Wednesday, February 14, 2018

let them be kids

I was at the park one day, watching my kids play. They were enjoying rolling around in the grass, climbing & jumping off the rope tower, running, and simply being loud. I sat on a bench nearby, letting them be kids.

A little boy ran by and then sat down in the middle of some clover and started looking for that perfect one. Almost immediately, his mom swooped in. "We don't sit on the grass--it's dirty," she said, pulling the hand sanitizer out of her bag. He was crushed. I can't say for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if he had been searching for the perfect clover to show his mom.

That same day, I watched parents who stood right beside their kids the whole time. They were there in case of the smallest bobble, intent on catching them before they fell. After all, it would be horrible for that precious little one to get a scraped knee or a bruise, right?

Parents seem to swoop in at the slightest sign of trouble (or even when there isn't any real trouble), ready to save their kids from experiencing bruised feelings, bruised knees, or bruised egos.
  • Little Johnny didn't get invited to Little Joey's birthday party? Mom immediately calls to make sure the school knows her precious baby was left out, and soon the rule at school is that invitations have to include everyone (or at least all of the boys) if they are going to be handed out at school.
  • Sweet Susie gets cut from the basketball team and feels like she might somehow not be as good as the others, so pretty soon there aren't any tryouts anymore--everyone gets to play, and they all get equal time on the court.
  •  Poor Petey got a bad grade, and his parents automatically decided it must have been because the teacher doesn't like him (nevermind the fact that he never turned in a single homework assignment), and soon schools put "no zeros" policies in place--because we wouldn't want to discourage any of the kids.
Here's a novel idea: we should let our kids experience hurt.

My kids have fallen and scraped knees. They've been left out at school or not invited to parties. They've earned bad grades for turning in assignments late. They've found out the hard way that not everyone wishes you well when we had to deal with bad neighbors. They've dealt with the deaths of 3 different dogs. They've spent their whole lives with stories of an uncle they'll never meet on this earth. Most recently, my little girl has cried huge crocodile tears over a dying baby goat, one we brought in and bottle fed all weekend because she was born so much smaller and weaker than her twin brother.

And like every parent, it breaks my heart to see my kids hurting. I want to shield them from this world in so many ways because I know how much this world hurts. At the same time, though, I know that what my kids face now will determine who they will become in the future. If I shield them from everything that might hurt them now, they won't know how to deal with those things in the future. What's more, they'll miss out on incredibly important lessons:
  • When you get left out, you learn empathy.
  • When you fall down, you learn to stand back up.
  • When you make a bad grade, you learn to work harder.
  • When you deal with loss, you learn to appreciate those you have and love.
  • When you're let down, you learn to lean on the only One who always stands true.

As parents, we are supposed to protect our children. Most importantly, though, we are supposed to teach our children. Some of those lessons are wonderful: we get to teach them the beauty of the mountains, the peacefulness of the country, the magnificence of the ocean, the joy of laughing so much your stomach hurts.

But as much as we would love to focus on the good things and keep them away from the bad things, those hard lessons may just be the most important things we teach our kids. For us, a lot of those hard lessons will be learned on the farm--and for that, I am thankful.

Because, you see, facing hard times can build strong people.

Parents, step up

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