The other week I was at Story Time at the London Docklands Museum. The kids and toddlers all sat round enrapt by the enchanting puppet show… No. Some of the kids were listening, but toddlers being toddlers were also just doing their own thing. One toddler’s dad was sitting on the floor near his son, waving at his little guy. The toddler stood up, bumped into a bigger kid and fell over. The tears started coming, and the dad leant forward and slowly began to pick him up to soothe him.
Then, as if from nowhere, a woman knocks parent and kid alike to one side to swoop in and pull the child from his father’s arms. Is this a kidnapping!? No, it’s the kid’s mum. She shoos away the dad and takes her son to one side to comfort him, whilst the dad stands there, awkwardly, not sure what to do with his now empty hands.
The scenario and the feelings involved are familiar to most active parents. Some parents are hit by the weight of responsibility, and a need to surge into action at any cost to help their kid. Others will have the same need, but are stopped dead in their tracks by the sense that they’ve just had rank pulled on them by their boss.
And now a confession: I can be a swooping parent.
I know what it's like to be the swooping parent. In that split second, I justify taking Little Bear out of someone else’s arms because I think (feel) I know what he needs or prefers. I know he’ll settle into my arms and it’ll all be good.
The chances are, since I’m around him more than anyone else, that I will know what he wants. And as a parent it’s my prerogative to swoop like that. I can swoop from any adult to aid my child, although I should probably do it a little less.
Unless I’m swooping into to take Little Bear from his other parent. We’ve both done it a few times, but after everyone, we’ve promised to try harder to remember that if the other parent is there, everything is under control. It’s disempowering to have your own kid whipped out of your arms like that, especially when your brain is telling you just how much they need you.
What’s more, the ‘I know best’ logic is only true if I’m the only one who takes care of the little tot whenever he needs attention. Swooping only adds to that and makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy. My wife, just as much as me, needs the opportunities to take charge of care and be protected from swooping from the other parent.
So this is a sorry to my wife for every time I’ve swooped Little Bear out of her arms without asking for whatever reason. I just hope I’m getting better at avoiding it: controlling my instincts so she can get a chance with hers.
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots