Wednesday, 06 February 2019 19:00

I Can’t Watch

By Katherine Morna Towne | Families Today

We got a pull-up bar for Christmas — a heavy-duty, thick metal suspension bar that’s also anchored by screws in one of our downstairs doorways (the doorway people have to walk through to go from our entryway into the living part of our house), which is meant for doing pull-ups as part of your home exercise routine. I’d thought that if it was there, in the middle of our traffic pattern, my boys wouldn’t be able to resist using it as they pass through the house, which could only be good for muscle development and general energy burning. 

Oh boy, was I right. My boys love the pull-up bar. What I didn’t expect (but should have) is how nervous I get watching them use it, which has resulted in me yelling things like, “No swinging from the pull-up bar!” “Take your feet off the ceiling!” “Stand there and spot your brother!” “Don’t you dare tickle him when he’s hanging there!” and finally, “No more pull-up bar until Dad gets home!” This is pretty constant, since there’s always someone dragging a chair over to climb up and use the pull-up bar.

I say I should have expected it, because in general I have a really hard time watching or being present when the boys are doing things that the mother in me finds dangerous. Like climbing on playground equipment, for example. There have only been a handful of times in my entire motherhood when I’ve brought the boys to a playground. Fortunately, my husband loves to take them to playgrounds, and they go on the playground at recess, so they’ve had the required childhood experience of playing on playgrounds, which I want for them, I really do—just not when I’m watching. I picture falling, breaking bones, blood everywhere, screaming, and me not remembering to have my cell phone with me that one day, or not being able to properly care for the injured boy because I have a baby in one arm (who would certainly be wailing). I can’t get those images out of my head, and I know how upset I’d be if I let them do something that my mama sense was saying was too dangerous.

This is all despite the fact that I do believe it’s good for them to learn from their bumps and bruises (to an extent). I try not to react immediately or emotionally when I see the baby topple when he’s learning how to walk, or when an older boy wipes out on his bike. I often find that if I don’t react in a dramatic way, the child is able to take a breath and take stock of himself to determine whether or not he’s truly hurt.

I also believe that boys often have a need to expend their energy in physical ways, and while punching bags and running around can do the job, mine also really like wrestling with each other. It often gets pretty rough, but there have been many times when I’ve broken up a wrestling match, thinking it was getting out of control, only to have the sweaty, breathless boys say, “Aw Mom! We were having fun!” Because of this, I try not to interfere with their rough play, but I also instituted the rule that if someone gets hurt or something gets broken, the playing ends immediately. (More than once I’ve heard a boy make a sound of pain, but before I can put an end to the roughhousing, one of the others hisses, “Shh! You’re fine! You don’t want to stop playing, do you?” and the hurt boy will wipe his eyes and leap back into the fray. I’m always both impressed and heartbroken over this.) 

This has been a hard aspect of motherhood for me — I want to be sure I’m not stifling their need to take normal, healthy boyhood risks, but I also want them to survive childhood and beyond! Their dad has been so great in this regard—have you also noticed that dads tend to be far less worried about such things? I’m so glad my boys have him to balance out my worrying.

Just last night, in fact, after telling the boys all day that they had to wait for their dad to come home to use the pull-up bar, they had their chance to go crazy on it. I stayed in the other room where I couldn’t see what they were doing, but I heard whoops and hollers as they competed to see who could do the most pull-ups, and my husband was cheering along with them. By bedtime, they seemed to have worked out all their need to scare their mother to death with their feats of strength and danger, and they went to bed a happy, tired bunch. Tired kids and peaceful bedtime? Now that is something I can definitely get on board with!

Kate and her husband have seven sons ages 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 4, and 5 months. Follow her at, or email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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