So much of the advice on how to parent is rooted in the idea that we must do everything in our power to anticipate every danger and protect our children.
This seems to be a relatively new phenomenon (within the last few decades). I’ve heard many comments from people my parent’s age like “it’s surprising you survived to adulthood” when they look at everything we’re advised to worry about as parents.
I look at parents of school-aged children fearful to let their children walk to school. They insist on driving them for fear of abduction, for fear of the weather, for convenience, for distance, etc. I have even witnessed parents driving their child to the school bus stop 4 houses down from where they live (true story).
What on earth has made it so impossible for children to walk today that wasn’t there a couple of generations ago?
I could chose to tackle each individual reason and offer proof of why they are flawed. Or I could chose to cut to the chase – fear.
When I think of my parenting experience the one message that has come across loud and clear from the moment I got pregnant (and even while trying to conceive) is that I need to be fearful. There is a good chance I would kill my baby or she would die from one preventable reason or another. I’ve talked about this before.
When we’re pregnant we are told not to eat deli meat, soft cheeses, a lot of seafood, sushi, we are told not to take hot baths or sleep on our backs. The list goes on and on.
When the baby comes along we’re told not to let him sleep in our beds, not to sleep with a blanket, not to be out of our sight, that they should be constantly monitored while they sleep.
When they become mobile we are told to lock the cupboards, barricade the stairs, cover the outlets, eliminate sharp edges, remove glass objects from their reach.
I’m sure you could add many more items to my list of advice on how to parent but you get the idea…..Everything is fear-based.
When does the fear stop?
The short answer to the question is never.
If we are conditioned from the time we are pregnant to be fearful and we embrace that mentality then that is the pattern with which we are programming ourselves. The fear will never stop. It will perpetuate and once one fear has been reasonably resolved then a new one will take its place.
Now there are predators lurking around the corner on the walk to school. There’s a car that will likely hit him as he crosses the street. There’s that mean kid a couple of blocks away that will inevitably beat him up. There’s the cruel girls at school that destroy your daughter’s self-esteem. There’s the boy that doesn’t like her back. There’s the boy that likes her too much he doesn’t know his boundaries.There’s drugs at school. There’s inebriated nights at the bar and God only knows what could happen. There’s a chance he could be cheated on. His wife could divorce him and take his children.
It will never stop. If that is the cycle and mentality you’ve created then it will never stop.
Unless you actively decide to change.
It is possible to change. You can resist the fear-based mentality. You can choose to believe what you want. That is within your control.
None of the circumstances I listed above are within your control. Changing your beliefs is.
You just have to want it.
I was out with some friends a couple of weeks ago and we were talking about getting pregnant. One was telling the other how she didn’t take any baths for her entire pregnancy out of fear. The other was curious and asking questions. I piped up saying that you could do whatever you felt comfortable with. Honestly, I could have been talking to myself. Half the time no one is interested in hearing what can go right. We are too focused on everything that can go wrong.
Again, I will stress that it’s a choice.
The most important advice you need to listen to regarding how to parent is your instincts. Good parenting comes down to trusting yourself.
I had a conversation with a friend with a newborn. She was telling me that her son slept on his stomach for naps but on his back at night. She was too afraid to put him on his tummy at night. I asked her if she was afraid something would happen to him or if she was afraid because she felt she had to be. She replied that she was comfortable with him sleeping on his tummy. He had proven himself capable at nap time. Once she realized that she was letting popular fear-based advice screw with her confidence she started placing him on his stomach at night for a more comfortable and restful sleep.
Sometimes that’s all it takes. Ask yourself if you actually believe something terrible is going to happen and if you don’t then do what feels best for you and your children.
The one other argument I’ve heard is the “what if” argument. Although you actually don’t believe it could happen you could never live with yourself if it did. Therefore you are going to continue to worry about everything.
My thoughts on that: it sounds like you’re in for a very stressful life. You can’t control every situation and circumstance. You can’t protect your child forever. Your job isn’t to protect them.
Your job is to teach them how to live a happy and fulfilling life. What kind of example are you setting for them if you live your life in constant fear?