It’s a balancing act. How much freedom do you give little people when you know there’s a risk they’ll get hurt?
It starts very young and I was a helicopter parent when they were babies. I don’t regret the attachment style parenting I chose rather naturally. I know I was watching them almost constantly, making sure they didn’t eat a rock at the park or fall down the stairs. I kept them safe for the most part with only a couple minor bumps and bruises. No serious injuries so Mama bear was successful in her bubble-wrapping.
Then, fortunately, they go to school and you can’t be there to shield them all the time. You’re forced to slowly but surely release the reins and trust others with the care of your precious angels. You become more aware of how you want to handle potentially dangerous or risky moves as they grow more independent and give them some space to fall. It’s a healthy but uncomfortable step as they slip out into the big, bad world on their own a little.
Letting them play at friend’s houses or even just outside without you becomes the norm. And, while you never want your child to hurt, protecting them too long and too much may really damage them more in the long run. We don’t want them to be fearful or distrusting so we take calculated risks. Some they do on their own, and sometimes they need some coaxing.
My kids have always been stubborn and cautious, and maybe I’m part of that. Maybe it’s genes? As I’ve grown the realize, though, sometimes it’s just them being separate little beings. Luckily, my kids have never been daredevils who like danger. Still, one thing I do know is you simply cannot protect them from all the hurts in the world.
Thinking back to Brody’s brain tumor diagnosis, what life lessons I learned as a parent! First, talk about perspective and learning what is really worth worrying about. I realized that you can do all the right things and still things can go wrong. Life isn’t always fair. Focusing only on what you can control makes life a bit simpler. And, then, realizing you’ll never be able to control everything anyway helps relieve some of the parental pressure. Try as you might, kids can and will get hurt!
So, do you let them take calculated risks? Most recently, Anna has a burning desire to begin doing some household chores such as ironing and cooking on the stove. She doesn’t want or need my help, of course! Is this really safe at age seven? Do I let her risk being burned or do it myself and explain she could get hurt? Well, we have compromised and she has tried it several times lately with my watchful eye. She loves ironing and cooking, tasks that most adults loath! She’s a little adult, for sure, and although I know she’ll eventually get a little burn, that’s how she’ll learn.
I began thinking about this in the scope of her life. With our kids, do we let them get burned? Sometimes, we can foresee the outcome or consequence. Do we let them learn first-hand or do we warn and protect them, telling them it’s too risky? That you’ll just do it for them….No, I don’t just mean with the edge of the pan or the singe of an hot iron. There comes a time when you decide if you let them get ‘burned’ and learn from natural consequences, or you save them from hurt.
- Do you drop them off at the school doors crying and turn to go?
- Do you let them have that friend who inevitably will turn on them?
- Do you let them quit or make them push through miserably?
- Do you let them get a bad grade on their test by not making them study?
- Do you let them have that boyfriend that will break her heart?
- Do you let them suffer at school when they forget their assignment?
- Do you let them suffer the natural consequences!?
It’s so hard! The list could go on and on. The list does go on and on for us. Think about how often you have to deal with disappointment, health scares, anger, let-downs, and hurt. The scary, hurty stuff can and will happen. And, what I’m realizing is that they may get a little scraped up, and maybe even burned from time to time but it’s an opportunity to grow stronger and braver. It may not be fun for everyone involved but we can choose to look at life’s challenges as opportunities to grow.
We can’t do all the work for them. And, sadly, we cannot protect them from getting burned. They have to figure some of it out themselves. Keeping a watchful eye, spying, and encouraging calculated risks is my new plan. It’s an uncomfortable, nervous, and new feeling. (Gah, just wait until they start driving! Talk about risk!) We take baby-steps towards independence every day, ironing, cooking, or suffering. Like it or not, we have to accept there will be some burns! We just pray they are strong enough to recover.
Iron on, baby girl! Go wild! Let it go, and let them grow!