Good morning my dear readers. Today marks the final component in my “Series of Letters Between Mom Friends” segment with the brilliant and honest Marie of Create Balance. We’ve been going back and forth all month discussing some pretty heavy shit, in regards to parenting a child in our society and our world. Please see her eloquent response below in regards to how to protect my child from the world, and some fantastic parenting advice in general.
As always with your letters, you named so much of what I feel and think about being a parent. When you wrote in your last letter “We need to speak to our child and treat them in a way that keeps them coming back to us in times of trouble” it hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s good bricks though.
Your letter really got me thinking about what I can do, as a parent, to be a person my children come to in times of need. I guess it goes back to that initial question: how much do we let our children struggle or let them intervene? How do I let them struggle while also providing support? When do we mitigate situations to protect our child while also being honest with them?
Even more scary for me is, when do we let them sink or swim on their own?
With my kids ages 5 and 7, my spouse and I find ourselves facing these questions constantly. Just today we met with our daughter’s teacher for the annual parent-teacher conference. Overall reports were good, but our daughter also opts out of a number of activities she finds overwhelming, like singing with her class in the holiday concert, or playing tag games in gym. She opts out politely, and in a non-disruptive way, and is still involved with 85% of school activities, so it is fine with her teacher. And it’s fine with me and my spouse on a practical level – I don’t think she is going to be missing anything vital if she skips out on tagging games.
But part of me wonders . . . what is my role? She doesn’t need me to protect her because she is doing that fine on her own. But does she need me to nudge her? To push her? If I do, will I be erring on the pushing side and pushing her right away from me?
Same goes for my son. Just like when he was a toddler, being his parent feels like I’m making a zillion highly-important micro-choices every moment. For example, his breath smells <strong>horrible</strong> in the morning, but sometimes he just flat out refuses to brush his teeth. Do I let him learn the hard way about this from a classmate who comments on his breath? (Seriously, it’s gross.) Or do I cash in some of my “do-it-or-else” parenting chips on morning teeth brushing?
What about the time when he was overly anxious about a certain teacher he had just once a week? My spouse and I faced the choice – do we coach him through telling his main teacher (Ms. R) about it? Do we find a way to get him removed from that one-hour-a-week class? Do we just call the principal and take care of it for him?
In this situation we coached him through ways to talk to Ms. R (whom he loves) about the situation. And, since parent-teacher conferences were coming up, we also talked to Ms. R about the problem and she was quick to respond.
The more I think about the choices we’ve made as parents, both intentionally and unintentionally, I’m realizing that, as my children get older, I want them to believe two things at the core of their beings:
“I can handle this. I can do hard things, and even when I fail, I can get back up and try again.”
“I can always talk to my mom and dad. They will love me and be proud of me no matter what I do, no matter how many times I mess up.”
I want those two beliefs to run deep for them. And the more I think about it and talk about it, the more I realize that there are no shortcuts to those beliefs.
My kids need to fail and even sink a little bit so they can learn to swim on their own.
My kids need me to be there for them always, but sometimes it’s better if I’m watching and waiting for them at the side of the metaphorical pool instead of submerged with them.
My kids need to see me (and my spouse) do hard things, screw up along the way, and recover.
Are we going to make the “right” decisions each time? Heck no. I’ve probably already screwed up fifteen hundred different ways. But maybe it’s not how many times we screw up that counts – maybe it’s about how we get back up and try again. Maybe we’ll take care of too much for them today, and let them struggle a little too much tomorrow. But no matter what, we’ll be there to dry their tears, talk it through, or even let them get mad at us when we’re the only ones it’s safe to be mad at. Heck, we’ll probably always be the ones who it’s safest to be mad at, because we’ll always, always be there for them.
Maybe that is the answer. We just need to be there, in the muck, making the difficult decisions, and moving along day-by-day. It’s amazing how that seems so mundane, and so heroic, at the same time.
Much love my friend,
What are your thoughts? How do you answer the question “How do I protect my child from the world” and where you do find that line of when to intervene, and when to let your child learn the lesson on their own?
Let’s promise each other to never let this kind of dialogue die. Just like picking out diapers and choosing daycares, us parents need to be aware of the bigger issues that our children will inevitably face.
You can find Marie helping parents find that perfect balance of home life, work life, personal life, and more at Create Balance.