I love this photo of these two young girls, alone in a canoe on a swift river. They are clearly experienced boaters, but I know that there are many parents who look at this and think, 'never, absolutely no way.'
The parents of these kids might look at how fast cars drive on our highways, and how many hours our kids spend in cars, and think exactly the same thing.
'never, absolutely no way.'
The dangers we are familiar with, we often just take in stride without thinking much about, while dangers we are unfamiliar with (like a pair of under-10 kids in a boat alone) seem completely overwhelming.
Often, as our children age and dare a little faster than we're comfortable with, the 'fear of new things' will come up, as worry, sometimes as anger, and sometimes as stricter rules than ever before (the toddler's allowed to choose their food and their pajamas and which bowl they want, and the young teen has to use the assigned chair, with someone looking over their shoulder at everything they do and they aren't allowed to pick their own clothes anymore...)
Fear is the absolute worst place to make decisions as a parent: it pushes kids away, creates rebellion, gives us our very own heart attacks and strokes, and doesn't keep our kids safe, anyhow. 'But the world is dangerous,' they say, and, 'people are dangerous,' and, 'kids think they're bulletproof...' as if those are good reason to make choices out of fear.
It may feel like a compelling argument, but it's not good reasoning. Examine it in the light of day, and those dark fear-driven attempts to control others display their obvious flaws:
- fear responds to things that are not happening: imagination and worry
- fear doesn't trust in the child, and destroys the child's trust in themselves
- worries that fail to come true erode the child's trust in parents
- fear creates secondary emotions: impatience, anger
- fear creates poor communication skills: threats, warnings, declarations of the future
- fear is contagious, so we create anxious children afraid of shining their own light or forging their own path
- fear is almost always disconnected from what is truly happening
Just as you cannot pour orange juice and play the piano at the same time, you cannot be reacting out of fear at the same time you are making decisions with love. They are mutually exclusive, and both take up all the same system resources necessary for each.
There is an antidote to this.
THE PRESENT MOMENT
Love small children while they are small
Spend time in the present moment
Start them on a stable path and they will retain a strong sense of balance
The stable path alleviates fear
The massive tree was once a tender sapling
A huge building began as a pile of papers
A twenty-year journey begins in infancy
Everything begins in small ways, even people
Right mothering avoids the traps of anxiety and the need to make sure
In the teen years, just as the child stretches for greater autonomy, a wise mother releases him, allaying –not amplifying–her fears
Right mothering requires thoughtful, placid choices in response to the present moment all the way along
Excerpted from The Way & the Power of Mothering by Linda Clement copyright 2005
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