It finally happened. I knew it would eventually, but I did not think something so mundane would trigger the reaction.
Hubby and I had taken the kids to the playground. Little-Flower climbed up a ladder onto a platform about three feet off of the ground. Her only way down was to climb back down the ladder which she has not yet mastered. Hubby and I were perched at the picnic table, intently watching and willing her to solve this problem on her own. Little-Flower sat down and decided to slide off of the edge. With only a foot left before her feet hit the ground, she stepped in.
Those who align with my parenting style know exactly who she is. She is recognizable by her children who are wearing a helmet and kneepads while riding their tricycle; the one waiting to catch her children’s every stumble.
Just as Little-Flower was about to figure it out on her own, she “rescued” my daughter and began the search for the obviously delinquent mother. Holding my daughter, she began to ask others if they knew who this child’s mother was. As politely as I could muster, I spoke up. “She is my daughter. I am watching her and know that she is capable of getting off that platform on her own.” Little-Flower came running over to me more upset by the random stranger that had grabbed her than the incident itself.
I rarely get upset by other parents judging my decisions. I am confident that I am competent to make wise choices. The message this woman was sending still has me a bit frustrated two days later. In swooping in, she gave my daughter the impression that she was not able to solve the problem on her own and needed someone to save her.
I am not a savior type of mother. I let my children get scrapes and bruises. I step in if it could truly endanger them, but a one foot drop to the ground was not going to amount to much damage even if Little-Flower fell.
I was raised by parents who let us feel the consequences of our actions. I had a therapist who was trying to teach me how to center my thoughts. She had me envision sitting under a tree and then asked me to describe the scene. Apparently, the more greenery surrounding the tree, the more protected the person felt as a child. My tree was the lone shade tree out in a savannah.
Do I feel like my parents left me exposed as a child? No. My parents ascribed to a parenting model that was more like teaching us to ride a bike than an effort to shield us from the world. They stood on each side of us like training wheels when we were young and gradually pulled away that support as we were more capable of riding on our own. They let us fall, knowing that it would teach us lessons that we needed to face life as adults.
I think some of my hands off parenting also comes from birth order. With Turkey-Man being my first, I was a little more protective. He taught me a lot about motherhood that helps me with Little-Flower. Kids are often more capable than we give them credit for.
The other factor in my parenting is gender specific lessons. With Turkey-Man I am more willing to be there when he asks for help. There is a world out there that will teach him that he must be self-reliant at all times, that it is not manly to need help. I want him to feel comfortable to look for assistance when he is in over his head.
I stand back a little more with Little-Flower. The world will try to convince her that she is just a girl, less capable than her male counterpart, and in need of a knight in shining armor. I want to send her out into the world feeling confident that she is competent to handle whatever life throws at her. I want her to feel just as capable as every man out there. I have an independent streak a mile wide and an attitude that dares anyone to tell me that I cannot do something on my own. I want Little-Flower to feel the same way.
So, over-protective mother at the playground, I am just as protective as you. It is just that as you busy yourself with shielding your child from ever knowing pain, I am purposely allowing mine to experience it. I am working to protect their character as adults. I am sure you have your own set of reasons that motivate you to be so cautious with your little ones. I want you to understand and respect that I have mine as well. I will step in if I feel my daughter is truly in danger. In the meantime, she is learning things about herself that will shape who she will become. At no point, do I want to leave her with the lesson that she needs someone to come to the rescue. I know that she is capable and competent. Give her the space to realize that too!