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Being a 'Protective' Mom Can Harm Your Kids
By: Laura Bankston
Internationally Selling Author of "Cooking With Kids"
We weren't planning on doing much over the 4th of July weekend. In fact, someone had asked a group I was in who would be taking time off and none of us planned too...
But, being the naturally uptight, rigidly scheduled type of person I tend to be, I've been trying to be more spontaneous. Actually, it's something I've been working on for the last 15 years, and although it's getting a little easier, it's still a struggle at times.
I do give my Mom a hard time, though. She did make me give two weeks notice to have a friend over the house! But, hey, what can I say. I inherited my mother's hermit personality --and no, Mom, I'm NOT making fun of you. I love you to death--and I'd be content to stay home all the time, curled up, and reading a good novel.
So, anyway, back to the story. We didn't have any weekend plans.
But on Friday night, about 9:30, we got an invite to go on a picnic with some new friends on Saturday.
Now, to some of you, that may not seem spontaneous - but to a "give me two weeks notice" type of personality, accepting plans within 24 hours IS spontaneous.
Anyway, so Saturday morning, I talk to Judy Frey and we make plans the way Moms do. But it was then that I also learned that they were going to bring their rock repelling equipment for us to try.
Now, we had talked about doing that before, so that wasn't a surprise. I was actually kind of excited about it.
So, we went out South of Anchorage - there's only one road that goes out of Anchorage - Alaska Hwy #1 (very original, huh?). It goes out from the North or from the South of Anchorage. Great for people who don't like to make decisions!
Every time we head out of the city, I feel like kicking myself for waiting so long to do it. The scenery is simply breathtaking. You can feel the tension and stress just melt away as you drive along this highway that's really the base of a mountain hugging the inlet - ocean and snow capped mountains....
The park was just as gorgeous. We picked a covered area right next to a stream of fresh, melted snow water that was going out to the sea. Another couple, the Johnson's, joined the group with their two boys, so we had quite a crowd.
We grilled and ate and visited, and then hiked the 3/10 of a mile up to where the "beginner" cliff was.
It looked like a beginner cliff to me - actually I thought it looked kinda small. But, it was about 50 feet.
The group started climbing up the rocks to the top of the cliff, except for us three Moms.
As the group of men and kids was leaving, I quickly asked Judy, "Is this something that if they change their mind they can stop, or is it something that they have to do once they start?"
Judy said it was something that after a certain point there was no turning back.
Fearing that my boys, who are 6 and 8, would be terrified and not able to get back, I started to tell my husband about the "point of no return".
He quickly gave me the hand wave that clearly meant, "DON'T say anything," so I stopped.
My mother's heart was fearing for my kids. I wanted to protect them. I wanted them to have the opportunity to back out. But I kept my mouth shut and waited.
Soon, 18 year old John tested the lines, running down the cliff face first - which is Australian style or something - whatever it was, it looked terrifying.
Then, my husband Wade came down. He thought it was great, but it looked to me like the gear just gave him the "ultimate wedgie".
Next, came my son Nathan. I climbed to where he was going to descend to cheer him on.
He was inching down slowly - it probably wasn't even inches, maybe just centimeters at a time. But down he came, following the instructions as they were called out to him...spreading his feet wider...leaning back more...slowly feeding the rope from a gloved hand in back of him to the gloved hand in front of him..
Midway down, he stopped at a ledge to rest. His poor little legs were wobbling from fear and adrenaline. I was a cheering him on, encouraging him - I was really proud of him!
He continued on and finally made it down. It took about 5 minutes; and when he unclipped himself, he stood next to me, he knees knocking and hands shaking.
But he wore a grin wider than the grand canyon.
"That was FUN!" he said. "I want to do it AGAIN!"
Wow. I was amazed. And he did do it again - this time in about 2 minutes.
And as the rest of the group took turns (and yes, Ryan did do it too and I'll tell you about that tomorrow), Nathan hopped from rock to rock like a Billy goat. He was full of confidence that I'd never seen before.
When we got home and the kids were asleep (it only took about 30 seconds for them to be dead to the world), Wade told me why he didn't want me to tell them about the "point of no return." He didn't want them to miss out because of fear when he knew it was something they could do, that they would love, and that would give them instant confidence.
He told me that when Nathan started down the first portion of rock that was at about a 45 degree angle - and before we could see him - that he was crying from fear and wanted to quit.
He said that the young man, John, who was teaching the kids, said, "Nathan. It's okay to cry. You can cry all the way down, if you want. But you are going down."
What would have happened if I'd had my way? He might have stopped before he even climbed to the top of the cliff. He'd definitely have stopped when he started crying because I wanted to "protect my baby".
But that would have been a mistake.
Just think about it. He would have had a defeated attitude. He might have regretted that he didn't go. He would wonder if he could have done it. He would have felt bad that he was the only one who didn't. I would have hurt him with my over protectiveness.
I wish you could have seen him before and after. The confidence was practically dripping off of him. There was no way to miss it. He had done something when he was scared, did it anyway, and succeeded. Do you realize the value of that lesson? It's invaluable!
So, Mom's, take a lesson from me. Sometimes you do a better job "protecting" by letting them do something. It doesn't have to be rock repelling - but when you're heart trembles and you know they're safe - let them go. Don't let them quit. You'll be giving them an experience to reflect on that will give them confidence to go and do things they never would do otherwise.
Laura Bankston is author of the internationally selling "Cooking With Kids" Curriculum. She runs a successful professional service business, homeschools her three children, and assists other homeschooling families. For "Cooking With Kids" and free homeschool support, visit her site at www.homeschoolcookbook.com