Why is it that dads are happy to throw their kids in the air, dunk them under the water and let them go for it at the park? While mums are ready to catch their kids at the bottom of the slide, offer hugs after falls and hold their hands on the balance beam?

I go swimming once a week with Princess Toddler and today Dad came along too, which is what led me to ponder this difference between mums and dads. There is a slide in the baby pool. It’s very slippery and I always stand behind Princess Toddler as she climbs up. I am careful to keep my hand on her tummy as she wiggles over to the top of the slide and I hold her hand on the way down.

Her dad told me he’d look after Princess Toddler while I pumped out a few laps. I said that she loves the slide but that it’s very slippery so I help her climb up and hold her hand on the way down. He nodded, saying he’d be fine. When I came back from my swim Dad proudly told me that his daughter had loved going down the slide. It was later that he also informed me that while he was waiting for her at the BOTTOM of the slide, another mum had reached out and held my daughter’s hand as she slid down. He seemed perplexed that she felt the need to do this, while I was gently reminding him that the slide is, like I said, very slippery, and she falls back easily on it, and has even hit her head before.

Yet this seems a universal trend. Dads are the one who lets the little ones go for it, while mums generally tend to be there to save falls and offer full instructions on how to climb ladder rungs at the park. Is this because of maternal instinct? Are mums more concerned about their little darlings getting hurt than dads? Or is it because males learn differently to females? While women tend to be shown and taught how to accomplish a new skill, men tend to like to figure it out for themselves. Therefore children are treated in a similar fashion. Take how my hubby and I learned to water ski. I had to know how to pull up, what to do if I fell, how far to lean back etc etc. When I fell off I need to be told that I’d leaned back too far and that I needed to bend my knees more. Hubby however, got in the water, had a go, fell off, figured out for himself that his weight was all wrong and had another go. While we both learned at around the same pace, we learned very differently. I was taught step by step, while hubby learned through trial and error.

Maybe it’s a little of both those theories. Mums are more protective and like to ‘teach,’ while dads are encouraging and as my hubby says have the attitude that ‘she’ll be all right.’ Either way, it seems a perfect balance. Princess Toddler gets to be taught new skills and to discover things for herself. That said, I will still be holding her hand when she goes down the slide at the swimming pool!

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