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When Your Parents Don’t Get Your Parenting Style

My little girl loves makeup. It's an obsession, really, which is funny because I'm not all that big on makeup myself. But on the rare occasions when I do sweep blush across my cheeks or mascara through my eyelashes, my daughter is always there, watching intently and vying to get her hands on whatever she can.

Noting this obsession, I actually got her an entire fake makeup kit for Christmas. But she quickly realized it wasn't the real deal and lost interest shortly after the packaging was removed.

So I let her sit with me whenever I'm putting my own makeup on. I figure, what can it hurt?

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She grabs the brushes and dabs them on her cheeks. Sometimes she'll steal my mascara wand and try to mimic my actions there. Every once in a while, she'll actually manage to get some makeup on her face and I'll have to wash it off. But it's generally a fun mom/daughter bonding time—and given my own personal distaste for makeup, it's a pretty rare event that never lasts for more than a few minutes at a time.

It was this ritual we were partaking in one morning when my daughter seemed to lose interest and walked away. I was almost done with my brief routine, as I finished with my eyes and put away the last of my makeup, and assumed she had just grown bored.

Had anyone else said the same words to me in that moment, I would have murdered them. But this was my dad.

When I turned around, though, I discovered she hadn't grown bored; she had, instead, confiscated the Visine from the bottom of my makeup kit and pilfered it away.

I had forgotten it was there and couldn't even remember the last time I had used it, but my toddler now had the cap open, the tip of the bottle in her mouth.

I knew enough to know this was bad as I swiped the bottle away and dialed poison control. Anxiety increasing when the operator told me this was a bigger deal than I had even realized. Did you know that Visine can actually put toddlers into comas? And that it doesn't take very much (maybe half a bottle) to produce such catastrophic results?

Yeah, I didn't either. I kind of just thought it might give her the shits.

But no, this was a big deal. And as such, I had to closely monitor my little girl for the next four hours for any signs of unusual drowsiness.

It never happened. She played energetically the entire day, never showing any signs or symptoms of having actually ingested the poison in my eye drops. My guess is that she got the bottle open, but never got as far as producing any drops in her mouth before I saw what she had. It all happened pretty quickly.

Still—hearing the word "coma" from the poison control lady had set me on edge. And when my dad called in the midst of my vigil, I answered by saying, "Your granddaughter is going to give me a heart attack."

When I explained to him what had happened, he took a deep breath and said, "Is now the time we have a conversation we should have had a long time ago?"

I knew this wasn't going to be good. "What conversation is that?" I asked.

Taking another deep breath, he said, "The one about how you shouldn't be letting her play so freely with your makeup."

Had anyone else said the same words to me in that moment, I would have murdered them. But this was my dad, a man I love and respect more than just about anyone else. So I bit my tongue and blinked back the tears produced by the underlying message his words conveyed.

I wanted (my daughter) to have the freedom to explore her world, which started with our little home.

This wasn't about the makeup. Plenty of reasonable women allow their toddlers to sift through their makeup—and I can't imagine my dad truly believed that was where the real danger resided. No, his actual point was that I shouldn't be letting her play so freely … period.

That I don't do enough to keep my little girl safe.

When my daughter became mobile, I went out and bought all the standard baby proofing gear. But when I got it home and began looking through the loot, I reached a decision I hadn't been expecting to make: I didn't want to babyproof my home.

It wasn't because I was lazy or naïve, but rather because I realized I didn't want all the cabinets locked tight and the drawers sealed shut. I wanted her to have the freedom to explore her world, which started with our little home.

This was an actual parenting philosophy on my part. I went to the effort of going through all those drawers and cabinets and moving anything and everything I may have deemed dangerous up and out of reach. But I left the Tupperware and bowls—yes, even some glass ones. I left the pantry items she couldn't hurt and the fabric grocery bags that she still loves to pretend are purses.

I moved the danger up, but left plenty for her to explore, even though most days that still means far more work on my part—as I am forever organizing and reorganizing a household that she is consistently tearing apart in the name of exploration.

Why would I create so much extra work for myself? Well, because I truly believe there is something to be gained by her having that freedom. I truly believe I am making choices that will help my daughter to develop into a more inquisitive and independent adult.

I don't chase her around and stop her from doing things others might deem risky. I let her put sticks in her mouth because if the worst risk to that is she may get some splinters in her gums—maybe she'll learn she shouldn't be putting sticks in her mouth as a result. I don't hover or rescue, and sometimes, I let her fall.

Because that's how we learn to get back up.

Now, don't get me wrong. I am conscious of the big risks. I don't let her go hurtling down the wooded hill beside our house, despite the many times she has attempted to do just that, and I still have her extended rear facing in the car. I make her wear a helmet when she is on her balance bike, and I stop her from climbing on anything higher than her own height. But in general, I would say I tend to be pretty wait-and-see when it comes to potential dangers. I like to evaluate risks and weigh them against the benefits of exploration, and fairly often, I decide that the benefits are worth the risk.

Certainly more often than my dad would like.

I'm of the mindset that accidents happen—no matter how hard you fight to protect your kids.

For the record, I love my dad. I respect his opinion and I go to him for advice more than just about anyone I know. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that the purveying sense that he doesn't think I take my daughter's safety seriously enough is … well, it hurts. Perhaps because of how much I respect him, while also wishing he could see that I'm not lazy or naïve. I just see the risks differently than he does.

In my father's defense, he was a police officer for 25 years. He has seen some of the worst accidents imaginable in his career, and he has played witness to some of the mishaps no one ever would have thought to protect against. So it makes sense that he sees risk lurking in every corner.

I try to humor him when I can. If he makes a suggestion that is relatively easy to implement and doesn't actually take away from my daughter's ability to explore her world, I'm all in.

But when those suggestions start to mount on top of each other after each and every visit, a list that never seems to end, it starts to rub my feelings a little raw. Her bites of food are never cut small enough. She was moved to a big girl bed too soon. And that piece of lace she loves to wrap her baby dolls in and use while playing dress up is secretly laying in wait to wrap around her arm and cut off her circulation when I least expect it.

The dangers are never-ending.

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Meanwhile, I'm of the mindset that accidents happen—no matter how hard you fight to protect your kids. And whether I encase my daughter in bubble wrap or not, there are going to be calls to poison control and visits to the ER. My brother and I certainly had plenty of mishaps growing up to prove just that.

So I'd rather protect against the big things, while allowing her a little more freedom with the small stuff. And in general, my makeup counts as small stuff.

It's an actual parenting philosophy, I swear.

Though I'm still trying to convince my father of that fact.

Image via Twenty20/brittleighhhh

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