Cindy Thagard is mom to current Seedlings Corwin (4) and Seraya (3), and future Seedling Vallen (16 months).
While at a hotel pool with some of our friends, a few of our kids were playing on the lounge chairs. This was a very nice hotel with fully covered lounge chairs, not the kind with slats that little legs get caught in. The moms were a couple rows in front of the children, and each of us kept one eye focused behind us while keeping watch on the rest of the children in the pool.
I notice a middle-aged lady with well-sprayed hair wearing a black bikini approach the children. I listen as she explains to them that climbing on the chairs is dangerous and observe her demonstrate how one of the lounge chairs could tip over. She was attempting to help, since there were no obvious parents around. The way that she chose to show the chair tipping over was by picking it up by the foot of the chair. This made the same action that would occur if a child were on the headrest of the chair and his weight tipped it over. I have accidentally had this happen while I was pregnant. I wound up on the ground and felt pretty embarrassed, but it isn’t dangerous.
As a result of this well-meaning (misguided) stranger, all the children began picking up the chairs by their ends in the same manner that she had, and tipping them over.
It is a delicate balance between choreographing every situation and using restraint in the event that our interference would prevent or fix a problem. We feel like we have to instruct at every possible opportunity because the child seems so helpless. The adults in a child’s life have a vast responsibility to keep her safe and teach her about the world. I am by no means advocating ignoring or neglecting our children. I am merely saying that sometimes we just get in the way.
My 3 year old falls down a lot. She has extremely poor vision in one eye, and wears corrective lenses. The first day she got glasses, I found myself trying to hold her hand and help her climb into the car. This is something she did several times a day on her own. She put an end to that immediately with her typical “Mommy, I can do it myself.” Luckily I listened and thought about it for some time. She had been navigating the world just fine for the first two years, but I felt like I wanted to prevent her from ever falling down again. I didn’t want her to have to suffer ever again.
I realize now that I had to find that balance. I took her to the eye doctor to get glasses and held her on my lap as the nurses and doctors examined her. She needed me to do those things. She needs the glasses to see, but she had to learn how to see through them on her own.
My daughter still falls down. It is hard to restrain myself and tell her to pick herself up, but I know that she has to learn that sometimes she will fall and when she does, she can get herself back up. It is much harder to watch your child fall down or make a decision that they later come to realize was not the best option, than to prevent the fall or tell them what we think is best. But when we are always preventing, solving, and fixing, we are also taking away the opportunity for them to learn from their bumps and blunders.
© Cindy Thagard and Sunflower Creative Arts, 2012
Photos © Cindy Thagard 2012