How do you let your children be free and see and touch the world and risk all of the hurt and danger that can come from it?
I struggle with this because the world is scary, and some people will hurt you just because they can, and life is pain, and pain is suffering, and all I want for my children is for them to be happy. I just want to wrap them up in fuzzy, snugly blankets and tell them I love them and keep them safe forever and ever from all of the monsters and hurt in the world.
But I know I cannot do that.
Or should not do that. Because that would hurt them more then help them. At a minimum, they would forever remain babies despite their bodies growing into strong, capable women. This, to me, is such a sad visualization. I’ve been trying to use it as I reminder every time I desperately want to protect my children from any kind of superficial or palpable pain or danger.
You see, I am a bear. I’m one of those overly protective mothers and most people probably think I’m an annoying weirdo. But two of my three children have severe food allergies so I have always felt the need to be that much more protective of my kids considering 99% of people feel the need to feed your children, and 100% of those people are offended when you don’t let them.
So needless to say, I’m a little guarded and highly reactive when it comes to my kids.
Life or death type of allergies will do that to a mother.
But I have realized that this protective nature of mine is probably in some ways hindering my children’s growth. I mean, I am always there wiping things down and scaring off food pushers and filthy little kids with deadly allergens smothered all over their tiny hands and faces. I know I can’t appropriately do that stuff forever. At some point, I’m going to have to let it go, right? They’re going to have to take over that role and fend for themselves and I’m just going to have to trust that they’ll sufficiently handle it. Because they will. Because they are smart. And I know that.
I also home school my kids for a variety of reasons but mostly because I find that most people are far too casual when it comes understanding and appreciating severe food allergies. And of course, nowadays there are these people who are offended when their kids can’t eat peanuts and tree nuts at school thanks to your kid and they think we are overreacting to something that’s “just not that big of a deal”. I continue to wonder if these people would be comfortable having their kids eat off tables that had been in contact with rat poison that could potentially get on their child’s hands and food and kill them. But they’ll never see that as the same thing because cashews are delicious and rat poison is, you know, poison.
But I digress.
My point here is that I do think it is my duty to protect my children, but it is also my job to eventually set them free, even if I do it inch by inch.
But I mean, “OOOOOUCH!” And, “I DON’T WANNA!” And, “WHHHHHHHY???”
Well, because that’s really the only way to let them reach their full potential. And it’s really the only way to be a good parent.
I mean, did you know that if you plant most trees in a pot in your house, their roots will only grow as large as that pot will let them and the tree will just stop growing altogether? In this scenario, you can grow quite a lovely tree with proper light from a window, food, water, and love, but that tree will never be everything it could’ve been.
You know what I’m saying?
I don’t want to plant my kids in little pots and stifle the greatness within them. I want to let their roots grow as big as they can and in whatever direction they want to. I want them to grow into the biggest and greatest trees that they can be so that they can make more of an impact on the world and the world can make more of an impact on them.
But experiencing the greenest leaves on the sunniest days means they will also have to endure the angriest winds and coldest nights. And that means that at some point the sun will shun them and their beautiful green leaves will turn gray and collapse to dust and they will feel naked and alone and sad and that’s all together frightening and heart wrenching enough to make me want to dig them up and plant them in beautiful, shiny vases in my living room so I can nurture them and water them and protect them from even the slightest gust of wind.
But if I do that, and I neglect to realize that they have the power to recover and regrow, then I am doing them and the world a terrible injustice. Because while suffering is painful and isolating and scary, it can also be deeply constructive and transformative.
Yes, snow and ice will freeze and burn you. But they will also melt. And what at first caused them to suffer, may someday quench their thirst.
The cruelest winters will make them stronger, healthier and more capable. Their leaves will be bigger, shinier, and greener than ever before. And those gloriously rich leaves will emit more life into the world than anyone ever could have imagined.
So the reminder is this: I cannot stifle them or shelter them or smother them because while that might protect, contain, and nurture them on some level, it will prevent them from becoming everything they can be, which will, in turn, snuff out so much greatness that is meant to breathe life into the world.
So I will let go.
But inch by inch.
Originally posted on Cristian Mihai:
In 1938 aspiring author Frances Turnbull sent a copy of one of her stories to Francisc Scott Fitzgerald. In the feedback he offers her there’s one great piece of advice: “You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.”
You can read the rest of the letter here. It’s really worth the time, and it’s the kind of advice writers give only to closest friends. It’s not something you can tell anyone about, because most people will think you’re crazy.
Now, about selling your heart…
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Kahuna, my 11 month old Great Pyrenees:
Don’t come on too strong.
While it’s great that you are excited to meet new people, jumping all over them and getting in their face will only overwhelm them and make them want to stand as far away from you as possible.
Bear, my tail-less gray cat:
Don’t be overly suspicious of people. While it’s natural not to want to trust everyone out the gate, give people the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise you’re going to come off as angry, mean, or paranoid.
Tita, my darling big eyed tortie:
Don’t be so scared of everyone or everything. It’s going to be okay.
Relax. Take things as the come. Be open to new things and new people. Most people don’t want to hurt you. And most things aren’t nearly as scary as you think.