As brand new parents, we’re told about all the potential safety hazards there are in our everyday lives. From cabinet drawers to toilet seats and everything in-between, we’re told to do this and do that to make our environment “child-proof.” This is drilled into our heads and we feel guilty any time something new comes out and we didn’t know about it in advance. Such as, which bug spray to use; will mosquitos give my child malaria?; what foods should they stay away from?; should they get vaccinated?; or, is there a risk of autism?—the list goes on and on.
Parents are conditioned to be paranoid about their children from the start. As they grow older, we’re supposed to be tutors for their education, helping them understand subjects where they might be weak. We’re cheerleaders and coaches in their youth sports, along with any other extra-curricular activities. We must make sure they eat healthy and stay in shape, preventing childhood obesity while being careful not to go in the other direction toward Bulimia or Anorexia, which can be worse. Being their healthcare custodians, making sure they take the right medications in the correct dosages, and only when needed.
The bottom line is, we’re responsible for anything and everything that happens to them growing up. Then, when they get a little older, we start to hear a slightly different message. We’re told to make sure we’re not overprotective, or we’ll be labeled a “helicopter parent.” Suddenly, out of the blue, it seems we’re now supposed to tread carefully through the minefield that is parenting. Protect without over-protecting, care for them, but not to the extent you prevent them from experiencing healthy, fun and educational moments in life.
Unfortunately, as confusing as it all can be, almost all of it is credible; at least at the time, we’re supposed to be doing these things. After all, the younger they are, the more protection they need. The older they become, that’s when it gets a little trickier. Parents, who’ve become conditioned to think in a protective manner, find it hard to suddenly switch gears and allow their children to fail, make mistakes, and sometimes fall flat on their face, metaphorically. And yet, this is necessary and just as important in the long run.
It’s interesting how the parenting paradigm shifts as the children grow and mature. If you’re not careful, you can get left behind in the protective mode too long and not realize it until they’re too far along to make a difference. No one says it’s easy. Knowing the action your child is taking may lead to problems that they will have to work through and find solutions to can be gut-wrenching for parents. It’s challenging to bite our tongues, withhold our tried and true advice, and simply let them learn at their own pace—and yet, it must be done sometimes.
Parenting is not for the weary. It changes and challenges us constantly. It tests our nerves, our stamina, and our very wits about us at times. But in the end, it’s just part of the job. Nevertheless, in spite of the learning curve, going from watching them give you hugs and kisses and never wanting you to say goodbye, to having them move towards more independence and fewer public displays of affection, only to eventually come back around later in life and appreciate all that you did for them—for this, it’s all worth it. Nothing else compares.