February 4, 2016

Let Them Jump

It’s innate for parents to want to protect their children. When a young boy climbs his way atop the kitchen counter declaring he’s Superman, the first thing a parent does is yell for him to “get down!” When a little girl has scaled imaginable heights to proclaim her flight capabilities, parents immediately rush to rescue her from her own demise.

Parenting inevitably makes you paranoid, correct? We are supposed to be extremely cautious right? Or wrong? 

How often do we unintentionally discourage and hinder our children from learning the value in taking risks? Are we to teach them to avoid failure, chaos, and hardship? Or are we to prepare and equip them (as best we can) with the necessary tools to handle situations as they come?

I have always been an overly-cautious parent. With my first child, I wouldn’t let her out of my sight! I discouraged her from doing so many things out of my own fear. I couldn’t let go, and in many ways through the years, she wouldn’t let go! I have seen and reaped the results of my mistakes.

The fear I unintentionally instilled in my daughter has shown up as a lack of self-confidence. She has often believed that she is incapable of completing certain tasks, and was too afraid to try. She was afraid of making mistakes, and terrified of failure. This was never my intention and it has taken a hell of a lot of work to rebuild her confidence.

As parents, it is our duty to protect our children by using our best judgement to avoid broken bones, concussions, visits to the ER, and worse. In no way do I believe that we should allow our kids to run carelessly through life ignoring rules and throwing caution to the wind! Caution and fear are good for us. We need both to keep us from making dumb decisions and stupid mistakes! We need them to keep our egos in check and body parts in place. However, life must be lived with a balance of caution and risk-taking, fear and courage.

This is what we must teach our sons and daughters.

From day one, I prevented my oldest daughter from doing anything remotely dangerous. If I couldn’t control the situation, she wasn’t going to be a part of it! Now that I have two girls and I’m taking more risks of my own, I’ve learned the err of my ways. I’m learning to loosen the reins and give them space.

When my youngest leaps from cushion to cushion on our couch, stands on the arm of the chair, and then makes eye contact with me as she leaps off, I no longer cringe in fear. At least she doesn’t see me do it. I remind her to be careful; to look where she’s stepping; to know where she wants to go, and to figure out the best way to get there. In other words, I teach her to take off her socks and move her damn toys out of the way! As my oldest finds her way to more courage daily and tempts the hands of fate, I’m right there wearing my bravest face and cheering her on no matter how nauseous I may feel.

I converse often with my girls about fear, courage, bravery, stupidity, and independent thinking. I’ve shared some of my mistakes with them as an individual and as a parent. I remind them that although I’m their mother, and my love for them knows no end, I cannot live their lives for them. I teach them to let no one steal their dreams if they themselves believe in their ability to accomplish them.

My daughters are no fools. Although they have more freedom now, they’re not going to run into the street to retrieve a ball because they believe they can. They have common sense, and are being taught to use it often and wisely.

I’ve come far in my own self-confidence, and it is truly beneficial in my parenting skills. However, I’m not without caution, and I’ll never be that parent who allows her kids to run rampant. I’ve never had broken bones, don’t want to deal with them, and I hate ER’s. What I have done is let go a bit more. I’m not afraid to let my daughters find their way. I’ve learned how to let them jump!

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