How do you deal with the burden of never disappointing your child? A couple weeks ago, I almost bought sparklers for my girls and then I remembered that they could be dangerous. Sure, I played with sparklers every 4th of July but why take the chance that my girls might get burned? Isn’t it my job to make sure they are always safe? Besides, the Big Guy put his foot down on sparklers, a long time ago. No sparklers for the girls so I put them back down and walked away. But it felt wrong. Why can’t they have sparklers? I loved sparklers. I survived.
There are things I did as a child that we’d never allow our daughters to do today. For instance, I stayed out until the street lights came on playing with my friends, completely unsupervised and survived. I walked to school alone with my little brother, when I was 7 (of course, later I found out that my mom was ninja stalking us all the way). I played with sparklers and lit firecrackers. We jumped in pools and beaches without floaties and ate food before checking labels.
There were no cellphones to keep constant contact, like the tether of a virtual umbilical cord. There were no seatbelt laws or car seat laws. My dad used to give me rides on the crossbar of his ten-speed. I learned to ride a bike, roller skate and ride a skateboard the hard way, without a helmet or pads.
My parents didn’t worry that I was watching too much television, playing too many video games or eating too much because I ate when I was hungry and I played outside as much as I could because what could be better than playing outside? Nothing!
My parents didn’t need to spy on my texts, emails and search history because they trusted me and I lived in the real world not the cyber world. All of my friends lived within walking distance and those I met on vacations, we stayed in contact by writing letters. Life involved meeting, talking to and interacting with actual people. My parents knew that.
There were no tantrums or eye rolling because I was raised with respect. I had daily chores. My parents weren’t afraid that I would break or they might offend me if I was asked to do my part an in return, I earned privileges like walking to the park with my friend. I played sports that were competitive and I knew grades were earned by hard work.
Sure, sometimes it sucked not getting what I wanted but I learned at a very early age that to get what you want in this world, you have to work hard. You have to make sacrifices and no, it didn’t kill me.
I’ve spent my entire parenting life trying to make sure that my kids had the best of everything; everything I never had. I wanted their memories to be filled with happy times and recollections of all the things I did right. I wanted to eliminate any pain or disappointment but that’s impossible and impractical. I wanted them to survive childhood but I don’t want that anymore. I want them to enjoy childhood. I want them to thrive at it.
The other day, I was thinking what a magical childhood I am providing for my girls. It’s not perfect but they have never wanted for anything. I’ve raised them to believe that they can have everything if they are willing to work for it but I’m not sure they even can comprehend what that means because I have encapsulated them in a happy bubble where life is easy and everything is given to them. They are living in utopia but is this really the best thing I can do for my children? I don’t think so.
You’ve heard the Longfellow quote, into each life a little rain must fall? I’m starting to believe that maybe we do need to experience a little hardship in life to truly appreciate the gifts. Life has come so easy for my girls because they have always had me as their advocate, and that will never change, but I don’t think they get what it really feels like to accomplish something on their own; to really want something, to go after it and to enjoy the moment of victory…of earning it on their own, of true success. That makes me feel like I’m failing as a parent.
What do you think? How do we give our children the childhood we think they deserve without taking away their appreciation for the simple things in life, like sparklers?