I remember when I was a little girl my father took me to a children’s park. It was a lazy Sunday morning, and the park was fairly empty. He asked me what my favorite was. I said ‘swings and sliding boards.’ Naturally, they are the easiest. He spotted the monkey bars and asked me to have a go. I resisted. He said that I was brave enough to do that. I still resisted. He identified that I must be getting conscious. So he stepped back, sat at a distance and asked me to climb the bars while pretending to look elsewhere.
I stood at the lowest part of the ladder and nearly froze. There wasn’t a moment when I could think that I could make it. All I could see and hear was the inevitable bad fall and the sickening thud. I refused to climb even to the third step on the ladder. All I did was stand there with tears welling up my eyes.
It was then that my father ran up to me and gave me a warm hug. That was so soothing! I felt so safe! He was such an angel!
I was only five.
Now that I am an adult, I have children of my own and take them to the park, I am perplexed to watch other parents display extremities in how they handle their kids. They are either extra-cautious in terms of helping their children climb a hurdle (taking them by their hands and feet and placing them on spot), or are simply their callous selves in allowing children to follow their rambunctious whims – at times at the expense of hurting other children around – and bowling me over by their monstrous acts while the parents watch the entire episode with no parental prudence.
Yes, to help grow one’s child be independent is important. You want your child to guage the perils ahead, prepare himself to conquer the challenges, equip himself with the necessary skills and eventually overcome the hurdle – your child can lap up all of the heroic attributes pretty well if you leave him to himself in accomplishing the feat. But to leave him to the extent that you remain insensitive to his insecurities will only create a bigger hurdle – a psychological one – which will be even more challenging to break.
When my father asked me to climb over that monkey pole, he knew why I hated it. He asked me to climb it because he wanted me to overcome the fear of climbing and falling. And though not very high, it was high enough for a five-year-old to go through the fits of acrophobia.
That said, he did not discard my emotions when I failed to climb that day. He brought me home and told mother how I had made the attempt and that I will get there eventually. The next weekend he took me there again. He told me how he would run to hold me if I would fall. He told me how he had the faith in me. Those few words of encouragement and the will to overcome the past embarrassment helped me to get over that fear. I climbed those bars eventually step after step.
For parents to be ultra ambitious for their children isn’t bad. But being a silent spectator likens one to a scarecrow in the fields I guess. I might want to position myself neither too much in proximity to children while they are playing, nor would I want to stand distant and still when they I feel they are in danger. When my kids are playing and asking me whether I am watching them have fun, I would want to hear and say, “Yes.” When they want to show off a feat, I would want to cheer for them, congratulate them, and tell them that they’ve made it. I would want them to discover the power within them. But will want them to know that their Mommy is by their side – always. It will give them the much-needed push, I’m sure.
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