You don’t realize the extent of your own fears until you have kids.
Here’s a true story:
This morning I took my 10-month-old son to the nearby duckie pond. It’s one of our family’s favorite places and, now that he is old enough to interact with his environment, we love to bring bread with us so we can feed the ducks. Well, it’s mostly us parents who feed the ducks while the baby watches and, when he’s feeling especially courageous, chases after them on hands and knees.
As I lured the ducks near our blanket (and my precious baby) with the promise of free bread, I felt my heart begin to pound in my chest. They closed in on us as they waddled closer and closer and, suddenly, I realized I was a little bit afraid. What?! I thought. They’re just ducks. Yes, they’re just ducks. But they’re also animals. Animals are unpredictable. They are fast and they want my food and they bite…even if they don’t have teeth.
The greatest moment of fear came when my grabby baby pulled an entire piece of bread out of my hand and, doing as babies do, tossed it on the ground next to him. Nooooo! I shouted in my head. The ducks will come after you! Before I knew it, the dominant male of the group swiftly waddled over and prepared to battle my baby for the bread. Eek!
I pulled my crawler back to our blanket and secured the bread so we could continue to share the wealth with the fifty or so other ducks around the pond. They finished off the bread and we played on the grass for a few more minutes before packing up the stroller and heading home for the baby’s morning nap.
Silly story about a crazy mom, right?
Here’s the lesson I’m learning:
Don’t let your own fears and issues get in the way of what you allow your child to experience.
Just because you’re afraid of crowds doesn’t mean you should keep your kids away from places where people congregate.
Just because you don’t like heights doesn’t mean you should forbid your child from riding the Ferris wheel at the fair.
Just because you have sensory issues and don’t like things that are slimy or scratchy or noisy doesn’t mean you should prevent your kid from being able to dig his hands in his spaghetti, bury her feet in the sand, or run around with the barking dogs.
And just because you’re uncomfortable around a swarm of ducks doesn’t mean you should avoid bringing bread to the duckie pond.
Are you getting my drift?
Yes, of course, we are responsible for teaching our kids about safety and strangers and choking hazards and poisonous things. That’s part of our job as parents. But the minute we let our own fears get in the way of allowing our kids to explore and learn and take risks that we may not want to take ourselves…well…that’s when we need to take a step back and assess whether or not that’s really the kind of parent we want to be.
If there are things that really bother or upset you (sounds, smells, motion sickness, social situations, etc.), then allow your kids to experience those things with someone else. It’s okay to delegate. Don’t feel like you have to confront every single one of your fears or aversions just because you’re a parent.
But if you see the world through your child’s eyes and are open to new experiences…
If you put your fears and issues aside and look at it from their perspective…
If you take the lead and guide them through adventures you never thought you’d open yourself up to…
then you might just be surprised at what you find.
You may find that you’re stronger than you thought.
Better than you thought.
Braver than you thought.
You may just find you’re a better parent than you thought.
And it’s all because you brought bread to the duckie pond.