My son will be turning 7-years old in December. I am guilty of looking at him sometimes and only seeing my precious little toddler who needs his mother to hold his hand in everything he does. I cringe when he swings too high on the swing set, for fear of him falling. My heart beats a bit faster when he charges across the Monkey Bars, what if he misses a step? What if he scrapes his knee? What if he bumps his head? What if he knocks his teeth out? In the past I have been known to run to him, attempting to prevent the inevitable. Sometimes I’d run when there was no possibility of an accident, because I could always ‘imagine’ a possibility. Think about the term imagine for a moment, I will come back to that.
My beautiful baby boy is growing up. He does not need me to step in and catch him from falling on the playground turf made of rubber mulch.
What am I teaching the other kids about my child when I do this? I am teaching them that my son is dependent on me. What I am doing can quite possibly in his eyes be interpreted as showing all his peers that he needs his mommy, he can’t do it without his mommy, he needs mom to hold his hand, he’s incapable of doing this and he will likely fall because he’s not skilled.
He then appears disabled or even crippled and somewhat impaired. When the truth is, he crosses the monkey bars better than I do. He has more energy and resilience than I do. He’s a beast on the obstacle course. No one gets to see this if I am there showing/telling/suggesting to people that he needs me to do it. I also steal away the moment for myself to see what he’s capable of doing, so long as I am standing in his way.
When I watched my son take on the monkey bars one day I was in total and complete awe! I didn’t even know he could. I was happy to have caught it all on a video. More so, I was proud that he was not only great at it, but that he was showing the other kids how to do it.
If you are standing too close to your child and watching their every move, you won’t know what they can do. Even if you have doubt, you don’t have to tell the entire world. Because when you do, you shape and mold the perception that everyone begins to have about your child. And then you end up putting something in their lap to overcome or prove, which they didn’t ask for.
For Example: What if I am out there on the playground watching my son while having small talk with the other parents and I am saying things like, “Oh my child is so clumsy… Oh I must watch him, He’s a dare devil. I have to keep my eyes on him, because he might fall.” Do you see how that translates into a perception that someone may gather about my child? It would speak volumes about my lack of confidence in my son.
There have been times where my child has missed the step while I was standing back, after-which I watched him get up and continue as if nothing ever happened. But when he notices that I see him and that I am hurt or uneasy- it affects him. He is hesitant to try new things or to be as daring- because he’s worried about me. So, I am inadvertently teaching him not to be a risk taker and I am showing him that I don’t believe in him. I think he will get hurt. I think he can’t do it. I am lessening his self-confidence. I watched him take off on a scooter one day and because it was a wobbly start, I panicked and screamed, “jump off, get off, let it go.” He let it go alright. And he fell on the ground only because I caused him to panic, when all the while he had it. He refused to get back on. So, all his courage to give this scooter a try and to keep holding onto it even while it was wobbly, I had completely crushed. Lesson: Have a little faith in your children. Or at least, have the faith in them that they will do it, like you have faith in all the people you talk to about your child when you think telling them something about your child will be safe with them and that they possess a skill to help your child. Have that same faith and trust in your child.
In the same Breath: It thinks it’s fair to say that by nature, moms will always possess the innate desire to think, speak and act on behalf of our children when it comes to protecting them But it can go left if we don’t stop and think it through
Parents: As parents we sometimes take it upon ourselves to not only speak on behalf of our children, but we speak about our children. We don’t realize that we should be mindful about the energy we are entertaining. We need to be mindful of what we are putting into the atmosphere about our children.
(Adult Children/Parents) Sometimes parents without all intentional purpose of putting their child in a bad light, take on the role of Public Relations without note given to whom they are sharing intimate details, private affairs and personal information about their child. At the same time, because they feel comfortable with the people they are sharing the what’s-what with, they speak very passively about their children. For example: The parents friend may ask, “So what’s Amanda up to these days?” The parent may reply, “Same old Same old, she’s going to get it together soon” following with a smirk, a laugh, maybe even a shake of the head. Seems innocent, right? Especially since they are speaking to a friend and they didn’t exactly dog the child out. And while saying “they will get it together soon” could mean that you’re hopeful and that you are co-signing the fact that they are moving in the right direction, you are also implying that they “don’t have it together.”
So now, your child’s reputation precedes them before they have an opportunity to carve out one of their own. They are viewed as the child who doesn’t have it together.
I know parents who's children are having a hard time, but you still won’t hear that parent saying anything negative about them or in any way putting them in a bad light regarding the way people see them. It clearly shows that you can keep your child lifted in the eyes of others until your child “gets it together” so that in the process their reputation is not tarnished. And so that in the meantime, people aren’t discounting their abilities or reducing them to the child that doesn’t have it together. This way, when they do get it together they have a fair attempt at doing something right. They have a vote of confidence from their peers.
However, when they walk around feeling plagued by an impression that their own parent has shaped for them, they feel hopeless and giving up seems easier because no one can unhear all the things that they have “heard” from the parent, since people view a parent’s opinion of their child as law. IE: If their own mother said it, it must be true.
Furthermore: It’s even more damaging when the parent speaks off assumptions. Meaning the information is not even true-or it’s information created by the parents who are entertaining their own thoughts. “Imagine” Because parents always imagine the possibilities.
When you assume that the child must be hurt from the fall they took earlier, because they are walking slow- you call 911, create a scene, the paramedic arrives only to determine that the child was just dehydrated, and it had nothing to do with a fall. Something you could have determined before creating a scene if you bothered to ask or even notice that the child hasn’t had anything to drink or eat all day.
Parents sometimes speak about problems that don’t exist. In turn it creates one more issue for the child. Overall what ends up happening is the child is walking around not even knowing what has been said about them. People will move a certain way, based on the information that they have. All the while, the child knows nothing.
There is a scientific notion: Formally stated, Newton's third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The statement means that in every interaction, there is a pair of forces acting on the two interacting objects. The size of the forces on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object.
Picture this: You walk into a room very excited and you can’t wait to see everyone. You have eaten a great breakfast and last night you had the time of your life. Once you get into the room, you’re being the social butterfly that you’ve always been, and you make your way around the room to hug everyone and share your contagious smile. However, people are giving you half hugs and side eyes and you soon realize that they are also whispering something about you.
You cannot tell me that this would not influence how you then react. Suddenly your fun-loving spirit withdraws, you are deflated, and you begin to wonder what the hell so going on. In some cases, no one in the room will believe that your smile is real, due to the information that they have about you. In some cases, no one on the room will want to be around you because of the information they have. And because they haven’t had the opportunity to get to know this child outside of what they have been told, that’s the authentic impression that they have. So, they are looking for that type of behavior and when they don’t see it- they don’t end up saying, “oh momma must have lied- this child is awesome.” Instead, they say, this child must be putting on a show.
Last Thing: I have a home girl who had her adult daughter living with her while she was transitioning from job to job, finding her place in the workforce. My homegirls' daughter stayed with her for about 7 years. All I knew at the time was that her 29-year old daughter was living with her. I never knew the girl was unemployed and I never knew she was struggling to find a job. While I could assume, those assumptions were never confirmed from her mother. That’s because her mother was careful about the information she shared about her daughter. She was mindful about the impression she would give anyone about her adult daughter living with her.
When her child did find a job, it was an awesome job. The best part about it is that I didn’t look at the situation as, wow you got a job? (as if you were incapable of working or finding a job or being worthy of anyone hiring you) My understanding of who her daughter was and my perception of her abilities and quantities were never warped by anything her mom said. My perception of her was that she was always capable of securing such an awesome job, because her Mother never made her feel like she was less than what she was.
In my opinion and experience with this close friend, she never shared with the world the information that she had pieced together from possibilities in her own mind that came to exist about what her daughter could have, may have been thinking or going through and she never tainted it with her own diagnosis.
I have had to put many things into perspective about the details of my child’s life that I too, have shared. While I think it’s my story because I am witnessing it along with him, I have been unintentionally reckless about how it may be viewed later in his life. So, I get it. And once you know better, you do better. I have learned to stand on the sidelines while my son is at play. When and if he falls, he will let me know if it’s bad enough. That’s when the momma-bear comes out. Other than that, he got this!
Article Originally published on RedTricycle