This post originally ran on Dancing In The Rain on March 27, 2014 as part of Jennifer's "The View From Here Series."
*************************************We have lots of wooded areas around our house. In one spot , down in the woods, my father in law made a tire swing for my three girls. With what can only be described as grandpa heroics (and a little bit of luck), he threw a rope around a very high, sturdy branch and tied an old tire to the end of the loop. My girls love it.
Me? Every time I watch them on it I hold my breath. You see, the branch is very high which means the rope is very long. When they first get on the swing, in that spot directly under the branch, they are not too high of the ground. But, just a few steps beyond the “landing” area, the ground drops off abruptly by a few feet, so, when the girls swing way out over this drop-off, they suddenly seem much higher from the ground and, therefore, much more precariously perched atop the swing.
Thus is the conundrum of parenting, isn't it? Just like the push and pull of that swing, we are constantly letting go, pushing forward, and hoping they return safely.
We have a fierce desire to protect our children. We want to spare them from harm and hurt - external and internal. We want to dry their tears and mend their broken hearts. Yet, we are simultaneously preparing them to leave our protection and, eventually, be on their own.
Tonight, I watched my daughter on the soccer field. Her team lost, but she chased that ball and kicked it with all her might. She had a blast and has come to really love playing soccer.
A couple years ago, however, I was not so sure. You see, she is not exactly the most coordinated child and was, in fact, rather accident prone when she was younger. The idea of her playing a semi-contact sport like soccer was very scary to me. I was certain she would get hurt or, even worse, be laughed at or ridiculed. She continued to ask and, eventually I gave in and signed her up.
Now, I watch her on that field and think, "Why did I wait so long? What was I really scared of?" I just wanted to protect her, but the truth is that I was holding her back. I was keeping her away from something that has turned out to be one of the best things she has ever done! It has boosted her confidence and she is proud of herself. It has improved her physical coordination. It has taught her sportsmanship and teamwork. She has made friends. She has had so much fun.
And, I have learned something too.
Sometimes, as parents, we have be more like our children - unafraid to swing way out over the cliff. We have to let go and maybe even give them a push. We have to trust that the branch is strong and that the rope will hold. We have to have faith that the risk is worth the outcome. Sometimes, we may even have to be a soft place for them to fall. But, we can't let the "what ifs" paralyze us.
I've seen this quote attributed to several different people, but it has always been one of my favorites and I remember it every time I see my kids on the tire swing or my daughter on the soccer field.