If you know me or read this blog regularly, you know I’m a (recovering) control freak and worrier, which makes me a little overprotective as a mother. I’d like to think I’m somewhere between a free-range parent and a helicopter parent, but I know I lean more towards helicopter at times — despite my best intentions.
When my oldest was in kindergarten, he fell out of a tree. The same tree I watched him climb nearly every day after school while I chatted with the other moms. Each day he’d climb that tree with a group of kids, always without incident … Until that one day when his grip simply gave out. I was there that day, too, chatting and watching. Needless to say, I felt horrible. I also felt guilty, despite knowing that it wasn’t my fault. It’s not like I pushed him or anything! To add salt to the wound, my guilt swelled a week later when I finally took him to the doctor and learned that his ankle was broken. Yep, Mom of The Year Award for brushing it off with an Ace bandage and ibuprofen for nearly 10 days. In my defense, the kid never complained of pain!
Fast forward almost seven years and I’m still trying to protect him and his younger brother. Not from falling out of trees per se, but from bigger missteps. The stakes get higher as kids get older. I sometimes worry that a poor decision will have serious consequences. I know my boys are good kids, but getting them to think before they act can be challenging. Getting them to see beyond the next 10 minutes even more so. I no longer feel guilty when they get hurt, make a mistake or mess up, but I do worry and stress. Am I telling them the right things? Am I setting a good example? Is my message getting through?
Enter friends with older kids. It’s a blessing to have friends with adult children who are willing to share their knowledge and experience. It provides perspective. At a party last weekend, I met a man with two college-aged boys who told me that fretting over every action and decision our kids make is natural, but you have to keep it in check.
“You send your kids off to college and hope that they make good choices. That they don’t drink and drive, use drugs or jump off a cliff because someone dared them. There’s a lot of finger-crossing and hoping for the best. You spend years teaching them right from wrong and how their words and actions have consequences. You just hope they were listening. But in the end, kids are going to do what they want to do. You can’t stop them from climbing trees.” – Phil
Phil is right. I can only give my kids the tools they need to make smart choices and hope for the best. No matter how good they are, they will mess up and choose poorly from time to time. Hopefully, their mistakes will be small and the consequences minor.
So tomorrow night, when I send my kids out on Halloween to trick-or-treat on their own with their buddies in neighborhoods that are not my own, I will remind them of basic safety rules and proper behavior, then hope for the best. I’ll have my fingers crossed, too, for good measure.