I’m a nurturer both by nature and by rigorous training.
“You’ll get cold. Take a sweater.”
“Let me do that for you.”
My mother was an only child and we spent a lot of time with her parents, so I had multiple generations to issuing dire warnings and admonitions to me as a kid. My father held out against building a house right next door to my grandparents, but it was a near thing. (My grandparents had a history of staying close to their only child. Earlier, they’d moved within a block of the college campus so my mother could “come home for lunch.”)
As a child, I was a tree-climbing, raft-building tomboy, and all these warnings drove me nuts. I vowed never to hamstring my own children’s sense of adventure like that.
You may stop snickering now.
Even today, I automatically put my hand over the sharp corners of tables. My kids just roll their eyes at me. But I love them and want to keep them safe.
Protecting them from danger is a never ending job, though.
If it’s not sharp corners, it’s cyber bullies or terrorists. Trouble can be anywhere. Unexpected, swift, and sometimes deadly. And I know I can’t alway be with them.
When my son was four years old he tumbled off a high bed onto a hardwood floor and broke his arm. Badly. It was an accident, but one so odd even I, the Queen of Worryland, hadn’t anticipated it when I left the room to get him a snack. I failed to protect my son. Worse, in the ER doctors separated my sobbing child from his Dad so that they could question him alone about the “accident.” This despite the fact I told them my husband wasn’t even home when my son fell. Once they think you’re lying, it’s hard to prove otherwise, apparently. And I felt horrible that a painful event was made worse because I hadn’t thought to warn my son: “Don’t stick your feet in a pillowcase and flip yourself off the bed onto the floor while I’m gone, okay?”
But the lesson was only half-learned here.
Yes, it’s very scary that you can’t keep your children 100% safe.
So what’s the other half of the lesson?
My middle child wanted to cut up her own apple. I agreed, in principle, that nine is old enough to use a knife (with supervision), but somehow I always ended up doing it for her. I was faster, more efficient, you know. The Mom who took care of her. Then one day she refused to give up and I relented. And I won’t lie. I was sweating as she wielded that very sharp knife. I’d shown her how to use the cutting board, but she was wobbly, hesitant. She kept looking to me for guidance when she should have been looking down at the knife.
Oh, lightbulb moment for Mom.
I stopped her. I told her I knew she could do this. All she needed was practice and to trust herself. Then I left the kitchen.
Yep, if you want them to be safe, you gotta start letting go.