"Be careful", I say under my breath. I want to yell, "BE CAREFUL!" at the top of my lungs but as the words exit my mouth, I hope that my kids don't hear me. I want to do everything to protect my kids from pain. Or sadness. Or failure. But without the experience of the tougher parts of life, my kids probably won't develop their own boundaries, independence, resilience or grit - all the things that I know they will need to be successful through life.
When I was growing up, I was free. I climbed trees, helped build ramps that I launched my bike over and I swung from a rope tied to a tree over a huge ditch. And I fell down. I scraped my elbows and knees, I twisted ankles, I suffered goose-eggs and I broke my nose and toes. I survived without boundaries and naturally figured them out on my own. I grew up knowing how far to go and what I was capable of.
The life my kids experience is different. I parent differently that my parents did. Our collective community establishes protocols on how protective we are, how much rope we give our kids to explore with and when they are ready to do their own thing. But has conforming to the collective protectionism already hurt my kids?
We live on a neighbourhood street, but on a blind corner. Just one car parked on the street makes it almost impossible to see kids playing in a yard or riding a bike. And so, my kids have always been supervised when playing out the front of our house. Yuck. I think back to the years of roaming neighbourhoods, migrating from yard to yard as I was inspired. My kids have grown up in lock down.
This year is different. They ARE responsible. They look both ways before crossing the street. They should be able to play out in front of the house responsibly. IT IS TIME.
So, when the girls wanted to break out their rollerblades for the first time this year, I said "Sure!", "Go ahead", "Go play!". But they were uncertain. They wanted me to come with them. They didn't trust themselves. Not even ten minutes after going out onto the sidewalk, they were back. "Mom, come out with us!", "What will happen if one of us falls?", "What will happen if both of us fall?".
Part of me wanted to go outside. To go outside to watch them and be with them and be a 'good' parent. Instead I said, "No, go on... you will be fine. If you fall down, you can always come get me."
I WAS being a "good parent". I needed to let them go, to let them learn their own boundaries and capabilities. I needed to unlock their freedom to explore on their own. And when they do fall down, I'll be there with hugs and bandaids - just like Mom and Dad did for me.