As a child, I rarely played outside. I didn’t go to the neighborhood creeks looking for rocks or go to the park. I didn’t play softball or basketball or run track. In high school, I was on the tennis team, but as the manager of the team. The manager supervised the logistics of getting the team to tournaments and wasn’t ever required to own a tennis racket. I had to get my physical education credit somehow even if I had to fake my way through it.
During the summer time, as a little girl, I am embarrassed to admit that I played school. I would organize folders for my “students” and make lesson plans. My students would learn English, Math, and have Art time. I made school into a hobby, recording grades, generating report cards, and detentions. While playing teacher, I would watch from my window as other kids would play outside. Running around, I watched kids scrape their knees and hear loud voices of “Let’s go! Let’s go to the creek.”
My husband still has a laugh when he hears this little detail about my childhood. But it is a little more than a miniscule detail. I remember asking my parents if I could go outside and they were always afraid something would happen to me. My mom would say, “Stay inside. It’s too hot to go outside or you may hurt yourself playing on your bike.” When I got older, if I came home anytime, after 10:00 p.m., my Dad would pace outside on the sidewalk waiting for my car to pull into the driveway. When, on the rare occasion, I would get home at 2:00 a.m, I would ask why he was outside. He would play it off by saying he was taking out the trash. The next morning he would run off the laundry list of all of the worst case scenarios of the things that could have happened to me, the crimes of the night, murder topping this list.
I sighed and said, “Well nothing happened, Dad. You worry too much.” In retrospect, they were good parents, but overprotective. I understand it, but it has limited my outlook. I find myself, worrying about worst case scenarios like when my husband comes home a little late from work or my daughter’s cold lingers a little too long. There is not an in-between, I always jump to the worst conclusion. I’ve been taught to be cautious, spending time worrying about scenarios that usually don’t arise.
I am lucky that my husband balances out the nameless gremlins in my mind. I am learning to adopt this attitude too. Yesterday afternoon, I told my Mom I enrolled my daughter in swimming lessons. Her immediate reaction was, “What if she goes underwater? You think it will be alright?” I laughed, telling her, “Mom, I think that is the whole point. I think she has get underwater to learn to swim.” I sighed. Then I heard myself saying, “You can’t be afraid your whole life. You can’t approach every situation with fear. I will not teach that to her.”
I want my daughter to test limits. I don’t want her to fear life. I want her to live with abandon
And maybe she can teach me a thing or two when she get older.
How have voices of your past influenced your decisions? Are you aware of your limitations? Do you try to test these limits?
I understand this so well. I often avoid telling my mother about how I’m raising my children because I know she’ll say something to the contrary of what I need to hear. But I’m learning not to let those inherited/learned fears cloud my judgment or hamper my children’s spirits.
Yes, they most certainly are our best teachers.
I was just like you in the summer!! I had a huge blackboard in our toy room and would “teach” all my stuffed animals. Fond memories.
I tend to be a more laissez-faire parent, not so much that I don’t worry, but more because I’m raising boys (I think). My husband is very much a risk taker, and I see those qualities in my children, and I want honour that part of them. I’ll worry lots and will probably avoid actually witnessing some of their adventures, but I’m trying really hard to let them live life with abandon.
Like you I was raised in a strict home, though for me it was a lot harder than it was for my siblings.
Hi Rudri, this is a wonderful post. I kept thinking as I read it that it is so important to not visit your own insecurities upon your child. Sometimes this is hard to do, but is essential if they are to grow up and truly be the people they were meant to be.
I was raised in a very strict home too, which when I became a teenager made me something of a rebel as I strived to break free, somehow, someway, from all those limitations placed upon my freedom. I hope with my own daughter I can get a better balance, but getting it right is a fine art indeed.
I grew up with the opposite kind of parent–my mom just expected that everything would be fine all the time. You could almost feel it surrounding her; she was always the first person I went to when something felt wrong. First, of course, because she was my mom, but secondly because she never “freaked out” about anything. I am now trying to be the same way with my children, but it isn’t as easy as it looked. Like Christine said in her comment, I often have to look away from my boys’ adventures.
I grew up with very overprotective and am trying my darndest not to be the same way. Turns out, my husband is the one who’s way over the line. I feel that I probably could have avoided a few big mistakes in my later life had I been able to find my own way when I was younger. But the world is a scary place sometimes. It will be hard to watch them navigate, but I think it’s so necessary for their development.
How have I been influenced by my past? How much time do we have?!
Seriously, I found this a poignant post as you describe quite an isolated childhood (as was mine). It’s hard not to repeat history with our own children but with a partner to ‘balance out the gremlins’ it can be done.
Rudri – we must have the same moms because she is the queen of worry. I know it’s from a good place, but I was never allowed to go to slumber parties because “you just might never know…” and I missed out on what I thought to be a crucial part of growing up. (What? No pillow fights??!)
And my mom’s the same way with my own daughter – I told her that her sextegenerian caregivers at daycare adore her and she calls them grandpa/grandma and she responds with, “Can you really trust them? What if they are making her like them?” I didn’t even know how to respond. Well, actually I responded with pretty much what you said to your mom, and that I carefully picked the daycare – if I can’t trust them, why would I take my daughter to them every day?
She’s going to come live with us someday. It’s going to be interesting 🙂
I also played school with my friends – I was always the teacher; never the student. I wonder what that says about me. Hmm…
Worry comes naturally to parents. My daughter will be starting swimming lessons next week and I am terrified, for many of the reasons your mother has listed here. But I am even more terrified of what could happen if she isn’t taught how to swim. It is hard to let go. So very hard.
such an amazing gift, one of exploration and learning, that you’re giving your daughter. you are breaking away from what you knew–never easy–but so, so powerful.
Your mom’s comment sounds like something my mom would say. I lived in the country so I did play outside and roam the creeks and woods, but I always received warning after warning from both parents, which often took the fun out of it. Nor was I allowed to play sports for the same reasons. My parents now isuue these warning about the things I allow my own children to do such as play sports and surf. My son was hurt in football and required surgery on his knee…my mother proclaimed…see, that’s why I never allowed you all to participate in sports. I try not to shield my kids the way my parents sometimes did. It is a balancing act that sounds like you’re doing a wonderful job.
Wonderful post, Rudri. My parents were quite the opposite of yours in this respect – underprotective, if anything! But that culture of fear as it relates to parenting is so fascinating. My in-laws are fearful about our rural situation – they worry about Jack wandering off into the woods and getting lost, whereas I (who grew up miles and miles from pavement) worry about the highway.
I didn’t play sports because I’m timid about competition and anything but athletic (I posted about my moments in personal sports history a few months ago, just to confront the embarrassment!). I think it’s great that your daughter will be in swimming lessons – and probably doing plenty of other things that will make her grandparents nervous!
Oh my goodness you sound just like me. I had overprotective parents and now I’m an overprotective parent!
I worry about everything. Fear does stop us from spreading our wings. Thank goodness you found someone who helps you with that!
I even worry that I am making my children afraid….
How do you stop the cycle?
Oooh, limits. Good topic! I remember playing school with my younger sister and assorted stuffed animals. I also remember playing down our country road in the stream for hours on end. My daughters have stayed close to home as they’ve grown up. Even though there is a stream right near the woods next to our house, their fear of bugs has kept them nearby. I still occasionally hear my almost-nineteen-year-old daughter shriek when she finds a bug in the house. Especially when it surprises her and flies at her.
We each find our own way, find our own talents. My love of nature stayed with me; I earned a Bachelor’s degree in biology and a Master’s in environmental education. To this day, though, I am not fond of camping. I prefer the comfort of my own bed…
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Life is too short to dwell on regrets. Enjoy your beautiful daughter!
The what-ifs often invade my thoughts, too. But it seems my son has his own safety barometer that I sometimes find myself telling him it’s okay to do things. I remind myself that a sense of adventure should not be compromised for being too cautious. I never want to stifle his sense of play (and he plays a lot) but I also need to remember that he simply may be bored by certain things.
Love this, Rudri. I, too, jump to the worst conclusions: if I have a headache, clearly it’s a tumor; if my husband is late bringing home the kids from somewhere, it’s of course a fiery crash.
And my parents weren’t overprotective – I just have an active imagination!
Anyway, I’m glad you’re not putting their overprotectiveness on your child. Encouraging them to run and play and swim? It’s a great gift.
What a wonderful reminder for all of us out there! My parents were the opposite. In fact, when I was in high school I actually asked for a curfew (’cause I was the only one of my friends who didn’t have one) and they said, “Ok. How about….midnight?” They were asking ME to set my own curfew. And now? I’m one of those worry wart parents – not quite as bad as yours, but I could be headed in that direction. I loved your reminder: “You can’t be afraid your whole life. You can’t approach every situation with fear. I will not teach that to her.” Perfect!
The other night I posted a question on Twitter and Facebook about whether or not people would allow their 3YO child to sleep in a tent with his 7YO brother without a parent present. In the backyard. I was kind of stunned by the ratio of NOs to YESes. I am that parent that takes risks, I suppose. We’ve dumped buckets of water over our babies’ heads since they were just a few weeks old. We’ve encouraged them to learn how to jump off chairs, the back of the couch, and climb to tallest playscapes at the park.
After the results of my casual Twitter poll came through, my husband and I had a conversation about fear. About how fearful the world is. Stemming from mainstream media, and trickling down to our children.
I may take too many risks. I may be too laissez-faire in my parenting approach. But it doesn’t mean I don’t imagine the worst-case scenario. Those thoughts are always there. I just push them away and go on. Because allowing my children to really experience and enjoy life, push and stretch and reach for more, is what is most important to me as a parent. I don’t want them to be scared of life. I want them to embrace it. And for my family, this attitude works. My boys are chatterbugs, stopping people wherever we go to engage in conversation. Jumping and leaping and laughing along the way. Sure, they get hurt from time to time. But I have to believe that is part of the game. Because even if my pain can’t be seen in scratches and bruises like theirs, it’s still there. And I’ve learned to march on and let it go.
I totally understand this. I was/am pretty watchful of my children, even though they are 15 & 20 now. You never stop worrying.
I however grew up in a different time , where I ran the neighborhood with my friends till the street lights came on.
The freedom we once had is no longer there.
PS Thanks for stopping by.
My mom would actually say, if I worry about it, it won’t happen. Good modeling? Actually, she let me do a lot. I took a trip to see colleges when I was 17 alone. First stop, NYC. Seriously.
My husband on the other hand, was told not to worry, but raised with fear lurking everywhere.
Kids and adults have to live. Life involves risk.
My parents were super protective, too. My curfew in college was “get home before dark!” Yes, college! Now with my girls, I can appreciate my parents’ concerns. I’m trying so hard to find the right balance myself. I want them to be fearless and courageous and find adventure and happiness, but I also don’t want anything bad to happen to them. I know that they can’t have both, but I hope the former outweighs the later.
My parents never showed us that they worried! It gave me and my siblings great confidence and independence.
I’ve tried to let that go and not worry with my three…sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s mainly what my blog is about!
I found you on life without pink!