“Your kids are brave!”
These are the words someone said to me as they watched my girls scramble around a play structure at the park. They were over and under and around faster than I could wheel Micah’s stroller to spot them!
Their little blonde and red heads darted here and there as they excitedly checked out absolutely everything there was at this park.
And as they climbed, I did not tell them to be too careful or to stop. I told them to watch their step, hold on tight, and that I was proud of them.
And at every ladder, swing, and see-saw, they went a little higher each time. They felt a little more confident each time.
They didn’t know they could do it right away. In fact, it took each of them several times on one of the trickiest ladders before they could do it unassisted. They needed encouragement, practice, and determination. And they needed to see my face as they held on and glanced over their shoulder to make sure I was nearby. They would have given up quickly if I taught them to be fearful.
Instead, I used this opportunity to show them they are capable, strong, and creative. These are the characteristics I want my girls to draw on within themselves when they face challenges. Right now, their challenge is the ladder that gets them to the top of the toy. So, on this little playground of their life, I intend to tell them they can do it. They are brave. I’m here if you need me, but go for it.
With that said, of course, as a mama, I fight against having fear on behalf of my children all the time. I get nervous they will fall and that we will end up with a broken bone or more chipped teeth. I say ‘no’ at times just because I’m not sure if they are capable of something. There is a healthy feeling of hesitation when we realise that what our children are about to attempt is not a good idea and is bigger than what they can handle. There is a natural protective instinct to guard and take care of our children. This is healthy and without it, there would be cause for concern over our care taking.
However, if we don’t check this real and God designed desire to watch out for our kids, it can become an overprotective, helicopter parent, knee pad enforcer, sanitizer loving monster in place of a cheerleader. In place of a mom who encourages her children to do the hard things, but do them wisely. And realize their limits.
Because it’s in the hard things that we learn the most, right? It’s when there is some resistance, and we push through it, that our character is shaped. This is so very true in my own life. And sometimes I want to rescue my children and make it untrue for them. I want to believe if I do it for them, they will learn just the same by me telling them about the lesson as by them experiencing it. That’s just not how it works.
For that reason, I have to start allowing them to do the hard things now. To take one more step on that scary ladder while I am right there with my hands stretched out, waiting to catch them or help a slipped foot. I have to teach them in the smaller spaces of their little lives right now, because the game will get a whole lot bigger and more serious in a few short years.
So, this will be my message to them. Always. When the stakes are higher and the going gets tougher, I want them to know that they are brave, they can do it, and I’m here if you need me, but go for it.