The Sweet Spot
Where’s the sweet spot?
Where is the balance between our parent’s approach, “You didn’t die, did you?” and ours, “Let me do everything I possibly can to avoid you needing years of therapy”. Maybe the next generation will have found a place peacefully in the middle, or maybe we can begin to allow our children some uncomfortable moments right now; avoiding anything life threatening, of course.
I’m a very strong advocate for my children, but maybe that’s just the polite way to say I helicopter. I don’t care if the kids eat off the floor, unless of course it’s something like yogurt. I don’t follow them around with hand sanitizer, and pillows to break their every fall. I more of a social-emotional hover. Anytime my kids come to me with a problem I jump to their rescue. I may or may not even have a reputation for going full on Mama Bear. I don’t think my kids are half as resilient as I am, but maybe that’s because they’ve never had to be. I had a special kind of bounce back, that allowed me to survive my childhood with an impressive level of normalcy; if normal even exists. I could be wrong, but I don’t want to throw a bunch of trauma at them to find out. On the flip side, I don’t want to protect them from so much that they can’t cope at all.
I used to literally run myself ragged, trying to break the cycle of dysfunction I grew up in. I realized, though, that I was doing just as much harm coming at them from the other extreme end of the parenting spectrum. Just as much is an exaggeration, but I still needed to reign it in big time. As they grew and bloomed I began to see buds of entitlement, one of the grossest adjectives to have tagged to your person, and a complete disconnect with the concept of accountability.
I had to step away, and give them a chance to learn a few lessons on their own. I knew I wouldn’t completely remove the safety net, but I committed to at least letting them take a leap or two.
I started to back off, and let them work through peer relations on their own, unless of course there was a bully situation I needed to address. If they make a poor choice, I don’t spare them from the natural consequences that follow. If they want something beyond their needs, they have to work for it. I’m no longer their short order cook. They don’t like what I make, they can fix a PB&J. Nor am I their maid, or their personal assistant. They’ve got to carry their weight, and handle everything age appropriate for themselves.
These things might seem a little laughable to some parents I’m sure. They may be common place practices for some. For me, it’s a huge departure from the way I use to coddle my kids.
It’s also a long ways away from my own experience, but I think it’s at least a step in the right direction. My past isn’t full of rays of sunshine. I do know that my childhood shaped much of my character though. I’m just not convinced that I would have been a completely different person if I had been raised with every possible comfort.
There’s a lot of grey area and room for debate on both ends. Not every child with a rough start draws strength from their wounds. Some disappear into their pain. Just as I’m sure, not every child raised in a healthy happy home grows up without the values strongly associated with having survived. Maybe it’s a crap shoot either way.
While I don’t plan on taking the risks associated with a completely laissez faire, “That’s what guardian angels are for” attitude, I plan to keep working my way to the middle…
To the sweet spot.
Where my children develop the basic characteristics of a decent human being, while enjoying the basic rights of unconditional love, protection, and the ability to actually be childlike, that all children should know.