Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The reality of kids

This is a further response to one of the comments to this post. I had to ponder my response for a while.

First: the reality of looking after little kids is that -- by definition -- if you're trying to get anything else done, then you can't give 100% of your attention to them. Thus, every proportion of your attention that you're **not** focusing on them is a potential opportunity for them to come into danger. That's just how it is.

At home, you've typically minimized or controlled the risks (or at least, have an awareness of them). But out and about, you're in an environment that's not completely under your control. If you're trying to actually accomplish something -- writing a check, filling out a form, doing a bank transaction -- that can easily ''steal your focus'' away from your kids.

This ''stealing focus'' is especially compounded by having multiple kids that you're supervising at once: you attend to one kid that's skinned her knee, and it's easy for one of the other kids to squirt away before you've realized it. It's tricky to keep tabs on three kids at once -- two of whom are two years old -- but I'm getting better at it.

Two-year-olds are especially tricky to handle: Two year olds are fast, and able to climb -- but ain't got no sense yet. Younger than two, and they're less mobile; older than two, and they've got some semblance of common sense.

Second: Hyper-vigilance slows you down in your transactions. I have, for example, had to stop after **every**three words while filling in a postal form, when the boys were being especially squirrely. Luckily I was the only one in line; otherwise, I would have had to excuse myself to fill out the form separately, then get back in line. I've also had to pause between my first name and last name when signing a credit card slip, just to verify where my kids were.

The point is that hyper-vigilance isn't always practical. I suppose you could call its omission a calculated risk (e.g. signing your **full** name, and **then** looking up to see what your kids are doing). Nearly all the time, it pays off (getting things done, versus your child's safety). This balance between your children's safety and task-based expediency varies on the situation (e.g. the grocery store versus a lumber yard).

Third: The ''rabid dogs'' heuristic is an interesting idea -- but it wouldn't work. If my kids were **truly** in some sort of threat, my focus would be on getting them out of that situation, or possibly neutralizing the threat. In doing so, I'd be breaking social conventions (e.g. putting them up on tables). I **wouldn't** be making a bank deposit, mailing a package at the post office, or discussing changing my child's time slot at swimming class.

In sum: I think two-year-olds are at the pinnacle of intersection between ability to put themselves in danger and the lack of common sense. And I have two of them at once, which doubles (or maybe squares?) the potential for danger.

That's just how it is.



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