The taxi number was up on the refrigerator. She knew the time had come. She had missed the bus one too many times. I was upstairs biting my tongue.
I had rescued my daughter enough times by driving her to school when she overslept. “The next time you miss your bus, you’ll have to figure out how to get to school on your own,” I had said. “But none of my friends drive yet, how will I get there? I can’t take a taxi, it’s too much money.”
And so that became the solution to the problem, which quickly became extinct when she didn’t have enough money for her small pleasure items. When Esti had to dip into her weekly spending money and then some, getting up on time seemed like a better alternative than giving up her cash to a cab driver. I was out of rescue and savior mode and she was learning some great skills: responsibility, accountability, self-reliance. She obviously didn’t like it, but is parenting always about Liking and Pleasing?
It’s about preparing, guiding, teaching our children for real life. It’s about raising them with a future in mind; a future of successful living where the internal make-up of our children will propel them towards living lives of passion, joy, meaning, purpose, satisfaction; where challenges will not knock them out and keep them down but will rather raise them up with renewed strength and motivation to go forward.
Are we helping our kids towards this end? Are we encouraging independence, self-reliance and competence when we over-parent by doing everything for them, when we rush in to prevent them from falling, from making mistakes, from reaping the natural consequences of their actions? It’s by no means easy to sit back and watch our children ‘suffer’ knowing we could do something: intervene to get that mark changed from a C to a B, or get their class changed to the ‘nicer’ teacher. Are we not stripping them of vital opportunities to learn and practice the coping skills needed to deal with things not perfect to our liking?
We basically have eighteen years to do this preparatory work with our children and give them the best shot at creating an internally rich and satisfying life. We need to help them grow these intrinsic qualities of resourcefulness, zest and enthusiasm, perseverance, creativity and a host of others, as these are the perennial underpinnings in our forever transient world.
Experiencing and feeling a sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from struggling through to accomplish a difficult task, figuring out what to do when a problem arises, is what begins to build that resiliency muscle. “I did it myself” is a powerful statement of pride and joy the first time a 4 year old opens his milk container. That internal bit of new confidence will push him through next time despite the difficulty of manipulating the carton. With practice it only gets easier and he feels his own success. This is how we learn specific tasks, but more importantly, it’s how we develop an ‘I can do it’ attitude , a huge building block of competence and confidence.
“And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” (Batman movie)
We must teach our children to keep getting up and growing forward. We want to avoid overwatering their seeds and stunting their growth from blossoming into potentially high-reaching sunflowers.
If these are the practice games of their young lives, we need to teach them to play well, fall and deal with their cuts and bruises. For there will always be hurts. “I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.” (Brene Brown)
Harriet Cabelly is a social worker and parent coach. She's passionate about empowering parents to raise resilient, competent and passionate children. You can learn more about Harriet and her work at rebuildlifenow.com