You can’t protect your children from all bad things, it simply isn’t possible. As parents, we do our best to shelter them from the horrors of our world and keep them from harm’s way, but it seems as though the world is not on our side of the battle front. Our kids can turn on the television and find unimaginable dismay, open Facebook to the same, or even go to school and get bullied. It’s disheartening, terrifying and daunting. Our tasks as parents is to shield them from the things that go bump in the night and preserve their innocence for as long as humanly possible but, are we hurting them by overdoing our jobs?
I was recently spending time with a friend who has a young daughter who is coming into puberty and developing quickly. She is showing more interest in boys, and wants to watch shows which show more grown behavior in older teens. Naturally, her mother is concerned for the wellbeing of her daughter and doesn’t want her child exposed to certain situations T.V. shows present, even if they are geared toward teens. I get it. It’s scary and we don’t want our children influenced negatively by anything. We want to control their environments. I have a child who just started school and I am worried every day about what will influence him. Children don’t fully understand the differences between bad and worse… The issue is, we have nearly no control over what will influence them because it’s illegal to keep them locked in a padded room until they are thirty.
When we are younger, before we have children of our own, we look back at our high school years, or college days with nostalgia, reminiscing about all the crazy things we did and how much fun we had. After we have children, we often look back and instead of nostalgia we can be overcome with dread. All those crazy, fun things we did in our youth were often dangerous and stupid. I look back and realize there were things I did which could have easily ended my life. I never did them out of malice or pre-meditated stupidity, I was too young to understand what real danger was. I drove too fast, drank too much, ran with the wrong crowd and allowed myself and others to strip away the precious innocence I wish I’d never lost. I had good parents who did what they could to protect me, but kids are kids, and kids make terrible decisions.
During the conversation with my friend, she asked me what I thought she should do to further protect her child. I simply said, “We can’t protect our children from everything. We can only teach them how to deal with it all in the most constructive way.” She paused at this, as did I. I’d been thinking about it for a while, wracking my brain to find answers to the looming doom of reality. What I found was that I would be doing my child a huge injustice by keeping him from everything, and everything from him. I asked myself how my life could have been different when I was younger. Was there information I could have had that would have permitted me to choose more wisely in my youthful spontaneity? Through my searching for the correct answer, I discovered the only thing I could do would be to allow my child to fall, be there to help pick him up and teach him how to learn from his mistakes or the mistakes of others.
There are going to be times when I will have to force myself not to jump in and “save” my son, and I can accept that. I don’t want to shelter him from everything…there is often beauty in tragedy. Will I be scared for the rest of my life? Absolutely! But, if I ensure my child knows how to respond and react constructively, then I have done my job as a mother. We are naturally a flawed species and it is our flaws which make us wonderful. Our abilities to learn, to prosper and bloom, and leave the world a better place when we are gone are our legacies. Each and every one of us has a legacy, and teaching our children about the real big bad wolves rather than keeping them from it all is the only way we will heal the broken parts of our society.
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