It stems from a good place, I think. As parents, we know it's our job to keep our kids happy and safe. We worry about them and try hard to steer them in the right direction. From the moment they become mobile, words like "don't" and "careful!" and "watch out!" become integral parts of our vocabulary.
But maybe that same tendency to protect them sometimes does them a disservice.
A couple of weeks ago, we took our kids (age 3 and 5) to Canada's Wonderland for the day. The five-year-old wanted to go on a "big kid" ride with me, so we stood in line for the Silver Streak roller coaster. It was a pretty long line, but she was game, so I figured, why not?
As we waited...and waited...and waited...I couldn't help noticing most of the other kids in line looked quite a bit bigger and older. And, watching the roller coaster, it seemed pretty fast. I worried my five-year-old would be scared of the speed and the drops, and I wondered if we should just turn around and leave.
But when we finally got to the front of the line and it was our turn...she loved it. I'll never forget the look of joy and excitement on her face as we whooshed along the track, screaming and laughing at the same time.
I'm embarrassed to admit, it's not the first time I've thought, She'll never be able to do that, or There's no way she'll have the patience for it. And you know what? Most of the time, I've been wrong.
My kids constantly amaze and surprise me. They're always striving to surpass their current abilities and learn new things. So who am I to hold them back?
Our natural inclination is to protect our children, shield them, keep them safe from harm. But we can't protect them from everything—and the irony is, it's usually the thing we didn't think of that happens, anyway.
So when my five-year-old wants to jump into the deep end of the pool with no floaties and swim to the side, why would I say no? Of course, I'll be watching, just in case...but if she doesn't try, then how will she know if she can do it? And if she can't, then how will she ever learn?
I don't want to be a helicopter mom. I want to be the kind of mom who gives her children the strength and support to take risks. Sometimes they'll succeed, and sometimes they'll fail. But I'll be there—either to pick them up and dust them off, or to congratulate them on a new accomplishment. What's important is to give them the freedom to try.