Parenting without a Leash

Over at PAIL, I was the moderator in charge of November’s Monthly Theme Post Topic regarding “how long is your leash?” My thought process behind the prompt was to find out if people felt their ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) backgrounds affected their parenting styles, or if it had just evolved as a natural facet of who they are as people and what their children’s personalities are like. (see the list of suggested writing prompts here)

As I sit down to (finally) write my contribution to the topic, I find myself not quite sure what to say. Thus far, I’ve found myself to be a pretty relaxed parent. I’m definitely the most “hands off” of my friends around here, but as a wise, wise friend of mine said, it’s easy to idealize yourself as a certain “type” of parent when the kiddo is little. Once the cute baby turns into the rambunctious toddler, all bets are off, and it becomes a LOT HARDER to always parent in the way in which you envisioned.

  • Patience, honey. We need to take turns.
  • Are you throwing a fit, Stella? Yes. We don’t throw fits to get our way. Okay, Mommy. [commence more fit throwing]
  • Stella, what’s wrong? I so sad, Mommy. I’m sorry you’re sad baby, why are you sad? I cry I so sad, Mommy. Yes, Stella, I can see that, but WHY are you crying? Because I so sad, Mommy.

And round and round we go…

My daughter turns two next week, and suddenly I’m at this precipice of realizing my parenting “style” (if you could even call it that) could drastically be changing as we head into the 2 & 3 year old territory. This slightly terrifies me as I’m about one month out from adding an infant to the mix, and Stella is what one would call a handful lately.

Thus far I’ve given her a pretty long leash, and I don’t think that my ALI background has changed how I parent at all. I somehow escaped the non-stop worrying about things like SIDS when she was little (IMO, this was thanks to bed sharing and nursing), and even as a newbie toddler at the park, I let her get quite a ways away from me as she explored her environment and accumulated her bumps and bruises. I stay a ways away and let her duke it out with other little friends for toys (with some gentle correction about taking turns if needed), but I definitely have never told her she has to give a toy up just because another kid wanted it. That’s not sharing – that’s giving up your turn without reason. I’d rather teach the other kid about patience and taking turns, and the same goes for MY kid when she wants a toy that a friend is using (or an iPad that her Daddy is on!).

As I read over that last paragraph though, I think about one of my best friend’s kids, and it would be hard for her to parent like that. Her son is a climbing, running, hitting ball of energy, and whooo-boy, that would be so much different than my daughter who can spend time contentedly playing chai tea party with herself as often as she likes to run in circles around the kitchen island.

So there ya go… I don’t feel like my ALI background has affected my parenting, but I do think my child’s individual personality has allowed me to parent in the way I have thus far. That being said, all bets are off for how my parenting style can (and will) evolve and she grows and changes and as a second child is added to the mix.

Parenting – it’s quite the journey, isn’t it?


  1. Great post! I loved this topic, but just didn’t get a chance to get it all out. I am with you, IF hasn’t changed how I parent, I try not to hover, but my husband totally does! I also agree with you that your children’s demeanor or personality will dictate or at least contribute to how someone parents.

    Side note: Avery had more tantrums in the month leading up to two, than she has had in the first two months of being two. A few other people I know said the same thing, once they hit two you might get a break from the constant tantrums.

    1. Gosh, I so hope you’re right!

  2. I catch myself hovering…I literally have to stop and tell myself to back off! Especially at three. Three was harder than when she was two. Even now with play dates it so much easier when they just go play and I don’t know what’s going on (she’s four now). If I hear too much I find myself wanting to jump in and correct nora…when they can figure it out themselves!

  3. I agree that in general I don’t think my ALI journey has greatly impacted my parenting style. I go off a lot of mothering instincts but I enjoy watching Seedling explore her world without me interfering. But she, like Stella, is a pretty chill and easy going baby.

    I do think that while you may make some adjustments to accommodate another baby and a exuberant toddler, I think your general parenting style will hold even as you go into the new frontier – I have a hard time seeing you turn into a helicopter parent or a hypochondriac. 🙂

  4. mcmissis · · Reply

    In that paragraph about your best friend’s son, is your “best friend” secretly me and her “son” actually BOTH my (currently not in my womb) daughters? 🙂

    And yes, older toddlers are on a whole different planet than the babies they once were. Parenting them with the amount of patience you (the general you) strive for is sometimes just not gonna happen, and not even close :/ BUT you also know them so much more amd love them so much differently that I think, it totally balances out.

  5. I definitely agree that my parenting style is dictated by E’s personality. She is cautious and wants reassurance and help a lot and she doesn’t play independently, so I have a shorter leash than I think I’d otherwise have.

  6. theurbanjunglegym · · Reply

    Interesting topic! I think my ALI journey definitely influenced my parenting style, in that it inspired me to make an effort to be a non-anxious, non-hovering parent. I am an anxious person (as anyone who reads my blog when I’m pregnant would know!) but I decided after Smudgie was born that I did not want our lives together ruled by the fears that made me such a mess when we were struggling to get pregnant with him. So I made a conscious decision not to do anything that fed the fears– no baby-alarm monitors to deal with SIDS fears, just rationalizing thoughts (and I did release that fear pretty quickly). On the playground I force myself to let him try to climb, run, and handle things on his own before stepping in. He takes lots of tumbles, but he is also a brave, confident boy and I am glad that he has a belief in his own capability. It isn’t my natural parenting style to be this way, but I think it’s important for his growth so I make the effort to remain more hands-off than I would otherwise be.

  7. […] what kind of freedom you’ll let them have and at what age. I actually wrote a little about Parenting without a Leash about 18 months ago, and now that Harvey is here and Stella is a bit older, I’d actually say […]

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