Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Life Doesn't Always Have to Be Scary

I was raised, with the best of intentions, in fear. The purpose was to keep me safe, but at times the over-protectiveness was a bit stifling.

Cooking, for example, is a mystery to me that I just sort of stumble through because, well, we George's like to eat. But my mom never taught me to cook since she was absolutely certain I would burn the house down if I got near the stove. Luckily I can read and more or less follow a recipe, but there are times I think to myself, "shouldn't I have learned how to do this like 20 years ago?"

And I suppose my mom never taught me to sew because then I would have, you know, pricked my finger and fallen into the inevitable sleep of 100 years. Because that is what always happens when you mess with dangerous sewing needles. My aunt gave me a sewing machine a few years ago, by the way, and I've pretty much taught myself how to use it (and lived to tell!). However, the truth is I don't exactly know what I'm doing. Which is kind of sad since my mom and her sisters can sew like nobody's business.

I don't mean to pick on my mom. I was an only child. So I naturally lived in a parallel universe where danger lurked around every corner. Particularly perilous were the unassuming, "safe" seeming things; you know, like puppy dogs and parked cars. Anyone who knows my mom will be nodding in acknowledgment right about now, because I am not exaggerating. At all.

Now that I'm a parent myself, I know how absolutely terrifying it sometimes feels to let go and give my children opportunities to explore and learn, and how unnerving it can be to stand back even though they might get hurt. Last summer when Bethany wanted to ride her bike around the block, I hyperventilated a little but I let her do it. Okay, it took some convincing, but I let her do it. And I didn't follow her. (I did make her take her brother). When she asks to cook scrambled eggs or grilled cheese sandwiches, I panic slightly on the inside, but I agree - with only a minimal number of reminders to be careful. I may have been known to say something like "don't catch your hair on fire" once or twice, but geeze, that could happen.

But the thing is, I don't want my kids to live in a world of "what if?". I want them to take chances and push themselves out of their comfort zones and do things they never thought they were capable of. 

I don't want them to be afraid to LIVE

I don't want them to wait until they're living in a dorm with no clean underwear to learn how to use a washing machine. Although where's the danger there? Maybe that one had more to do with fear of material damage. Or else the drowning thing. Because you know a 2x4 could randomly fall from the ceiling, hit you in the head and knock you out cold, thereby causing you to fall head first into the washing machine, left to drown with no one around to help you. It could happen.  

A little bit of fear is a good thing. If fear keeps my kids from doing drugs or drinking and driving or going to bed without brushing their teeth, well I'm totally okay with that. Yes! Be afraid! But I guess I want them to save the fear for the big stuff. And I'll try to do the same.
(even though it's really, really hard).



Jennifer said...

I love this post! Having an only child, I was giggling at the fact your mom was overprotective. We are the same way. My Dad calls us 'helicopter parents' because we tend to hover over Gracie. Now, like you, we've gotten much better, but you definitely struck a cord with the post. Thank you!

alyaia75 said...

Thanks Jennifer! With four it's a lot easier to not be overprotective just because my attention is divided. But if I had one, I'd probably be a helicopter too.

Anonymous said...

As a 6th grade teacher, I have to take cover from "helicopter" parents all the time. It is a shame to see the harm they do to their children. They are teaching them not to be independant. You have to let them stand and fall, pick themselves up and stand tall once more. A hard to do, but needed bit of work for parents to do. Let your children fly!

alyaia75 said...

I totally agree. It's just hard when I was raised by a very overprotective parent. She actually gets upset with me sometimes because I'm a little too "laisez faire" for her liking.

Anonymous said...

Alysia i think we all have those moments when it is hard to let go. But i also like to think of it this way. Right now my kids want me around when they get to be teenagers they are going to tell me to go away so i am enjoying the hovering for now. Because i know real soon my oldest is going to push me away.