Apr 16, 2017 Protecting our kids from unhappiness or from over-parenting
I did a parenting faux pas the other day. I was getting the boys ready for school and in the middle of spiking up Porter’s hair -like I have done for several months- he has a complete melt down. He is crying and panicked about his hair being spiked. He doesn’t want to wear it that way at school any more. He simply wants it brushed to the side. It is very obvious that this reaction seems a bit extreme. I start in on the questions, “Why don’t you want your hair done like that for school?” He replies, “Because I don’t want other kids to make fun of me.”
Here comes snoopy mom-“Did someone say something about your hair? Who was it? What did they say?” I hit him with a barrage of questions. Mamma bear is starting to rear her ugly head and I am thinking of ways to take this kid out…metaphorically of course…
I am feeling unfit in helping Porter navigate his first time feelings of what it’s like to be conscious of others thoughts towards you and wanting to be accepted into this larger whole that we perceive. I knew he wouldn’t live forever in his make believe world. That he would become conscious of others and how they perceive him. I just thought I had more time.
I decide to temper my rage and head straight for the philosophical me. “Does it really matter if they don’t like it, if you like it?” He gives me a blank stare.
Here is the point. I missed the point. I have completely dismissed how he is feeling because I am pushing for this self created ideal that he will always be happy with himself. He will ignore the critics. I have this romantic notion of raising a child who is perfectly self confident and self-assured enough to do what he wants no matter what another’s opinion is. Honestly he is this, but he is also 6.
I stomp down the hall to the office to seek sympathy from my husband and possibly a partner in crime to take this classmate down! However, when I tell Derek he simply says, “Good for Porter. That’s good for him to experience these types of things and emotions. He needs to know what adversity feels like.”
His response takes every ounce of injustice that I am feeling right out of me.
I wanted to swoop in and immediately relieve Porter of his distressing emotions.
It hit me that hardship is part of life, heaven knows I’ve had my fair share. Because of this I realize my instincts make me want to protect my children from feeling disappointment’s, loss, and heartaches I have felt. By sparing them from unpleasantness it will make them better people. Right?
I am dead wrong.
He needs to feel not only delight but dissatisfaction too. It won’t damage him. It will do the opposite. It will give him empathy, understanding, a more open heart, a pure consciousness of what others experience.
I need to give him coping skills instead, to help with his long-term well-being. Instead of a short-term fix. Which would be destroying anyone who says an unkind thing to him. Which I still think is completely reasonable.
Ann Landers said:
“It is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”
So, I have to ask myself is intervening right? Or is it simply listening, nodding my head, and saying I am sorry we can definitely do your hair differently. My number one interest for my children is that they are happy healthy adults. Because what matters to him at 6 will be completely different for him at age 30. I want him to feel that the universe is on his side and the best way I know how to do that is for him to feel like I am always on his side. Acknowledging his moments of struggle and triumphs without directing my perspective into each of his moments. So I guess it might be that I don’t need to protect him from unhappiness but from my over parenting.