Friday, May 14, 2010

Parenting Outside the Comfort Zone

One of the things I talk about in my life balance workshops is that moving ourselves from the comfort zone to the growth zone is imperative to experiencing a truly rewarding life on earth.  You know the saying: "If you always did whatcha always done, you'll always get whatcha always got." 

Yet it has occurred to me that when we become parents, we are bestowed a similar responsibility for other humans as well. 

As the mom five year old Spiderman and a ten year old Miss M., I'm sure I've been guilty of being more on the overprotective side. I try to be aware and fight some of the urges, but it’s just so darn hard sometimes. I have it on good personal authority that suffering sucks. How can I not want to be the “pain bouncer” for that crazy club which is a child’s life?

On some level, I'm sure I have some innate need to give my children a sense of safety which I didn’t perceive in my own youth.   I feel responsible for their “zones” and can’t help myself from erring on the side of “comfort.”   Most of my friends would readily admit to doing the same thing.

The natural instinct I share with most other parents I know today is to want to keep our children happy, healthy and safe. How can that be wrong?

Comfort good.  Pain bad.  We protect them. However it’s a natural instinct which can be easily exacerbated by our own experiences and insecurities.

There’s a great scene in the movie “Finding Nemo.” Marlin (the overprotective widower Dad) tells Dory (the new friend who is Pooh-like due to short-term memory loss), “I promised Nemo that I would never let anything happen to him!”

Dory replies, “Well that’s an odd thing to promise. If nothing ever happened to him, well…then nothing would ever happen to him.”
To a great extent I am the independent, resilient person I am today because I successfully conquered adversity throughout my life, starting at a very early age.

Okay, so all that said....

My original plan as I was thinking about writing this post was to next discuss the relevant meaning of the Olympic Creed: "The most important not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle..."

Next, I would provide much sage advice about how we can increase our kids’ capacity by increasing their confidence. How they need to both succeed and fail to achieve confidence. And how we increase our own capacity by increasing our confidence in them.

But ya know, I’m really just here trying to figure out how to DO what I believe theoretically is right. I am fully aware that I don't have all the answers myself.

For example, where is the line between protecting and overprotecting?

Until I figure it all out – and just in case I don’t – I have a Therapy Jar in the kitchen into which I deposit a dollar every time I think I may have gotten it wrong. There’s a good chance that the Therapy Jar may someday exceed the College Fund.

Sadly, I can't promise my children that they will never be scared or feel pain.  But I can promise them that I will do my best, that I will be there for them and that they always have a "comfort zone" ready and waiting in my arms.

And I promise that I will tell them I love them…every single day… forever and ever and always.
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kneesandpaws said...

Happy SITS Saturday sharefest! It's so hard to let our kids fail at things, but your wisdom on this point is true! I've been thinking of you as you grieve the loss of your dad.

Sarah said...

I'm not a parent yet, but you've written this post so beautifully, I can almost feel the same feelings you wrote about! I'm sure your kids will one day look back on things and be thankful you were always there for love and comfort, and protection...

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

Charlene said...

Thanks Sarah -- I hope so!

Knees -- Thank you for your thoughts. I wrote this in particular thinking about my dad and about how we always was there for me... and made me feel like I could fail and it would be okay... and that no matter what I could always find comfort in him.

Christina said...

Hi Charlene,
I am stopping over from the SITS Saturday Sharefest! Happy Happy!
The line of protecting and overprotecting...tough one!

Argentum Vulgaris said...

Seems ages since I saw your blog updates. I posted on protction/over protection some time back. I've just been looking for the post, but I can't find it. It's difficult when your blog has 700+ posts and the other possibility has over 1,000+. But it's there and I'll find it!


Drama mama! said...

I guess the answer would be "very protecting." I mean, that would be inbetween protecting and over protecting. I had the oppisit growing up. I dint have or feel protection and you are so lucky that you had that. I guess thats the reason im "very protecting" with my kids. i wont let the pope himself take care of my kids. Anyways, nicely written. very heartfelt.

Heather Binkley said...

I just wrote a similar post today about teaching my kids to swim. I'm not the soft warm landing place that you seem to naturally be, and I worry that I'm not soft enough for my kids. Maybe I go too far in the other extreme. This parenting thing is hard! Balance is key... :) Thanks for your post. What great timing.

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