As we dip our toes into the very beginning of summer, my two older daughters are getting pretty steady on their bikes, and our short driveway feels limiting to them. So, I extended the boundary and have begun to allow them to ride their bike to the corner and back, and their delight is palpable.
Yesterday, my husband expressed to me that he felt uneasy about that decision. Our street isn’t busy, but it isn’t quiet either. Our neighborhood could certainly be nicer, though we have great neighbors. We’ve grappled with similar questions and conversations around what content we allow the girls to consume online. To YouTube or not to YouTube? And if we do, what do we allow?
As we make these parenting choices, I’m acutely aware that we’re in the easy years, that all the hard decisions down this path are yet to come.
This week, a dear friend of mine had her first child, and she expressed to me utter joy around her new role as a mother and complete infatuation with this tiny, perfect human she gave birth to, underpinned with intense anxiety about how fast time moves and what might lie ahead.
Another close friend of mine is just entering the second trimester of her first pregnancy, and disclosed her terror around the odds of experiencing a miscarriage.
I’m learning that good parenting exists in the tension between allowing our children their freedom and holding them close. Each day as a parent, we live in the shadow of mortality, in the possibility that our worst nightmares could come true, and we have a choice to give into that fear or release it.
The more blessed we are, the more we have to lose. It can be hard to shake off the anxiety, particularly if we hear of someone experiencing a tragedy, or perceive any increased risk.
Yet, releasing the fear of losing our children to all the ways they can be lost is one of the most important things we can do as we parent our children.
Parenting free from fear allows our children the freedom to explore and discover who they were created to be, capable and strong on their own. It allows our children to fall, to fail, to hurt, and to learn the important truth that they can dust themselves off and recover.
If we parent in fear, we rob ourselves of the joy of watching resilience and creativity grow within our children. We rob our children of critical opportunities to become themselves, independent of their parents.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t protect your children from risk, or that nothing bad will befall them, of course. There is no perfect balance between too much and not enough risk, we simply need to make the best decisions we can with the information we have. We will all experience hardship and sorrow, every one of us. But when hard things come our way, we learn our greatest lessons of strength and courage.
On any given day, when we choose to live free from fear, we are teaching our children that our perception of control is a fallacy. We’re teaching them about faith, and we’re teaching them about trust. We’re teaching our children that, though trials and suffering meet all of us at some point, that we can survive and overcome a great deal more than we thought.
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