your comments and reassurance - and for taking your time!
    Poor kid minus front teeth. I bet his mum would have felt awful, Suddenly mum.
    And frogotter, you are quite right. Not least that I was somewhat older. And yes, there will always be obstacles.

  4. Pickle's Mummy4 March 2014 at 07:27

    I think this is spot on. I'm like this with Pickle and although I pretend not to be I'm sure people notice my eyes flicking every couple of seconds to her wherever we are. She actually doesn't allow me to helicopter parent (and yes, I do use that term about myself) Because she's an independent and confident little lady. But right at the beginning that was the problem, she had to learn who I was and not to go up to everyone and anyone, reaching up to them for a cuddle. 7 months in and I'm slowly learning to relax but it's a slow process and one that's only developing because I notice that Pickle is definitely connecting and attaching to me. However, at the slightest hint of a break or plateau in connection I get my rotor blades up to full speed and I'm off around the room!
    I think it'll get easier, I think we'll learn to relax a bit. But don't let anyone make you feel guilty about doing what a best for your child, 18 months is still a short amount of time.
    I had someone tell me the other day that I had to "learn to let go of Pickle". At 22 months old and 7 months in I was shocked that someone would suggest such a thing. And my gut reaction is to say "no, I'm not letting her go".
    You follow your instincts, they will serve you well. X

  5. Thank you Pickle's mummy. :) A fellow curler! Everything in its own sweet time. And other people and their well meaning advice… sigh. I have also been told to let Digger go - but he is only now ready, and in small doses. Thank you Frogotter for pointing out the difference between biological children and adopted children here.
    I agree wholeheartedly about trusting your instincts, Pickle's Mummy. They know. Trouble is.. for me, sometimes at least, know when it is knee jerk and when it is true instincts. Anyway it is all a phase as they say. I try to remind myself just how quickly time goes. Digger is growing so fast. So now I actually sometimes miss him, when he is off with his digger in the sand pit, all contained in his own world..
    Thanks again. So great to know we can share out here! Have a good day. ;) x