Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Sailboat Parenting

After having lunch with a few friends last week, I ran home to pull my copy of "The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee" I got the book as a hand me down gift years before I even had children. The pages yellowed and stiff from neglect, the cover colors are faded. Now, ten years into parenting, I am finally committed to reading it. The book offers teachings on how to raise self reliant children. I am not usually a fan of parenting books, but I'm am even less of a fan of what I am seeing happening in parenting styles now. Tiger parenting, helicopter parenting, lawn mower parenting, and even curling parenting all terms for parents who are hovering, and over protecting their children. I read an article on raising independent children, and the author mentioned that "parenting" wasn't even coined a term until the last few decades. When we grew up, our parents didn't take classes or attend workshops on how to raise us. They figured it out, and they made some mistakes too. There are many, many "right" ways to raise children. When I sat down to lunch with my friends last week, I got a wake up call on my own parenting. It would be nice if I was sailboating through parenting, and just going with the flow. I too am guilty at times of hovering, curling, and plowing.

We exchanged stories of letting our "saving" our kids. I have thought about the times when my youngest forgets his lunch, and I drop it off at school. Or when my daughter leaves homework, completed and on the table, I fight the urge to prevent her any disappointment, and question bringing it in to school for her. It doesn't take much to see that there is a lot of rescuing of kids going on. All I need to do is stand in our elementary school office, within the first hour after schools starts, and watch frazzled adults bringing, in water bottles, violins, lunches, and homework. We are not helping our children by rescuing them. In fact we are teaching them that they don't have to learn, or remember how to take care of themselves. We are giving them a sense of security that won't help them become independent adults.

I'd like to think I am balanced in my parenting, but I still have a long way to go. I catch myself taking over for my kids when they are trying to learn a new skill. I will grab the can opener out of my daughter's hand at the first sign of struggle. I will tell my son to come down when he is climbing too high on the play structure, I don't let them walk around on their own without trailing too far behind. In a time when free range parenting can result in a call to child protective services, it is hard to raise a kid and give them any freedom. We wonder why more children prefer to sit inside in front of a screen over playing outside. Well, chances are many folks are not letting their kids ride bikes till dusk anymore. Recently, my kids and I passed someone on the street who was smoking a cigarette and my son asked me if I had ever tried smoking. I told the truth, well the partial truth. I said I had, once, and that it was gross and burned my throat. When my daughter asked how old I was, I lied and told her I was in college. The truth is that I was nine when i smoked my first cigarette. In that moment, I realized I was a year younger than her when I started getting into trouble with friends. I am not condoning that she should experimenting tobacco use, but even if she wanted to walk alone to the candy store she couldn't. She is still being driven around in a booster seat.

I'm not sure what the answer is, or where the balance lies, but I do know that trying to prevent my kids having any failure, sadness or anxiety in their lives will never teach them how to actually deal with being afraid. If I don't let them mess up and fail, they will never learn how to pick themselves up. If I provide them with every single thing they need, they will not learn how to fend for themselves. I am learning to trust my own instinct, to know when and where to back off. In the past I would help my kids get out of their bad moods. I will always comfort them with a hug, if they ask, but I don't need to rescue them from their own feelings. That would be the biggest disservice to them. A few skinned knees and bruised egos, is exactly what children need to learn before adulthood. It is indeed a blessing, if I can teach my children that.

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