Well, if there is one thing I can always be sure of as a parent, it’s that my child will adapt. He will study me and learn my best moves and my tricky maneuvers. He will dissect my most awesome of tactics. And… he will evolve.
Clear back a year ago, I wrote a post called The mother duck tactic about a parenting technique I learned in a Love & Logic course. It was the 12th post I ever wrote. The idea was that mother ducks don’t sit there and gather their ducklings every time they need to change locations. Their ducklings follow because they know she’s not going to wait around for them to dawdle. Likewise, if I’m out shopping, the same should apply. I should be more like a mother duck and less like a mother. It’s been a great parenting tactic… one that has done wonders to keep Noah from wandering off while we’re at the store. Or, at the very least, one that has helped him hurry up and scoot along so that I never get to the point of pulling my own hair out as he stops to study the sunglasses rack or the baby watermelon display.
So, yeah. That worked for a couple years. Until at some point, Noah somehow figured out that Dad’s never actually going to leave him. Dad’s never actually going to forget he’s not with him. Dad’s never going to not go back for him. And, with that knowledge that he has somehow gained, he’s begun testing the waters a lot more. He’s become more brave. He’s becoming more brazen. He’s become more confident when I’m not standing by his side, even in ginormous public places.
The other day we were walking through the party favor aisle and Noah got sucked into the treasures that rested within the dollar bins. Billy bob teeth. Party blowers. Creepy little troll dolls… I began doing my mother duck thing, slowly walking away, slowly turning the corner, slowly leaving. He never looked up. He never followed. I peeked at him through the products of the end cap. He didn’t look up for another 45 seconds or so, and when he finally did he didn’t seem to care that he was all alone. The billy bob teeth were much more fascinating to him.
I decided to up my game, so I started walking to the other end of the next aisle over, planning to sneak up on him from the other side. I made my way down and peeked through the opposite end cap. He had moved onto the giant bouncy balls, still unconcerned that I wasn’t there. He looked around again. Come on, pal. Where’s Dad? Nothing. He didn’t care in the slightest.
I began tip-toeing toward him, only to have him spin toward me before I got there. “Daddy, can we buy these?”
I groaned. All that and I didn’t even get to startle him! “Noah, why didn’t you follow me when I walked away?”
“I wanted to look at these funny toys!”
“But weren’t you scared when you looked around and I wasn’t there? Weren’t you worried that Daddy was gone?” Mother duck tactic aside, I wasn’t really sure whether it was good for him to grow out of being worried or not. Not at four…
“No. You would never leave me here by myself. I’m just a little kid, Dad!”
Grrrr… so much for mother duck tactic. Now I’ve gotta get more creative. Anybody else have awesome parenting techniques to help avoid the “round-em-up and herd ’em like cattle” routine?
At least it opened up the conversation for what to do if he ever was lost and couldn’t find me.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing