One afternoon, on an unlikely occasion, my son who was between 3 and 4 and I went shopping with our godmother. When out of nowhere he began jumping. He wasn’t jumping on things, from things, or anything like that. He was just jumping.
This was a new behavior for him. Since we were with the “god mom” there were only a few things I could do to try and stop him from jumping without getting the same in return. So I held his hand a little tighter, and pulled it gently in a downward direction (encouraging him to keep his feet still and “down”…on the ground). It was not working. He just kept jumping despite my physical suggestions and redirections.
Our godmother looked over at one point, turned her eyes back to what she was doing, and calmly said “That’s just what boys do.” I tried to play if off like I had no idea what she was referring to. She didn’t bat an eye or call me out any further. She ended it all simply by saying “Let the boy jump.” and carried on.
I let lose my grip and downward tug, and let him jump (while holding my hand of course) as we continued our shopping…and out the store to the car. This single moment was surely an important defying moment in my parenting.
I was concerned about several things in that moment: safety, what others would think of us, my ability to control my son when I felt necessary. The latter of these concerned me the most. What if he’s engaging in inappropriate behavior, and I was not able to gain control of my son in an instant? What kind of mother does that make me? Oh, no! My son is going to be rebellious and unruly!
Yes! I thought all of that in that moment. My heart was racing and was about to panic, all over some simple jumping; something that was causing no harm, making him smile, and keeping him engaged apparently since he wasn’t running around the store under clothing racks like I use to.
Often times we as parent (adults) inhibit behaviors that are innate to our children that are surely harmless all because we are worried/anxious about things that have little to nothing to do with them. That moment of anxiety was mostly about me. From that moment I committed to allowing my child to be a him at every stage.
I realize quickly that it was not my place to prevent him from doing what felt natural or fun. My job is to monitor all of his behaviors, and be sure that he knows when any behavior is not appropriate. With the jumping he knew not to jump through the church, school halls, onto or from things. And of for some reason he wanted to jump in public he had to hold my hand or stay very close to me.
Fast forward to 14.75years of age. Teen boys can be very odd: poking, teasing, pulling pranks, being obnoxious on purpose, extreme sarcasm, etc. It drives me crazy some days. I recently had to tell him that it’s not the behavior it’s when he chooses to do it. I encouraged him to not be a pest or a jerk (okay asshole…I told him not to be an asshole). He fully got what I was saying.
I don’t feel like I’m a better parent than others, or that I’m oh, so seasoned that a parent should listen to my advice, because I make mistakes (like the asshole thing…my mom is going to thump me. Sorry.). But if you want your child to have an enjoyable childhood “Let the boy jump.” I promise with the proper guidance it won’t hurt a thing. They deserve to be children. Give them guidelines and boundaries and both parties will survive.
There’s nothing that hurts my soul worse than seeing children with so many restrictions that they cannot enjoy their childhood. I can’t speculate about the behaviors that can arise from that later in life. But I’m certain there’s something to be said for those who weren’t allowed to “jump”.
So today, start to “Let the boy jump”. You may want to “jump” with them, and learn there’s a lot more to enjoy in this life.