I recently read The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls. A truly thought provoking story of the author's own life.
I will attempt to tell you this one little snippet without giving away too much of the plot.
Little Jeannette, a 7 or 8 year old, tells her mother she wishes to transplant a small Joshua tree sapling away from living in the shade of it's mother tree.
She declares that she would protect it from the wind and water it every day so that it could grow nice and tall and straight.
Jeannette's mother tells her, "You'd be destroying what makes it special. It's the Joshua tree's struggle that gives it its beauty."
Freedom is something we Americans feel very fierce about.
We fight for it.
We celebrate it.
We want our children to recognize it's worth and what it has cost many Americans.
And one of the results of this amazingly, complex thing called freedom is Choices.
Today, we have so many choices to make.
We can choose religion, or not.
We can choose our Doctors and the way we wish to intervene medically.
We can choose our child's school (now more than ever).
Don't even get me started on the choices at the grocery stores.
And, the list could go on and on and on.
In the days after my daughter was born, I felt completely burdened by the amount of choices I was instantly in charge of making.
I remember my husband asking me where we should order out our dinner from and I burst into tears, exclaiming, "Please, YOU decide."
When I think back to when my Grandfather and Grandmother were raising their children and how they might talk to me about it if they were still here.
I know they would say how much harder it is for us parents today.
And they would be right.
For many of us, including myself, we think as young Jeannette did...If we offer our children the "perfect" conditions and we protect them from that which might hurt them, we will create a nice, strong, healthy adult.
You can't go to a public area without hearing parents (again myself included here!!) saying to their children, "Don't run! Be careful! Use your words. Don't hit. Be kind. How does that make you feel? Say, you're sorry! Good job! Wow, You did it!"
We are constantly intervening. Constantly offering our feedback.
Protecting them from acts of unkindness.
Protecting them from getting boo boos.
Protecting them from "the wind".
One of the most important memories I have is back when I was entering 2nd grade.
When my mom received the information that I was to have Ms. T...all of my mom's parent friends told her to get me out of that class.
They all said that she was a mean teacher and I would have a terrible year, not to mention that I wasn't going to be in the same class with my best (and only) friend, Melissa.
Everyone knew I should have gotten the wonderful teacher my sister had in second grade, Ms. B.
I was scared scared scared! BUT, I knew my mom was going to "fix" the situation and get me into the right class with the nice teacher and with my best friend, Melissa.
That's why I was somewhat shocked when my mom did nothing.
Instead, she told me I could handle it.
She had faith in me, she believed I would learn something from the experience, good or bad.
And she backed it up with...She would be there for me if bad things happened.
I was always the smallest, skinniest, shyest, kid in the class.
But, that year in 2nd grade, I became the person I am today.
I grew (not in size ;) but in confidence. It didn't matter that I didn't have any friends and that my teacher wasn't that nice.
What mattered was that I was strong enough to "handle" it.
My mom had said so.
After, I survived that year...I learned that I could handle lots of things.
Today, I know many of us would consider going to a different school or strongly requesting our child to be in a different class.
We have choices...Let's use them.
But, what is the message we want to give our children.
How can we ask our children to be Strong, to be problem solvers, to be independent...when we don't expect them to be.
This weekend, I watched my son struggle in the pool, swimming.
Talk about Scary.
I sat on the side, secretly wanting to jump in and "save" him (and I certainly would have if I thought he was in real danger).
But, I really knew he could do it.
But, more importantly...HE knew he could do it.
As Grandma attempted to help him...he yelled at her... "I CAN DO IT."
He struggled but ultimately he did it.
Ask any parent and they will tell you what they ultimately want for their child is to be happy.
Well, by golly, NOT me.
Even our founding fathers were able to recognize that it's the "pursuit of happiness" that drives us.
Happiness is not something we can ever give another person.
And, if you really think about it, if all we want is happiness for our children then we are setting the bar pretty low.
The range of human emotions is so vast and so beautiful...why exclude, Extreme sadness...frustration...confusion, ecstasy...etc...
How can our children appreciate moments of happiness without knowing what the opposite could be?
It truly is the struggle which allows us all to enjoy this Human experience called life.