One day, my daughter, Gianna, was in full toddler mode - running, climbing, screaming, the works. Just as I began to feel she was crossing the line of 'out of control,' I heard thunder and lightening, then rain. "Yes!" I thought to myself. I was just about to scoop her up for some quiet time and the storm couldn't have been a better backdrop for what would be one of the most precious moments I've shared with my daughter. I had soft lullaby music playing at a low volume as I held her in the rocking chair that still resides in her room. As the storm rapidly picked up its intensity, I could feel Gianna's body get a little tight. I just held her tighter as she looked up into my eyes. Our eyes met and without saying a word, the following dialogue took place:Gianna: Mommy, this storm is scaring me.
Mommy: It's ok sweetie, Mommy is here and I won't let anything hurt you.
Gianna: I know Mommy. I feel so safe in your arms. I love you.
Mommy: I love you too.
It was in that moment that I began to reflect on my parenting style and what exactly I felt my role should be as a mother to one daughter, and another on the way. I had recently read an article in The Atlantic titled "The Overprotected Kid" by Hanna Rosin. The article questioned parents' desire to protect their children from a dangerous world that, according to the author, isn't really as dangerous as we make it out to be. She sights severe playground accidents and well-known child abductions taking place in the 1970's and 1980's as the reasons for why parents are overprotecting their children in today's society. In her eyes, playgrounds have become so "safe" that creativity, exploration and true free-play are being hindered. In addition, the decline in the number of children that walk home from school and the increase in "play dates" and other structured activities where children are being constantly supervised by an adult is doing more harm than good.
Here are just a handful of "activities" the author encourages we let our children engage in:
- Allow your child to play with fire under the supervision of an adult who watches, but does not intervene
- Children can talk to strangers because, according to crime records, children are more likely to get abducted by their father in a split home situation, or another relative
- Allow your child to handle "dangerous tools," such as sharp scissors, knives or hammers
- Give your child an opportunity to engage in "risky play" with great heights to the point that it evokes fear in the child
- Allow your child to "explore" alone, without the supervision of an adult
Ironically, the very night that I read this article, I looked up at my TV to see a story in the local news about a little boy who was playing with fire and set his house ablaze, killing his 2 year old cousin.
Like I always say, I am not hear to judge! That is not in my DNA to be that kind of person. This article, however, forced me to reflect on my own parenting practices/experiences and see where I fit in to this picture. Am I overprotecting my daughter?
I will stand firm and say that I trust my motherly instincts and so should you! Your instincts may tell you something different from mine, and that is ok! But do not allow society, or articles like "The Overprotected Kid" to have you questioning your parenting skills. Trust yourself and get advice from those you admire and trust as parents, but ultimately this is your gig! Go with what you feel and make no apologies for it. As long as you are keeping the safety and welfare of your child(ren) constantly in the back of your mind, then you are fine.
My parents divorced whenever I was 2 1/2 years old. While my Dad was actively involved in my life, my Mother and Maternal Grandmother were my primary caregivers, and boy were they strict! It drove me nuts most of the time! Now I look back and I understand why they made some of the decisions they did. Trust me, they didn't allow me to play with fire. I didn't handle dangerous tools and I most certainly was not allowed to talk to strangers and wonder off on my own. And guess what...I turned out fine! I survived! I am not permanently damaged and unable to make decisions like the author of the article implied. I am not some robot floating through life. I am a very successful wife, mother, educator and writer.
The definition of nurture is:
1. to feed and protect: to nurture one's offspring. 2. to support and encourage, as during the period of training or development3. to bring up; train; educate.
I AM A NURTURER. I was nurtured and I am going to nurture my children. Yes, I let them explore, make mistakes, fall. But don't be surprised if you see me look up and maybe check on my daughter if she has a fall. Don't be surprised if you see me taking an object out of her hand that I feel is too dangerous for her to have. You will see me hugging my daughter. You will hear me telling her I love her. You may call me overprotective. I call it nurturing.