It was one of the highest slides he’d ever seen complete with metal steps and a little dip in the middle. I did the typical help him up the steps thing except this time instead of waiting for me to sit down behind him, he just took off. ZIIIPPPPP down he went so fast all I could do was watch from above and pray. The slide was a foot of the ground. Just high enough for his momentum to swing his feet under and send him face first into the gravel. As I shot down to scoop him up and wipe away the tears I was met with a scream joy and the request to have another turn.
I’ve thought about this over and over. As parents we have taken on the task of teaching our children how to make it through this world safely. “We do not touch the stove!! It’s hot! No sir! Outlets are not toys! We hold hands in the parking lot.” These are just things that will eventually lead to our child having common sense. “The stove is hot. It will burn me. I shouldn’t touch it. There are cars going everywhere. I better stick next to Mommy and Daddy.” More and more lately though I’m discovering that there’s a fine line between teaching children the value of making smart choices and passing down our own fears.
I hate heights. Not sure why. Always have. Always will. I never climb anything higher than I am and Lucy always has to hold the ladder while I clean the gutters. I don’t climb trees, I don’t jump out of swings, I don’t sit on top of the monkey bars. Does this mean Fred should be taught that these things aren’t fun? Of course not. Lucy hates bugs. Big bugs, little bugs, bed bugs. Common sense teaches Fred to not scoop up a bug and eat it. Our fears teach him to scream every time he sees one. This is just an example, but you get my point.
If he’s afraid to put his hand on the eye of the stove, I as a parent have done a good job. If he’s 15 and afraid to cook cause he might make something that tastes bad, then I’ve passed on my lack of confidence.
On the next trip up the slide I stayed close, but I didn’t climb the steps. As he sat at the top of the slope and looked around the playground, I waved and made sure that he knew no matter what happened I’d be at the bottom to catch his fall. Trying hard to resist the urge, I didn’t rush up to help him down or slow his pace. Instead I told him he could do it and I was right there waiting on him. “Don’t be scared little guy. I’ll be right here the whole time”
“ZZZZIIIPPPPPP One more time Daddy?!?!”