It's sad it had to come to this. As a parent, I know her mother and father did it out of love, but for the most part, they did it out of fear. I sometimes experience this fear as well, just as most parents do, I'm sure. Whenever one of my children walk two blocks away to a friend's house, I hold my breath until I receive the text that they have arrived. Sadly though, this fear is then transfered to our children and it inhibits them from growing fully, but most importantly, it inhibits them from experiencing life and being able to navigate it on their own.
When my daughter was an infant, I wouldn't put her down. This is not an exaggeration. She was always in my arms, even while I slept, and every day, she napped nestled in the crook between my thighs. When I wrote at the computer, I had her lying on my lap while I typed away on the keyboard, my fingers striking the keys were her lullaby. When her brother was born I did the same, fostering a setting for some serious sibling rivalry.
When it was time for my daughter to go to school, the transition was impossible. She kicked and bit the teacher who tried to take her away from me. She pounded at the door, begging me to stay. It was awful. I waited outside the school until it was time for her release, reading a book on a nearby bench. Every day I let her know I was there, more for my piece of mind than hers.
My husband at the time pointed out that I needed to let go. "She'll be fine," he urged, but I didn't want to believe. It wasn't until I witnessed her behavior at a birthday party when I realized he was right. She held onto my leg the entire time, not so much from shyness, but from insecurity. I never taught her the importance of self confidence. Instead, I taught her to be afraid.
When I was a kid there were no such things as "Helicopter Parents" at least not in the neighborhood where we lived. Even in Kindergarten, as soon as we came home from school, we were set free to explore. We would roam the woods in a pack, void of any parental supervision, and for the most part we stayed out of trouble. There were rules and we followed them, but we didn't feel any need to be rebelious since our limitations were so broad.
People today argue that it was a safer world back then, but I disagree. We now live in a more enclosed society; the acres and acres of freedom I used to have as a child are now mini malls and housing developments, but the world certainly isn't more dangerous. Growing up, my best friend's father was a convicted child molestor and one of my classmates was charged with murdering his family. The same dangers still exist, it's just that now, we're more aware.
I came to realize as my kids got older that I was doing them a disservice by monitoring their every move. When I started to release them bit by bit, I noticed many wonderful changes occur. They became more confident, most of their previous fears disappated and they became more responsible little human beings. Oddly enough, I experienced these things as well. I was no longer living every moment for my children. I was starting to live for myself and they picked up on this, they respected it. This created a more harmonious environment in our household and oddly enough, my divorce was a relatively smooth transition for them since they faced it with very little anxiety. By that time, they knew everything was going to be okay because they believed not only in me, but themselves.
When the tragedy in Connecticut occurred, all the fears and insecurities my daughter faced when she was younger came back to haunt her. She didn't want to go to school, she wanted to know how I was going to protect her, she wanted me to tell her what to do. The only piece of advice I could give her was, "Mourn the dead, grieve for their suffering families, but continue to live your life as though it didn't happen."
I know there are parents out there who are parking by their kids' schools, wanting to be proactive in protecting them. And while their presence may be comforting to their little ones, it's an illusion as well. They can't always protect them since they can't always know when tragedy is going to strike. Instead, they should be teaching their children it's okay to be self-reliant.
This weekend I saw the movie, "The Impossible." It's based on a true story of a family's survival after being swept away by a tsunami in Thailand. It was a poignant and powerful movie. This is an example of how we can't always protect our children, even if they're in our arms. Yes, this is an extreme example, but one that shows how teaching them to be courageous and confident are much more powerful implements than the comfort of a parent's arms. Giving them both is a blessing.
I never read a parenting book. I started through many, but no one philosophy seemed to work. It's my belief that none of us truly know what we're doing and that we learn along the way. What works for me may not work for others since every parent, every child is different. I believe we need to listen with an open mind and take what works for us and leave the rest behind.
I am by no means a parenting expert, in fact if you ask my kids, they'll tell you I screw up all the time. But one thing I do know is that if a tsunami ever hit LA, and someday, it just might, my children have the self assurance and resourcefulness to find their way to safety, especially if something happened to me. They would never be able to do this if they depended on me to hold them tightly in my arms. Sometimes, a parent's embrace just isn't enough. Sometimes, kids need to embrace themselves.