At the park the other day, 2 twin girls were playing in a mud puddle from a recent Texas splash and dash spring storm, and their older sister showed up and said, "Ew, ick, stop playing in that!" A neighbor mom told her, "Don't worry about it: they've been doing it the whole time you were gone. They won't be any cleaner if you make them stop."
Wow. Now THIS is how to be a laid back parent, I observed.
I asked her what response she would give to the mild freak out of, "Oh, she's eating rocks!" I so frequently hear when my babies are sucking on pea gravel. Yes, it's gross, yes, it may be a choking hazard, but I'm so sick of constantly fishing them out that I've just given up. However, in an attempt to not admit that I am knowingly allowing my kids to participate in activities that promote choking, I "pretend" I don't notice, which always yields that friendly piece of warning advice that she's sucking rocks...again. So then I "pretend" I'm surprised and grossed out, and like a good mom and say, "Ew, yuck, spit those out."
My friend just laughed and told me that if I'm a laid back mom, I need to wear that. What I'm doing instead is looking incompetent, perpetuating the space-case reputation (not that it's totally undeserved, but to a much lesser degree than it appears).
So in an attempt to not look incompetent, I am in fact making myself look incompetent. It's better to just let them do things like play in the mud, eat inorganic matter, or practice toddler gymnastics by climbing on rickety objects (it's a lot cheaper than Gymboree!), than pretending I don't see it and acting flustered when it's pointed out.
I've also learned that if I'm getting "that vibe" from someone that they don't think I can handle 5 kids, that it's probably not all in my head as I have previously thought. It's probably because I inadvertently lead them to believe that by playing dumb, and that instead it's really time to step into my role of parenting "old school" style.
Any witty or quick responses for, "Back off, hover mom!" are welcome in the comments. Help me educate the would-be CPS-dialing watch dogs!